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.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Season 1 (2010)

After the last two movies I watched, I required a palate cleansing and, quite frankly, I think you all need one as well.  So I will do a few macho manly reviews to help.  Also, I will do my very first TV review at the very same time.  So grab/scratch your balls, break wind, and join me for my review of season 1 of the Starz TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand, starring Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, Peter Mensah, Man Bennett, Nick Tarabay, Viva Bianca, and Jai Courtney.  There’s a lot more, but I’ll probably name them as they come up.

Spartacus should be a fairly familiar story but, as I watched this show at the behest of my roommate who had not seen the Kubrick film and did not even know the name of the main star, the plot will still warrant explanation.  But, be warned, as I watched this all at the same time as it’s now on DVD, I will go through the entire plot of season 1 and there will be spoilers.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand starts with an unnamed Thracian (Andy Whitfield) joining the Roman auxiliary against the Getae to protect his land, but he’s soon betrayed when he realizes the Getae move towards his village (and wife) and the commander Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) won’t assist them.  The Thracian and a few others beat up the commander and head towards the village, but they’re too late for the bulk of the village.  The Thracian does, however, meet up with his wife who was outside the village when the attack happened.  But Glaber has followed and takes the Thracian and his wife Sura (Erin Cummings) into custody and slavery.  For his mutiny, he’s sentenced to be executed in the gladiator arena in a fight against four gladiators in Capua, Italy.  Somehow, the Thracian defeats the 4 gladiators and is given to Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah) to be trained as a gladiator.  Batiatus names the Thracian Spartacus after a Thracian king and ferocious warrior.

Now at the ludus for Batiatus, Spartacus is put under the tutelage of the Doctore (Peter Mensah) but refuses to train.  This gains him the disdain of other gladiators, most notably Crixus (Man Bennett) the undefeated and Barca the beast of Carthage.  He befriends Varro (Jai Courtney) who is only competing as a gladiator to pay off his debts and support his wife and child.  Batiatus gains Spartacus’ performance by promising to locate and purchase Sura if Spartacus can earn the money and fame to gain their freedom.  He tries to rush his fame by challenging Crixus but is nearly killed by him.  Then Spartacus must earn his way back to fame by fighting in underground arenas and it nearly drives him mad.  But he regains popularity and becomes the “Champion of Capua” by teaming with Crixus against Theokoles, the shadow of death.  The only man that has survived an encounter with Theokoles is the Doctore.  Crixus is nearly killed but helps Spartacus defeat him.  Batiatus delivers Sura to him, but she has been mortally wounded while being transported, allegedly by bandits, as told by the driver.  Casting off his old life as a Thracian, Spartacus owns his fate.

Spartacus becomes the best of the ludus and handily defeats anyone in his way.  At what is supposed to be an exhibition, the magistrate’s son, Numerius – driven by Glaber’s wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) – calls for Spartacus to kill Varro, who has practically become Spartacus’ brother.  Spartacus is grief-stricken and it’s made worse when he sees that the driver of his wife’s carriage has no scar on him, and forces him to confess that Batiatus ordered her murder to untether Spartacus, then Spartacus kills him.  Spartacus enlists the help of the gladiators, including Crixus and Doctore (now revealed to be Oenomaus), and together they kill everyone in the ludus except for Ilithyia, who escapes.  And that leaves us to the events of season 2.

First, let me tell you what I expected of the show.  I expected this to be vaguely interesting with a bunch of tits and buff jock dudes fighting.  What I actually received was an enthralling story … with a bunch of tits and buff jock dudes fighting.  This is a really good show, which hopefully won’t fall now that Andy Whitfield has died.  I can’t remember the movie very well, but I had looked up Spartacus on Wikipedia and I suppose the story sticks pretty well to the story of Spartacus.  Moreover, who cares, it’s an awesome story.  And there are a great many titties in this show as well, and a couple of unwelcome dicks too.  Why wouldn’t you watch a show with an awesome story, lots of blood and action, AND Xena’s titties appearing frequently.  Problematically on this end, they cut a dude’s wang off in one episode as punishment for trying to kill Spartacus, but the dude actually didn’t give away that it was Ilithyia that told him to do it.  Which I don’t understand.  I will give up ANYBODY for ANYTHING if the threat is the removal of my wang.

The look of this show amazed me most of all.  I don’t watch TV very often so I must’ve missed the steps in between TV as I knew it and being able to almost recreate the look of 300 on a television show.  It looks almost identical to the movie, and has tons of realistic blood and gore to go with it.  It astounds me that there was a time that one or two episodes of this show would’ve been the most expensive movie ever, if the technology was even possible.  But now we’re at a time when they can do this on TV.  Though hard to explain, the transitions they often use of blood spraying and battle happening is very well done.

I’m down with all the performances in this show as well.  Everyone performs, at the very least, adequately.  The wording they use and accents they attempt would draw on the nerves if not for the often clever dialogue that is delivered by it.  But I feel that I was pleasantly surprised by the ability of the cast.  Generally I wouldn’t expect that much out of super attractive women and overly buff jockish dudes, but all of them are great.  I think I was most surprised by Manu Bennett, who has the look of someone that could barely string words together, but he has a very difficult performances of falling in love with a slave girl but having to hide it because Xena wants him and that would mean the death of them both.  He has a lot of good performances in this show.

I definitely recommend you all check out this show.  If you’re a lady like my roommate Richard, you may become unnerved by some of the gore and may perhaps not appreciate the very sexual nature, but don’t let it scare you off from enjoying a good show.  I give this movie “I AM SPARTACUS!” out of 1165.

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