1960 ****1/2 196 mins.
(Alternate versions run from 161 mins to 202 mins.)
Spartacus is a wonderful film about the grandeur that once was Rome. Kirk Douglas's epic film came out almost as an answer to Ben-Hur, although it didn't quite achieve the same level of greatness. Note that I called this Kirk Douglas's epic. Granted, Stanley Kubrick is credited as the director, but Kirk Douglas got final say in a lot of the controversies on set, as he was the executive producer. Plus, Stanley came on the project only after the original director, Anthony Mann, had been fired. Mann had already shot the opening scenes.
This film is a great, sweeping epic that is flawed only by the cheesy narration at the beginning, the odd-looking conclusion to the opening credit sequence, and some of the performances and music that date the film. Kirk Douglas plays Spartacus, who leads an army of slaves to battle against the Roman Empire.
I've been fortunate enough to get to see this film in a theatre. Unfortunately, I saw the Universal restoration, which is like the 2010 Universal blu-ray. While the Universal blu-ray does have much clearer picture quality than any DVD release, I prefer the color timing on the Criterion DVD release. I wish Criterion would upgrade their version of the film to blu-ray, and maybe even pick up the two early short films, Day of the Fight and Flying Padre, which Kino inexplicably omitted from their release of Fear and Desire.
Original theatrical aspect ratio: 2.20:1 (Super Technirama 70)
Rated PG-13 for violence and sexuality.
Based on the Novel by
Stanley Kubrick + Anthony Mann (uncredited)