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Product Description

Epic tale with deleted scenes trailer and much more. Subtitles in spanish. Dubbed in french. Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 01/23/2007 Starring: Kirk Douglas Laurence Olivier Run time: 196 minutes Rating: Pg13

Stanley Kubrick was only 31 years old when Kirk Douglas (star of Kubrick's classic Paths of Glory) recruited the young director to pilot this epic saga, in which the rebellious slave Spartacus (played by Douglas) leads a freedom revolt against the decadent Roman Empire. Kubrick would later disown the film because it was not a personal project--he was merely a director-for-hire--but Spartacus remains one of the best of Hollywood's grand historical epics. With an intelligent screenplay by then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (from a novel by Howard Fast), its message of moral integrity and courageous conviction is still quite powerful, and the all-star cast (including Charles Laughton in full toga) is full of entertaining surprises. Fully restored in 1991 to include scenes deleted from the original 1960 release, the full-length Spartacus is a grand-scale cinematic marvel, offering some of the most awesome battles ever filmed and a central performance by Douglas that's as sensitively emotional as it is intensely heroic. Jean Simmons plays the slave woman who becomes Spartacus's wife, and Peter Ustinov steals the show with his frequently hilarious, Oscar-winning performance as a slave trader who shamelessly curries favor with his Roman superiors. The restored version also includes a formerly deleted bathhouse scene in which Laurence Olivier plays a bisexual Roman senator (with restored dialogue dubbed by Anthony Hopkins) who gets hot and bothered over a slave servant played by Tony Curtis. These and other restored scenes expand the film to just over three hours in length. Despite some forgivable lulls, this is a rousing and substantial drama that grabs and holds your attention. Breaking tradition with sophisticated themes and a downbeat (yet eminently noble) conclusion, Spartacus is a thinking person's epic, rising above mere spectacle with a story as impressive as its widescreen action and Oscar-winning sets. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews:

  • Grainy HD DVD image - buy the standard DVD
    The sharpness of the HD DVD picture serves, in this case, just to increase the grainy look of the bad copy they've used. My old Spartacus DVD has the same irritating look, and it's a shame we have to pay more for a HD DVD expecting better picture and they don't care.

    ...more info
  • Can never go back
    After waiting around for some good movies to come out on HD DVD I finally got a chance to pop this baby in. The moive is classic as we all know. It's the kind of film that has to be seen if you consider yourself a moive buff. Right up there with Laurence of Arabia.
    As far as the HD transfer....
    I think that it's amazing how they can still find old prints clean enough to make an HD transfer of this quality. The film looked amazing (probably better then it's origanal release). It is however dirty in some spots, and the stock footage is always easy to pick out. But as far as HD transfer it's very nice, clean and vibrant. Not something that you would want to show to impress the friends with HD, but for an old film it's very good.

    The audio is coming from an mono track or an old stereo, and the 5.1 mix isn't all to amazing. Good overall transfer, the movie is a classic, the audio ain't bad, it would be a fine choice....more info
  • MasterPiece
    Oh yeah Nothing like this Criterion Collection Version,You gotta get it too,You won't regret it :)
    ...more info
  • A Real Classic
    I can't believe that out of the many times this has been on TV I had to rent it to watch it all the way through. This movie is a real classic.

    I loved watching every minute of it. I can't really say much bad about this film. It is slow, but the film was made in 1960 and that can't be counted against it when put up to modern films like Gladiator(which in 40 years will probably be slow for that audience.) Sometimes the acting can be a bit over the top, but it doesn't happen enough for that to be counted.

    This movie is fun and interesting from start to finish. You're sucked into the movie from the very beginning. The people chosen to work on this film put their hearts into it and it does pay off. I laughed whenever Batiatus(Ustinov) was on screen. He does an amazing job. Douglas does a very good job playing the title character Spartacus. The whole acting cast is top notch.

    Not only are they good, but the sets are beautiful and the detail is there too. The music is perfect for this film.

    This is a must see movie. You're in for a treat....more info
  • Not worth the extra money.
    This Criterion version differs little from the version that cost a third of the price. The extra features in the 2nd DVD aren't much, the Audio commentary is fairly ordinary, even by Ustinov, if you've read at all about the film there will be nothing new. There is pompous commentary by the guy in charge of the restoration, "oh, it was so difficult etc....."

