14 March 2013


Spartacus (1960)
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Based on Book: Howard Fast
  • Cast: Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • They’re all so well known there was no such reaction
  • Why bought: Classic, high ratings, Kubrick, historical, slave uprising
  • Seen: October 27, 2012

Old classics from the 60’s are always risky.  They can be really bad. But this one is pretty good.  Slave uprisings are always good. Of course the formula is a bit weary: handsome macho man with a soft heart loves beautiful slave/prostitute, and I dozed through all the battle scenes but at times my interest perked up.  Jean Simmons tried to put a little character into her character with a tiny touch of feminism.  The Romans were rather more complex with Peter Ustinov as a slave trader aware of and troubled by the tawdriness of his profession.  He carries much of the movie.  Charles Laughton is a nuanced, clever and very likeable political manipulator who loses everything with humor and courage.  Even Olivier does a strong portrayal of the winner in politics and loser in love. He’s usually better when he’s not doing Shakespeare and has to prove how brilliant he is at Shakespeare.
Spartacus himself is the least interesting and though Kirk Douglas cries a little and laughs a little and does his best to be passionate or just one of the gang he simply remains his wooden manly handsome boring self with a dimple in his chin.
The best parts of the film are those that emphasize the people, the thousands of slaves involved in the uprising.  The everyday survival of fathers and mothers with children, the cooking and building of shelter in the desert, on the march, in the winter.  Close-ups. Panoramas. The strongest scene is a far shot with thousands of little dots – people – surging down the mountain slope. I would have loved to be an extra in that scene!
All in all, a film worth seeing.

3* of 5.

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