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
Writer Howard Fast felt that Spartacus' hamstringing the guard with his teeth and drowning the trainer in a vat of soup were Kirk Douglas' ideas, and would never be done by Spartacus, who Fast portrayed as a gentle, compassionate figure. Douglas justified the violence as necessary for a rebel leader, and claims he tried to show the tough and gentle sides of Spartacus equally in the movie. See more »
Antoninus is wearing trousers under his tunic when Tigranes enters the tent saying he arrived on horseback without any slaves. When Spartacus opens the treasure-chest Antoninus is suddenly bare-legged. 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 »
Spartacus is a Roman epic with Laurence Olivier in one of the greatest performances I think I've ever seen. It's also an ambitious early vehicle for Stanley Kubrick. And, it's an important point in cinematic history because it was the first film to openly defy the black list by using the work of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and billing him. The most entertaining thing about it, aside from Olivier's fierce, intense, and successfully infuriating performance, is the dated look of the lavish and obviously fake sets, the bright and blown out Technicolor cinematography, the opening slave revolt and the costumes and weapons and firetruck red blood. It's a movie of the times. It also marks my confirmation that Laurence Olivier is a brilliant actor. He draws such an intimidating facade for his prideful and puerile militarist, hiding his weak fear for humiliation in his battle for power against the truly confident Gracchus. I have seen Olivier in Sleuth, in which he gave a wonderful performance, but he didn't shoot to the top of my list as he does here.
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