    Spartacus of course is a very good film except for the romantic dribble between Spartacus & Varinia (slows the film down, I fast forward through those parts every time. And Tony Curtis and John Gavin are terrible I have to say that. So, save your money and stick to the lesser priced DVD....more info
  • pretty good classic...
    This is a great movie which even today stands the test against time. While it isn't quite up to par with Gladiator, it does hold its own as a classic tale of the rebellious slave gladiator who stands against the Roman Empire. I recomend this movie to most, but watch this first before you watch Gladiator. You will see art only gets better with time. ...more info
  • Awesome epic
    Having enjoyed movies like "Alexander" and "Troy," I thought I would go back and check out some other ancient epics. My first stop was "Spartacus." I thought it was a spectacular movie. I felt there were some similarities to "Gladiator", but for me this was a superior movie. It features a great cast led by Kirk Douglas. In the supporting roles are some of Britain's finest: Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, Charles Laughton, and Jean Simmons. It is also one of the first movies that Stanley Kubrick directed (before he adopted his own unique style of moviemaking). A long, but satisfying movie watching experience. The transfer of the Criterion edition is sharp and there are some interesting bonus features to go along with it, including a 1992 interview with Peter Ustinov. ...more info
  • defing role for screen legend. Masterpiece for the ages.
    There are not enough superlatives when one sets out to adequately review this undoubted masterpiece. That the movie was ever completed at all is testiment enough to the genius and determination of Kirk Douglas who made many more movies in his career with none even approaching the sheer brilliance of this stand out performance in my view. That he failed to win the acting Oscar that year is one of the enduring injustices in cinema history, we will never know totally whether it was because of political considerations involving Trumbo or merely the fact that Spartacus had the misfortune to follow Ben Hur the previous year which won the Oscar for Heston. It is one of the great imponderables.One could draw a parallel with Pattons failure to win a fifth star during WW2 when most people thought he deserved it. Spartacus stands alone not only for Douglas but for the brilliant casting which brought together for the first and probably only time in cinema history the trio of Olivier, Ustinov and Laughton.One can only imagine the tensions and creative arguement that ensued with these high profile icons each striving to surpass the others performance. Alex Norths score is as memorable as the acting and stands on its own as a masterpiece which has seldom if ever been surpassed. The sheer scope of this movie and the attendant cost probably means we shall never see a similar production again unless you are a devotee of digitally manufactured products which I personally am not although I realise they have a major place in the present and future and one cannot stand in the way of technology. The stark difference is evident if one views Spartacus against a film like Gladiator which incidentally won a best actor award for Russell Crowe which I think is an insult to Douglas but only in a subjective sense. Crows performance was undoubtedly enhanced by the digital aspects of that movie whereas Douglas's Spartacus is more pristine if one can use such an anology. All in all a masterpiece for many reasons apart from Douglas. One can only imagine how the completed film would have looked had Kubrick continued for the whole production. A tantalising thought. ...more info
  • Spectacular
    What a great story. It's full of great fight scenes, adventure, and love. Laurence Olivier was brilliant as General Crassus. It's such a classic film. ...more info
  • Spartacus - Like I remember it !
    This was a favorite growing up as a kid. Haven't seen it in a long time, so I had to buy it. A great movie, the sound and picture quality was much better then when I saw it growing up. A big time classic !!...more info
  • Happy
    My daughter purchased this movie for her husband for his birthday. It is one of his all time favorite movies and he has talked about it for years. So she decided to surprise him - and he was definitely surprised! He loves it! Watches it nearly every night, much to her dismay!!!!!...more info
  • Spartacus
    This rousing epic was disowned by Kubrick after a contentious, difficult production, but "Spartacus" still offers grand-scale entertainment, thanks to bold, sure-handed direction and a powerhouse cast. The brawny, clench-jawed Douglas shines in his signature role, while Olivier is suitably poisonous as the cold-blooded Crassus. Other notables include the rotund Peter Ustinov providing comic relief as a cowardly slave-trader, and Charles Laughton, who lends gravitas as a senior Roman senator. If you're craving generous portions of spectacle and sweep, here's your movie....more info
  • A Great Classic
    Spartacus is one of the best movies from the past. Everything about it is very well-done. The DVD is a great addition to our collection....more info
  • An old fashioned Hollywood Spectacular with more substance than many of them
    My youngest son had never seen this old fashioned Hollywood spectacular, so we got it out and watched it together. I enjoyed watching it more than I had remembered. Yes, its Cold War / McCarthy Black List sentiments are displayed a little heavily, but only if you remember that period. My son hadn't a clue and took it as a straight human dignity story and I took it that way through his eyes.

