Spartacus (1960)


Continuing on the story of Spartacus, this time I reached back to my new oldest movie ever reviewed, the 1960’s Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons (a female, not Gene Simmons the guy from Kiss), Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, and John Ireland.

Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a slave that is sentenced to death by starvation for biting a Roman guard in the shin. Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), a lanista (an owner of a place that trains gladiators), comes looking for recruits and takes Spartacus with him. He is trained as a gladiator and befriends Crixus (John Ireland) in Capua. Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave girl that Spartacus has come to fancy, is purchased by the Roman Crassus (Laurence Olivier). Spartacus gets all pissy about this and, when mocked about it by the Doctore, he drowns the Doctore to death in a pot of stew, and then he and the other slaves overwhelm the guards and take over the facility. Spartacus takes the gladiators and forms them into an army with a steady supply of escaped slaves as new recruits. He also meets back up with Varinia and promptly knocks her up. The army intends to make it’s way across Italy to the shore and take boats they have purchased off to their freedom. The Romans get word of this and a battle ensues, one that Spartacus’ army loses. The famous scene happens of the Romans saying that the slaves will be returned to slavery if Spartacus gives himself up happens after the battle, and when Spartacus stands to give himself up, the rest of the men start yelling out “I’m Spartacus” instead, condemning them all to be crucified. If I were the Romans, I’d say “Okay, bring me the one that DIDN’T say he was Spartacus” and it would be done with. But instead they all get crucified along a road back to Rome, leaving Antoninus (Tony Curtis), the former tutor from Sicily and friend to Spartacus, and Spartacus himself to be crucified last. Varinia, along with Spartacus’ son, has been taken in by Crassus because he thinks she’s hot, but Batiatus is ordered by senator Gracchus (Charles Laughton) to take her and her son to freedom behind Crassus’ back. They go by a crucified Spartacus on the way out of town so he can see his kid for the first time (I guess Varinia must’ve popped it out right on the battlefield or something), and they ride off to freedom.

I first remember seeing Spartacus when I was much younger in a class of some sort (so obviously I remember the situation very well). I remember liking it, but I think the teacher may have been merciful and jumped through the story a lot to get to the cool parts where they cut people’s arms off. Today I did still like the movie and the only negative thing about it is the same reason I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this movie to everyone. That is the length. I don’t know if there are abridged versions available of this movie, but the one I watched was over 3 hours. That is tough for me, especially when this movie has a lot of talking in it. A lot of the scenes felt like they could have been edited down a lot and made this a super fantastic 2 hour movie. I understand that a lot of those speaking moments were building relationships between the audience and the characters, but they really slowed down the pace and lengthened the movie.

That being said, this is one of the first super epic movies and I respect that. The movie seems to be a huge endeavor even by today’s standards. The battles and aftermath involve a great many actors laying in dirt and filth, often on top of other people, as the camera slowly moves over them. Still, I’d have done it so I could be in a movie that will be around forever. Instead, I was in the audience of the Cirque du Soleil scene in Knocked Up. The battles are great, but arguably few and far between. I’m going to need to reacquaint myself with Kubrick movies to know for sure, but as I recall, they are typically really talk-y.

The acting is also fantastic. Kirk Douglas is so good in this movie that I actually stopped staring at that gigantic hole in his chin. I mean, have you seen cleft in that guy’s chin? COME ON! You could stow your luggage in there! Anyways, he’s really good. Jean Simmons is good, but occasionally over the top and creepy. I think the guy that played Batiatus won an Oscar for supporting actor for this. He was good and everything, but I actually found myself more intrigued with the performance of Charles Laughton.

I recommend this movie if, and only if, you are totally aware of what you’re getting yourself into. If you go in expecting it to be an action movie, you’ll be bored. Expect more of a epic drama movie, you’ll be alright. And everyone really needs to see this movie anyway. It’s a classic. I’m trying to acquaint myself with all the uber-classic movies recently, so it’s only right that I go to this movie. I give this movie “I love you, Spartacus” out of 876.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.

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