REVIEW: SPARTACUS (1960)

 

 

CAST

Kirk Douglas (The Devil’s Diisciple)
Laurence Olivier (Clash of The Titans)
Jean Simmons (The Big Country)
Charles Laughton (Mutiny on The Bounty)
Peter Ustinov (Death of The Nile)
John Gavin (Psycho)
Nina Foch (Sliver)
John Ireland (Red River)
Herbert Lom (The Dead Zone)
Joanna Barnes (The Parent Trap)
Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot)
Joanna Barnes (The Parent Trap)
John Hoyt (When Worlds Colide)

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Spartacus is one of the great Hollywood epics and Kirk Douglas’ defining role. It is a brilliantly written screenplay that combines the struggle for freedom from oppression with a compelling love story in a setting that accurately depicts the majesty as well as the corruption of the Roman Empire. The scenes depicting the political maneuvering of the Senate were priceless.Kubrick’s work was nothing short of brilliant. His attention to the details of the period was wonderful. The orchestration of tens of thousands of extras in the battle scenes was phenomenal. His presentation of the love scenes between Varinia and Spartacus were sensitive and compelling. I was most impressed with his treatment of the slave army. He put a human face on the slaves by showing mothers with their children and scenes of Spartacus walking among the people. This completely wins the affections of the viewer. His pacing was perfect and despite the film’s length at over three hours, it did not seem to drag since there was always something fascinating on the screen.

Kirk Douglas gave a powerful performance and created a character that was bigger than life. He was strong and inspirational while simultaneously being gentle and kind. Laurence Olivier gave a riveting performance Crassus. He was cunning, imperious, consumed by ambition and utterly heartless. It is hard to imagine a more nefarious bad guy.

Jean Simmons has had an impressive acting career that has spanned more than 50 years. She is both a great beauty and an enchanting actress. She gave Varinia dignity, strength of character and a quiet seductiveness that played well off the power exuded from Douglas. Their screen chemistry was both passionate and touching. Rounding out a great cast were Peter Ustinov who was terrific as the sniveling and cowardly Batiatius always conniving to profit from someone else’s misfortunes, and Charles Laughton as the astute and duplicitous Gracchus, manipulating the Roman senate to his best advantage.

The last decisive battle scene between the slave army and Roman legions was magnificently staged. The extras playing the Roman legionnaires marched in formation so precisely, and the whole formation moved like a single organism. The blinding flash, which was created when thousands of extras simultaneously pointed their shields toward the camera, was absolutely awe-inspiring. Just before the two armies clashed, thousands of extras playing the Roman army quickly and precisely reorganized the formation to create skirmish lines. This was a site to behold. It must have been absolutely terrifying for the foes of Rome to watch the formations of these robot-like, super-precise Roman legionnaires charging toward them. This is among the best epics ever made and certainly among the top three films about the Roman Empire. This film should be on every film buff’s list of required viewing and is highly recommended for its moving story to anyone who hasn’t seen it.