    What he was most amazed about was that all those people marching around were actually people instead of computer programs. And when the Roman armies are arrayed against Spartacus and his slave army, it is really amazing to behold. And the bigger screen you can watch it on, the better it would be. As my son noted, if you saw an army moving with that kind of precision and size against you, it wouldn't make sense to not be frightened. And that was a big part of the point, wasn't it.

    This movie really does mix in the personal relationships with the spectacular scenes quite well. And the performances of leads are very fine. I particularly loved Peter Ustinov's Batiutus and Charles Laughton's Gracchus. Laurence Olivier is thoroughly patrician and sinister as Crassus and Kirk Douglass hits all the right notes as Spartacus. Jean Simmons has always been lovely, but never more than as Varinia in this movie. And I always get a kick out of Tony Curtis as Antoninus hightailing it out of Crassus' palace after Crassus makes the none too subtle comment about enjoying both oysters and snails. A funny moment in a movie without a lot of laughs.

    So, if you haven't seen it, take a look. Remember this is 1960. If you have seen it, get your children or grand children around you and watch it with them. You will enjoy hearing what they see and explaining to them what they are seeing, who the actors were, and maybe a bit about the historical Spartacus (look it up before you watch the film).

    Very good.
    ...more info
  • Forget historical accuracy
    This is a dramatized Hollywood film, not a documentary. It was chosen as the manliest movie of all time in "The Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness," but has much more to recommend it, of course. Much has already been written praising the screenplay, direction, and acting talents involved, particulary those of Olivier, Ustinov, and Laughton. I have no quibble with any of that. It does have a few flaws, however. Without going so far as to call it a 'noble failure,' one can point to elements that could have been handled better. In some scenes the background, ostensibly outdoors, is obviously and inexplicably a stage set, contrasting jarringly with the real outdoor shots seen throughout most of the film. The casting of Tony Curtis as Antoninus and John Gavin as Julius Caesar was a mistake. Curiously, these two characters are not in the Howard Fast novel, but were added for the film. Both actors were certainly chosen for their looks; speaking their lines doesn't seem to have been their strong point. With Gavin I'm constantly expecting him to trip over his tongue, forcing him to start over. And the score by Alex North, although some reviewers say good things about it, just doesn't work for me. Most of the time it has a contemporary Hollywood feel and does nothing to evoke the ancient world. (The 'Love Theme,' incidentally, has been recorded numerous times by jazz musicians like Bill Evans and Yusef Lateef.) Only the segments stripped down to trumpets and snare drums -- the martial music -- really succeed. At any rate, the film's virtues outweigh its faults, and is a remarkable achievement, coming out when it did, unlike almost anything which had gone before. It's worth many viewings. (BL, Tucker, GA)...more info
  • Great Film - Not so great picture
    This film was shot in 70mm, in 1959-60. It was restored in 1991, some 16 years ago now. I am sure this restoration was great in 1991, but in the intervening years film restoration technology has greatly improved and this film could use another pass. Anything shot on film the size of 70mm should be extremely sharp scanned down to HD. This film is actually a little soft. Some parts are also quite grainy which could be seriously reduced with modern techniques.

    1991 was long before any practical HD formats were available at the professional level so this may be an "up-convert" from a standard definition videotape master to HD. Not sure, but there must be some explanation.

    It's amazing that after 40 years this film still generates revenue for Universal. A real testament to the quality of the story. But come on Universal, get the image quality up to what it could be on HD.

