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USA 1960
Directed by
Stanley Kubrick
187 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Producer Kirk Douglas was instrumental in getting blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to script and Stanley Kubrick to direct this sword-and-sandal 60s classic and the result is what was hailed on its release as the first intellectual epic since the silent era.

Although dated both technically and in some of the period stylistics, particularly in the massed scenes and a fondness for showing off the quaint exoticism of foreign races, Spartacus still holds up very well and in the carefully restored 70mm print (by Robert A. Harris, who did the same for Lawrence Of Arabia) is visually splendiferous.

Aside from Douglas's sterling lead performance as the idealistic champion of a people's right to self-determination, the film really shines in dealing with the backdrop of Roman decadence, both Laurence Olivier as Crassus and Charles Laughton as Gracchus are both outstanding in their togas. There's a romantic subplot (involving Jean Simmons) which, once again, suffers from the sentimentalities of the period and a less typical chaser in the portrayal of Crassus's bisexuality (the bath scene with Crassus and Antoninus which made this clear was cut from the original release). Peter Ustinov picked up an Oscar for his performance as an ingratiating slave trader.

FYI: In the restored print Olivier's voice is dubbed by Anthony Hopkins.




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