A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.
In 73 BCE, a Thracian slave leads a revolt at a gladiatorial school run by Lentulus Batiatus. The uprising soon spreads across the Italian Peninsula involving thousand of slaves. The plan is to acquire sufficient funds to acquire ships from Silesian pirates who could then transport them to other lands from Brandisium in the south. The Roman Senator Gracchus schemes to have Marcus Publius Glabrus, Commander of the garrison of Rome, lead an army against the slaves who are living on Vesuvius. When Glabrus is defeated his mentor, Senator and General Marcus Licinius Crassus is greatly embarrassed and leads his own army against the slaves. Spartacus and the thousands of freed slaves successfully make their way to Brandisium only to find that the Silesians have abandoned them. They then turn north and must face the might of Rome. Written by
Stanley Kubrick wanted to shoot at a slow pace of two camera set-ups a day, but the studio insisted that he do 32; a compromise of eight had to be made. See more »
Referring to leaving Italy by sea, several characters, including Antoninus, refer to the port of Brundusium. The actual port, in ancient times, was known as Brundisium. The discrepancy could be regarded as a variation in pronunciation, until the midpoint of the film, when the pirate emissary points to a map of Southern Italy in Spartacus's camp tent, clearly showing the misspelled city of Brundusium. The other cities on the map - Metapontum, Capua, Tarentum, for example - are historically correct in the Latin spelling of their names. See more »
In the last century before the birth of the new faith called Christianity, which was destined to overthrow the pagan tyranny of Rome and bring about a new society, the Roman Republic stood at the very center of the civilized world. "Of all things fairest," sang the poet, "first among cities and home of the gods is golden Rome." Yet, even at the zenith of her pride and power, the Republic lay fatally stricken with a disease called human slavery. The age of the dictator was at hand, ...
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The opening titles appear in a montage of silhouetted Roman sculptures and tablets, which according to title designer Saul Bass is meant to evoke the strength and power of the Roman Empire. The montage ends with a zoom into the eye of a crumbling Roman bust, which hints at the Empire's coming decline and fall. See more »
As most are undoubtedly aware this is the film that the director virtually expunged from his repertoire. But why did Stanley Kubrick really disown SPARTACUS (1960)? The answer can be summed up in two words: absolute control. Kubrick wanted total administrative as well as artistic authority over the making of the film about a revolt of gladiators and slaves in ancient Rome.
But you will notice that Bryna Productions not only financed SPARTACUS but also an earlier film directed by Kubrick, PATHS OF GLORY (1958). Bryna was Kirk Douglas' film company and, as most filmgoers know, he was the star of both films. Besides having all the money to make the films, Douglas had artistic vision as well. Only three weeks into what would prove to be an incredibly complex and arduous production, Douglas fired venerable director Anthony Mann (RAW DEAL, RAILROADED,THE FURIES, THE NAKED SPUR, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, MAN OF THE WEST, etc.) from SPARTACUS. With only two days notice, Kubrick was hired to replace him.
Shooting PATHS OF GLORY, Douglas had confined his criticisms and objections to Kubrick's failed rewriting of the script (they went with the original screenplay). Douglas' complaints and artistic influence were far greater on SPARTACUS, much to Kubrick's chagrin. Though the director craved autonomy over every aspect of the film, Douglas would not budge. A tense compromise was reached but ultimately Douglas had the last word. Kubrick saw himself as just a hired gun. And he would never allow himself to be placed in this position again.
Later, both men would complain about the film's outcome and each other. They never made another movie together.
But SPARTACUS is no uneven patchwork of divergent ideas. The film is cohesive and arresting. At the restored version of three hours and eighteen minutes, there is practically no dead footage in the film. Dalton Trumbo's screenplay is surprisingly economical, with sharply drawn characters placed against the sweeping historical majesty and violent sociological tumult of ancient Rome. Quite plainly, the gloriously inventive music by Alex North is among the greatest scores ever written for a motion picture. And despite Kubrick's bad experience, he managed to guide the actors towards creating outstanding work (a best supporting actor Oscar for Peter Ustinov). He even transformed the very real enmity between Laughton and Olivier into an on-screen asset. His other contributions were considerable also (the large scale and power of the battle sequence, for example). In the end, for the film at least, the clash of giant egos proved fortuitous. Recommendations: for greater insight and detail on this and Kubrick's other films I urge you to seek out Jan Harlan's excellent documentary, STANLEY KUBRICK: A LIFE IN PICTURES, and Vincent LoBrutto's exhaustive, highly informative biography, STANLEY KUBRICK. For the producer's views on SPARTACUS and its director, take a gander at Kirk Douglas' very candid autobiography, THE RAGMAN'S SON.
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