    Warner Bros. understands this better I think. The HD version of Casablanca looks very nice. Any film scratches or excess grain have been removed. You see lots of visual details in the sets. The actors look terrific....more info
  • One of the best stories about the Roman Empire
    A classic of epic porportions! Kirk Douglas fighting the Romans. What more do you want? A gem of a movie, far surpassing today's digital products, and an excellent print with an excellent cast. Well written story! Another classic they don't make anymore, with great battle scenes! "A CAST OF THOUSANDS"
    You won't be disappointed!...more info
    In my opinion SPARTACUS is THE measuring stick for "Sword & Sandal" flicks. But, BEWARE of the IMPORT DVD (white case) you may be tempted to acquire. The wonderful Alex North score is treated without respect on this DVD. The opening credits are upcut and do not start at the very beginning of the music. The transition to the intermission is jarringly clumsey (another music upcut) and the entre'acte music is non-existant. Stick with the UNIVERSAL or CRITERION editions....more info
  • Spartacus
    i didn't know this can only be played on a HD DVD Player, have not been able to watch this...more info
  • Sometimes too many cooks _don't_ spoil the broth
    This film is perhaps the only one where Kubrick did not have his oh-so-important "absolute control" and it is the better for it. Don't get me wrong, Kubrick was an outstanding director and his films from the 1960s and 1970s are all excellent, but in case of "Spartacus", the vivacity of the film is largely due to the fact that behind the scenes there was a similar clash of egos, talents, and opinions. While this might sound like a recipe for disaster, the wonderful script somehow gives this movie coherence.

    It cannot be said that this film is particularly historically accurate, but then again the purpose of art is to create something beautiful out of the fragments of a flawed reality, and this is certainly achieved here. Artistic truth can trump historical truth sometimes, if the artistic truth has something important to say about the human condition.

    What the artistic truth seems to say here is that Spartacus, as valid as his struggle was, simply came at a very unfortunate time for his quest and that his Hamlet-esque inner turmoil doomed him in the end. He simply should have taken Rome when his military power was at its peak and in many ways history might have been quite different (or not). But he did not, and at least in this film, those political power struggles in Rome are what did him in.

    Besides, the end of the movie -- if there is anything modern directors can learn from these old epics is how important it is to wrap the plot up in a way that does justice to the scale of the film. If you watch a three-hour movie, you expect a momentous denouement. And in Spartacus, the denouement fills the last 30 minutes or more (everything after the "I'm Spartacus" scene is basically part of it). It is the mother of all endings, an unrelenting tear jerker that manipulates you as hard as possible, and that is a very good thing in this case, for if this ending were not there, the whole movie that had gone before would have been cheapened.

    And yes, that spitting-and-punching scene (you will know what I mean) works, because it shows how powerless both Spartacus and Crassus are in a way. They can fight the other side, yet it will never go away, because their conflict mirrors an eternal conflict between the powerful few and the powerless many that has been going on throughout history, or at least since Roman times. And that enrages them enough that they fly off the handle in (almost) private.

    I also find the self-important opening narration about how slavery was "abolished" two thousand years later fairly funny. Oh really? I think there are plenty of people in third-world countries working without any safety precautions, exposed to harmful chemicals, with low pay, under horrible conditions on plantations etc. who would mightily object to that assertion. Not even to mention "wage slaves", those who may be free in theory to do what they want but have only the exciting career path of burger-flipping open to them in practice. Slavery by any other name indeed.

    But as far as Roman epics go, this is still my favorite. "Gladiator" was the slightly demented version of this (where "oooh, look at the suggested incest" replaced the "ooh, look at the suggested homosexuality" in this version), but generally the dumbing-down of the intellectual level of movie scripts since then has made it impossible for a similar effort to surface. Besides, today it would be very difficult to find actors like Laughton and Olivier who can carry this kind of movie. And maybe that's a good thing, because some things cannot be improved upon. Like this movie....more info
  • Spartacus is truly a great film.
    Spartacus is one of Stanley Kubrick's best movies. It could have had more action scenes but overall it's epic and really good. Some scenes from this movie are really powerful. I give the movie 4 stars and the dvd 3 stars....more info
  • I am spartacus! No,I'm Spartacus! No, I'm Spartacus! I'm Spartacus!
    That there appears to be enough historical information on a man who was nothing more than a slave of Rome near the beginning of the "Common Era", makes this dramatization a bit free with historical perspective. Stanley Kubrick did a fantastic job in bringing the "Man" to the big screen, though.

