In 73 B.C., a Thracian slave leads a revolt at a gladiatorial school run by Lentulus Batiatus (Sir Peter Ustinov). 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 (Charles Laughton) schemes to have Marcus Publius Glabrus (John Dall), 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 (Sir Laurence Olivier) 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
Kirk Douglas had an unhappy time for most of the production. After a major falling out with original Director Anthony Mann, he asked Stanley Kubrick, with whom he had collaborated well three years previously on Paths of Glory (1957), to direct. However, he had an equally difficult time working with Kubrick. After the production, Douglas claimed he would not collaborate with Kubrick again if he was given the opportunity. Douglas has often said he regretted having Mann fired from the movie, and when he was offered The Heroes of Telemark (1965), he agreed to take that role, on condition that Mann be hired as director. See more »
When Spartacus is scored by the trident in the gladiatorial battle the three steaks of 'blood' are already on his chest. 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 evokes 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 »
After its premiere the film was heavily cut and wasn't shown in its complete form until 1991, when a restored version was re-released. Among the restored scenes is one where where Marcus Licinius (Laurence Olivier) tries to seduce Antonius (Tony Curtis) in the bath. The soundtrack was damaged, so Anthony Hopkins was called in to dub Olivier's lines. See more »
One of those movies which somehow seems to improve as it ages (probably because, between viewings, we forget how many cliches it avoids), Spartacus is a terrific film, and one which, I think, would have been every bit as terrific even if Mr Douglas and Mr Mann hadn't had that little falling out which led to Mr Kubrick getting the phone call.
Don't get me wrong, I think Kubrick was a great director, perhaps even the best there has been, but not only had Spartacus been in pre-production for over a year by the time he was told to hop aboard, the actual shooting had already begun (that opening sequence in the quarry is all Mann's, I believe). On a project of this scale, made in the heart of the Hollywood machine, even the most tyrannous director would be hard pressed to shape it into something that reflected himself, and indeed, some sources suggest Kubrick all but disowned the film. He certainly wasn't involved with the '91 restoration.
The only conclusion is that, whatever contribution he made scene-by-scene, the film's many overall qualities (witty dialogue, an emphasis on intrigue, a political theme, very handsome look) were there regardless of Kubrick, not because of him.
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