Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Spartacus (50th Anniversary Edition) (Blu-ray)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
6 out of 10
Extras Rating:
6 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Kirk Douglas as Spartacus
Laurence Olivier as Marcus Licinius Crassus
Jean Simmons as Varinia
Charles Laughton as Sempronius Gracchus
Peter Ustinov as Lentulus Batiatus
John Gavin as Julius Caesar
Nina Foch as Helena Glabrus
John Ireland as Crixus
Herbert Lom as Tigranes Levantus
John Dall as Marcus Publius Glabrus
Charles McGraw as Marcellus
Joanna Barnes as Claudia Marius
Harold J. Stone as David
Woody Strode as Draba
Peter Brocco as Ramon

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Special Features:
Deleted scenes
Interview with Peter Ustinov
Interview with Jean Simmons
Behind-the-scenes footage
Vintage newsreels
Theatrical trailer
Production stills
Concept art
Costume designs
Saul Bass storyboards
Posters & print ads
My Scenes
BD Live

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French and Spanish Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 3 Hours 17 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

"'Spartacus,' the genre-defining epic from director Stanley Kubrick, is the legendary tale of a bold gladiator (Kirk Douglas) who led a triumphant Roman slave revolt. Filmed in glorious Technicolor, the action-packed spectacle won four Academy Awards including Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. Featuring a cast of screen legends such as Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Jean Simmons, John Gavin and Tony Curtis, this uncut and fully restored masterpiece is an inspirational true account of man's eternal struggle for freedom."

"Spartacus" is rated PG-13.

Mini-Review:
I think the last time I saw "Spartacus" was 20 years ago in high school. Considering the movie isn't entirely historically accurate, I'm not sure why they showed this 3 hour epic to us. Anyway, it's interesting to revisit the film with this 50th Anniversary release.

When I last saw the movie, I don't think it entirely registered with me that it was directed by a young Stanley Kubrick. It's very interesting to compare this movie with his later films. "Spartacus" looks and feels a lot more 'Hollywood' than his other pictures. But I definitely appreciate now what he was able to accomplish with the movie. It is appropriately epic looking and I was particularly impressed with what he was able to create in the battle scenes. While modern movies would rely on CGI to create Roman armies, Kubrick had to use 8500 extras to pull it off. Not only that, he rolled burning logs over them. "Spartacus" was also particularly graphic for the time. We're treated to scenes of people being impaled, crucified, and limbs being cut off with blood spurting out of the stumps. It wasn't your typical movie fare for 1960.

I also realize now how much "Gladiator" and "Braveheart" borrowed from "Spartacus." The first half of the movie where we see Spartacus being trained as a gladiator are very reminiscent of the Ridley Scott epic. The second half of the movie with the bloody battle and tragic ending feel a lot like Mel Gibson's movie. Anybody that's a fan of either of those modern movies will want to go back and check out "Spartacus" again.

So I've spent a lot of this review praising "Spartacus" as the classic it is, yet I gave it a 6 out of 10. That simply reflects the level of entertainment I got out of watching it, not the overall quality of the film. At over 3 hours long, it's a marathon to sit through. And "Spartacus" is rather dated in the acting, dialogue, sets, and cinematography. They use the 'fuzzy cam' on close-ups of Jean Simmons, the interior sets look fake, and it is a tad hokey in places. It took me 20 years to revisit "Spartacus" and it will probably be another 20 years before I watch it again.

The movie looks great on Blu-ray. The picture is restored nicely from the 1991 re-release. The colors are bright and the picture is clear. In some scenes it looks like it could have been filmed yesterday. Anybody that's a fan of "Spartacus," Kirk Douglas, or Stanley Kubrick will want to add this to their collection.

The bonus features are a tad light considering this is heralded as the "50th Anniversary Edition." You get a couple of minor deleted scenes, an alternate ending that doesn't show Spartacus still alive while crucified, and some raw behind the scenes footage. There are also some vintage newsreels and publicity interviews with Simmons and Ustinov. I wish there had been some sort of retrospective, commentary, vintage documentaries, or even pop-up trivia during the movie. None of that is included.

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