    Kirk Douglas had his work cut out for him, playing Spartacus. You KNOW what he feels at any given moment, just by looking at his face! Here was a man who railed against the bonds he was born into. By what we know of the Ancient Roman world today, being made a Gladiator was a step up from the miserable existence Spartacus was used to, and if so, why did he revolt? Gladiators were the Superstars of their day. Men were jealous of their fame, and women, whether married or unmarried, dropped to the Gladiator's feet, and gave themselves in to whatever the Gladiator wished to do to them! They also became wealthy, and many were able to "buy" their freedom! Hardly something to revolt over, HMM? Revolt he did, though, and he became famous not for revolting, but for revealing to the Roman people, the excesses and arrogance of one of their own, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier). By reading history on this man, you will find an intelligent and devious schemer, who preyed on all those around him. Crassus was known to (being the only one in Rome who owned "fire trucks") let fellow Romans' houses burn, unless they paid him his "fee"! While Kubrick makes him out to be somewhat bisexual, there is nothing on the history of this man to lend credence to it. His name and his legacy lives on, in Dictionaries around the world (look up the word "Crass", and you will know the man).

    Much care was taken to lending a sense of realism to the strategies of both Spartacus and Crassus. Spartacus' near total ignorance as a strategist just made Crassus look all the more incompetent (if this is historically accurate, then what we see on screen very well may have happened)! This does not sit well with Crassus, and upon Spartacus' eventual defeat, he is advised by Rome's elite that if he kills all of Spartacus' followers, there would be no slaves to do the work, so he must spare them. In what is now the famous tagline associated with the film (and historically true, as well), Spartacus' followers were crucified, and the crosses stretched all the way to the gates of Rome, itself!

    This film is a lush retelling of the story of one of Rome's darkest periods as a Republic. The film is bursting with first-rate talent, and it shows (it won four Academy Awards). While there are no special features on the DVD, you still get one heckuva great film!...more info
  • One of the Great Epics of Film
    Better than Ben Hur, Spartacus didn't rack up as many Oscars as its 1959 predecessor did. But it's a more fluid film with a stronger story line and more interesting characters. The performances are wonderful starting with Kirk Douglas as the leader of the slave revolt. Laurence Olivier is the insatiable Crassus who would possess Rome as if it were a woman. Charles Loughton and Peter Ustinov provide wit and humanity. Ustinov's character starts out as an opportunistic slave trade who demonstrates real growth by the film's end. Tony Curtis teaches "da classics". Spartacus was started by the great Anthony Mann (Winchester '73) who Douglas fired early in the filming, replacing him with Kubrick. Even Kubrick complained of not having complete directorial control over the movie - it was Douglas' baby. Still it's a great film with terrific action sequences, great dialogue ("Do you like oysters or snails, Antoninus?) and a moving narrative. If you get a chance, see it on the big screen....more info
  • Spartacus Movie
    Thanks Amamzon for providing me with the chance to buy one of my favorite movies. It is a timeless classic and I had been searching for a way to purchase it. Your site is first-rate and I feel confident using it. My info is secure and I can count on a timely response. I also appreciate the fact that you value my opinion; that's what makes a company great. After all,satisfied customers return and spread the word! I surely will!

    Ms. Bronwyn Kinler
    Kenner, LA ...more info
  • Great Movie
    I have enjoyed this movie over and over again and will do so for many years....more info
    One of the best movies of all times. I bought HD DVD Player and not Bluray because of Spartacus. I was not satisfied with the picture quality. I expected a movie theater like experience. It was not. The sound quality was also poor....more info
  • Kubrick directs a truly unmatched cast
    Spartacus was made in the same era of grand epics as "The Ten Commandments" and "Cleopatra", and it does so with a script that holds water against any of them and a cast that would make other studio executives jealous.

    Blacklisted Dalton Trumbo was hired by Kirk Douglas - effectively ending the blacklist era by crediting Trumbo under his own name rather than a pseudonym. Trumbo filled the screenplay with dastardly villains, slave-traders who were good for a laugh, and heroes with a moral conviction that is conspicuous in contrast with the moral ambiguity rampant in our current society.

    Spartacus was born a slave, we are told in the prologue, but dreamed of the end of slavery. The Rome of the day is brought to brilliant life by several superlative supporting performances. Charles Laughton is truly impressive as Gracchus - a Senator who is both idealistic and realistic. Peter Ustinov received a supporting actor Oscar for Batiatus - a slave trader with the best sense of humor in the movie who recognizes that he is lower class, but enjoys rubbing shoulders with the Roman Senators who buy his slaves and gladiators. Lawrence Olivier is astonishing and dominates all of his scenes as Senator/General Crassus, who is more ambitious than any of them, but is also keenly aware that he can't LOOK ambitious in his drive to rule Rome.

    Crassus, interestingly enough, "swings both ways", which is brought out in a scene where he is being bathed by his new slave Antoninus, played by Tony Curtis. He leads Antoninus along a verbal discussion about variety of taste - which he points out is different than appetite. Some people prefer oysters.... some prefer snails - he gets Antoninus to agree. Then he tells his young slave "I like snails *AND* oysters".

    There are some wonderful scenes. Early in the film Spartacus is one of four young gladiators who are unexpectedly brought to the arena to fight to the death when Crassus shows up with two women who have a taste to watch some killing. The first two gladiators are brought from their holding cage into the arena, but the camera stays with Kirk Douglas as Spartacus and Woody Strobe as the Ethiopian gladiator. Not a word is spoken between the two of them as the tension builds and they listen to the sound of their two comrades fighting to the death.

    Spartacus later leads a slave rebellion which results in a slave army that at one point overwhelms six co-horts of the garrison of Rome. Many intrigues are played out as Spartacus tries to make a plan of escape for his slave army since they obviously can't stay in Italy. Pirates are commissioned to meet the slave army at a port town and the efforts of Spartacus to escape and Crassus to thwart him make up much of the meat of the movie.

    Jean Simmons is on hand as another slave who is first "given" to Spartacus for a night for his progress as a gladiator, then later becomes Mrs. Spartacus. The scene where she is brought to his cell is poignant as Spartacus tells her that he has never had a woman, but he yells at the watching guards that he will not just have sex with this woman so that they can watch at their pleasure. Like the Elephant Man, he bellows "I am not an animal!"

    Spartacus concisely depicts courage and conviction and honor - and it also equally depicts the opposite of those desirable qualities. Well-balanced and entertaining, the three-plus hour run time flew by.

    ...more info
  • 2.5 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    Spartacus is of course beloved due to its director, but it's an overlong and sprawling movie whose attempts at romance fall pretty flat and whose ending leaves something to be desired; if you've got three hours it might be worth seeing for pure spectacle, but expect a large serving of corn with the meaty battle scenes. ...more info
  • Oysters , snails, politics, slavery, swordplay
    This movie has it all in epic proportions that engage the modern mind into choosing where they fall in the mix..... the mob, the politician, the slave , the business man trying to make an honest buck training men to kill other men. On the surface a gladiator film that defines the genre... look deeper and you find yourself......more info
  • The extras alone on the Criterion are worth the price!
    Apart from the excellent graphics and sound the Criterion edition offers, just watching the late Peter Ustinov chat about his fellow actors, Laughton and Olivier especially, is worth the extra bucks for this edition. Kirk Douglas, (mercifully before the stroke that left him speech-impaired), gives insightful commentary to the making of this epic. If you have a "home theatre", this is a bonanza for your wide-screen!...more info
  • Spartacus
    One of the best classic films. Good acting. Very good combination of action and dialog....more info
  • A well made movie
    This movie has many good actors in it. It was well made move....more info
    This motion picture is a must for all Gladiator Epic lovers. The movie was made when these films were very popular and all stops were pulled for this classic Roman Picture.. The movie showcases the Great Kirk Douglas in his most memorable performance. The cinematography is spectacular and verY authentic for its time. After all these years, the color is vivid and true to form. A very young Tony Curtis appears with a great cast. You will love the feel for the movie and the sets are very opulent. Notice that if you went to pick this movie at the store, it will still cost alot. That is a sure sign that this movie has gotton better with age. Pick it up today and enjoy!!!
    Noel Serrano...more info
  • Spectacular
    What a great movie. Tough ending but so well done. Action, love, freedom, spectacle and so well acted....more info
  • A Great Underrated Spectacle
    This is another wonderful Hollywood spectacular that is visually stunning, predating the dreadful grossly exaggerated CGI effects in most genre movies today. All the thousands of extras are REAL! Not as appreciated in its initial release as it deserved to be, the film stands tall today among the best Hollywood epics. Kirk Douglas is remarkably reserved in this role that he could easily have gone over the top with phony heroics. I especially enjoyed Laurence Olivier's deliciously evil performance as Marcus Crassus, Spartacus' prime Roman antagonist. There's a great battle of scene stealers between Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov. Ustinov got the oscar for best supporting player. Two other major assets are the fabulous film score by Alex North and Dalton Trumbo's screenplay which is both literate and entertaining without ever getting dull. Only Tony Curtis as "a singher of songhs" strikes a sour note. His Greek slave is straight out of Brooklyn. Although director Stanley Kubrick disavowed the film because of his differences with Exec. Producer Douglas, this film is among his greatest achievements. While The History Channel may take exception to some of the dramatic details (Spartacus had no "wife" of record and his demise differed from the movie) this is still NOT to be missed! ...more info
  • A Parable For Today
    The name Spartacus has a long and honorable history in the annals of the modern international labor movement, most notably, as used by Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and their comrades as the early name for their ill-fated revolutionary organization the Sparatacusbund in the 1919 German revolutionary working class uprising. Why would a 20th century revolutionary labor organization use the name of a pre-Christian era Thracian slave-general for their organization? To state the question is to provide the answer. The symbiotic relationship between the efforts to overthrow Roman chattel slavery in ancient times and capitalist wage slavery in modern ones is a "no-brainer". Whether one can draw that inference from the story line of this cinematic effort is another question. That is where the fact that this story line, as outlined by director Stanley Kubrick and producer Kirk Douglas, is based on a novel by the old-time former Stalinist and Hollywood blacklisted writer Howard Fast (and screenplay by blacklisted John Howard Lawton)tells us that it is at least partially so.

    As to the story line- of course from minute one all our sympathies are, or should be, with the Thracian slave Spartacus who longs to be free from the boot heel of the Roman slave master. As the story progresses we confront two different concepts of the world- Spartacus's longings to be free and Rome's, at this time barely republican, need to control the known world by example, if possible, by force of the legions if necessary. The film traces that inevitably conflict, especially in its military form, until the final clash between armies in the field of the slave and the master. Not for the last time the master wins- but the longings to be free are never really extinguished despite those plebeian defeats. That is the real message here. Remember it, please.

    Throw in a little love interest for old Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) with a slave girl (Jean Simmons) that helps to keep him going, some graphic scenes on the tough life of the gladiator, a little humor provided by the owner of the gladiator school (an Oscar-winning Peter Ustinov) and a little Roman ruling class intrigue between the good Roman republican (Charles Laughton) and the first of a line of would-be imperial dictators (Laurence Olivier) and you have a three hour film that has some grit. See this older classic cinematic effort for the acting and fine directing. But also see it to know why someday, somewhere the plebes will rise again.
    ...more info
  • Puts "Gladiator" to shame
    A classic gladiator film that still holds up decades later. This has so many things going for it. It's presented in its original Super Technirama 70 widescreen format - watching this any other way is unthinkable, similar to Lawrence of Arabia. This edition has a plethora of extras, and it's anamorphic, unlike the Universal dvd. Perhaps most endearing is the performance by Jean Simmons. She is so beautiful and luminous here - I can see why Spartacus was in love with her! A great, great film with many superb performances. This is the one to get....more info
  • "I'm Spartacus!"
    Spartacus is that genuine rarity, an epic that successfully combines the intellectual with the emotional, giving it an edge on almost all of its contemporaries - even Anthony Mann's superb Fall of the Roman Empire, which is never able to fully reconcile the two in its leading characters.

    It was Mann who shot the striking opening sequences in the Libyan salt mines before being replaced by Kubrick, allegedly for losing his grip on the gladiator school sequences (though it seems everyone involved offers a different reason), and his trademark use of landscape to define character is very much in evidence. Spartacus begins the film as a virtual animal, mute, biting his guard, a creature of pure instinct. Yet through his fight for his freedom, he learns dignity and becomes more of a human being than his civilised masters.

    Ironically, it is his doomed slave revolt that provides the spark to turn Rome into a totalitarian dictatorship, a development hinted at in his gladiatorial combat with Woody Strode, where their duel to the death is simply a background for the political backbiting of its noble Roman audience. Even after the rebellion is brutally crushed, the seeds for further change and disruption are sown in the shifting allegiance of a young Gaius Julius Caesar (Gavin), who moves from the side of Laughton's populist Plebian to Olivier's ruthless Patrician.

    Despite this, Spartacus is an incredibly hopeful film. Its belief in the value of life and in people may be frowned upon as naive now, yet through its portrayal of the Romans' ignorance of the responsibilities of their civilisation in their endless manipulations and power plays remains painfully aware of reality. In hindsight, it seems impossible to separate it from the civil rights movement of the late fifties-sixties (JFK was a great admirer of the film), with Spartacus a Thracian composite of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The solidarity of the slaves in refusing to identify Spartacus to the victorious Romans and choosing crucifixion over their chains is an image at once universal myth and very much of its time.

    Most unusual within the constraints of the genre is that it makes us feel its concerns rather than just think about them. The fight to the death between Spartacus and Antoninus (Curtis) is played as a personal scene rather than an action set piece, each trying to kill the other to Spain them the pain of crucifixion. And when he takes his place on the last of the crosses that pave the road to the gates of Rome, the final scene where his freed wife (Jean Simmons) shows him the son he has never seen for the first time and begs him to "Die, please die!", is one of the most intensely moving moments in cinema and carries an emotional charge that Kubrick's work never again attained or even attempted.

    Despite his genuinely imaginative direction, Kubrick's erratic attitude towards the film is well documented (although Douglas claims the director originally wanted to take blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo's screen credit, he subsequently vociferously disowned the film). Unfortunately, the 1990s cinema re-issue of this original restored version met with some of the worst reviews in recent memory: Douglas' reputation had faded while Kubrick's had soared, rendering it an act of critical blasphemy to disagree with him.

    Nonetheless, the film endures even if its reputation has not. Trumbo's script is both intelligent and involving and filled with memorable and beautifully constructed scenes, the cast uniformly excellent, with Olivier giving one of his last great performances before he turned to intermittent silly voices and self-parody. Aside from the now infamous attempted bathtime seduction of Tony Curtis (far less explicit than the subsequent speech about `debasing yourself' before Rome), the extra footage in this restored version is largely violence - more crucifixions, the burial of a baby in the snow, gladiator Woody Strode's blood squirting onto Olivier's face as he slits his throat and a lot more of the climactic battle (itself shot as an afterthought after an unsatisfactory rough-cut).

    Sadly, it is here that one of the film's most visually powerful moments, when the Roman Legion stops to a man in their advance on the slave army, just does not work even on the largest of small screens. Whereas in 70mm on the giant screen you could feel them approach foot by foot, here they barely seem to be moving, rendering the jolting shock and ominous dread of their sudden halt (actually achieved via freeze frame) barely noticeable. The prelude to the main battle does remain an incredible musical tour de force by North, however, predicting both the savagery and hollow victory of the coming carnage with brief, brutal crescendos on vicious sharp cuts. Even in a strong field that year, it is amazing that North did not win an Oscar for his contribution.

    You're spoiled for choice with the extras on the Criterion edition, so this is definitely the one to go for....more info
  • Excellent movie, excellent price
    I bought this as a gift for my husband. Received promptly,pleased with packaging. The movie is a definite classic, must have for the DVD collector....more info
    Having never seen this movie I finally caught with it recently but found it rather disappointing, specially when comparing it to later films which it obviously influenced but also in which special effects were leaps ahead (Braveheart, Gladiator) and so was common sense. Here's why:
    1) The majority of action sequences take place off-camera, there is only one really big, epic battle. What we do get are endless talking scenes with very little dialogue spread over long stretches, in other words, the epic lenght is hardly justified.
    2) Absolutely ridiculous scene in which Douglas addresses hundreds of thousands of people without the benefit of a single microphone. I guess off-camera he said something in the likes of "pass it on".
    3) Laughable scenes with thousands of death people, all with healthy looking faces, the same applies to SPARTACUS when he is being crucified, hardly showing any pain.
    4) How can we admire SPARTACUS fighting skills when he doesn't even win any of the gladiator fights ? His ability in the training machine (jumping and ducking) hardly counts.
    5) I wish I could say I was moved by the leading lady's looks or presence but this was hardly the case. There are also scenes in which she is supposed to be carrying a well covered SPARTACUS' baby that looks so stiff it is more than obvious they filmed it with a doll. And then she is shown escaping incognito, having been rescued from Olivier's crutches and she stops in front of a crucified Spartacus and kisses his feet, right in front of several roman soldiers !
    My recommendation, buy GLADIATOR or BRAVEHEART instead ! ...more info
  • To this day...
    Still bugs me that Tony Curtis, a "singer of songs," stands there and recites poetry.

    WHY, WHY, WHY????????????????????

    Why does he not SING??? Hate to say that something like that could ruin the movie for me, but here, 10 years after I saw it the first time, that's the first thing that comes to mind!!!!...more info
  • great movie
    A true classic, great acting, great cinematography, everyone should watch this movie ...more info


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