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Spartacus (1960)

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
This is available on Hulu and I just watched it. It's the last of the Kubrick films I have yet to watch and the assertions that the film is really the product of Douglas' and Trumbo's visions--and not Kubrick's--are easily understandable when viewing it this way. The only identifiable thing of Kubrick's that the film really has in it is the masterful composition of the shots.

The opening was kind of jarring. I haven't read the novel, but I assume the opening narration is from it, as Trumbo's writings never seems overly religious, Kubrick is believed to have been an atheist, and Douglas is devoutly Jewish. I'm not sure if its inclusion was meant simply to tie it in with the other sand and sandals Biblical epics of the day, it's just weird to hear the Christian religion credited as the thing that put an end to Rome and its horrible pagan ways in a Kubrick film.

Those are some of my thoughts on it, it would be cool to read some of yours.
post #2 of 27
Did you actually enjoy the film Cuchulain?

I love it to be honest, Im a sucker for the great sand and sandal epics of that period and Kubricks shot compositon - while being the only aspect of his style really making it intact by the films conclusion - gives the film some really fantastic visual moments.

Kirk Douglas brings his a-game to this, along with some great little turns from Olivier, Ustinov, Laughton and Curtis and the divine Jean Simmons is utterly enchanting.

While a long way from historical accuracy it's really told as a ripping epic (the template of which was ripped off shamelessly many years later by the bombastic Braveheart), the first act set in the gladiatorial school is fantastic and the final battle also made a hell of an impression on me the first time I saw it as a young boy.

The final battle in particular really blew my mind when I was a young'un. I also remember the road at the end with miles and miles of crucified slaves really horrified me.
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Yes, I enjoyed it. It manages to be optimistic without being sugarcoated. I have a strong feeling that Kubrick would have liked to retain the historical ambiguity of the character's death, but that would have robbed Douglas of the final scene on the cross.

The concept of freedom--especially the inability to speak--and the political intrigue were really interesting things to study and reflect upon, given the identity of the screenwriter.

It's a pretty progressive film for its time and--sadly--ours. I was sort of pleasantly surprised to see that they made the black guy's brief appearance into the one, true heroic sacrifice in the entire film up until the beginning of act three. That and the homosexuality subtext. You see it in this film and others in the 60s, but not so much in films now.
post #4 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cuchulain View Post
It's a pretty progressive film for its time and--sadly--ours. I was sort of pleasantly surprised to see that they made the black guy's brief appearance into the one, true heroic sacrifice in the entire film up until the beginning of act three. That and the homosexuality subtext. You see it in this film and others in the 60s, but not so much in films now.
Got to triangulate those demographics these days, can't possibly offend or alienate anyone in the audience when you're looking for a return on your investment.

Sad - cause a scene like 'oysters and snails' is great.

(Fun fact - thats Tony Hopkins dubbing Oliviers voice in that scene.)
post #5 of 27
It is Douglas movie. Trumbo and Kubrick are there, because Douglas liked them both. Douglas does let them play with their art here and there, unlike many producers today.
post #6 of 27
I love this film. I haven't read much about the public reaction to it. I wonder if it caused any kind of uproar, or how many people even got most of what it was saying.

The production is all the more impressive when you think of the fact that in 1960, if you wanted a shot of a thousand soldiers massing on a battlefield, you actually had to mass a thousand people on a battlefield. Imagine the logistics.
post #7 of 27
Great film, I have the speical edition on dvd. Ustinov does a great job in the roles he is given and remains one of my favorates in the film.
post #8 of 27
Hmm. £9 used on Amazon UK. Very tempting... (Never seen it, and I still don't own a Criterion DVD.)
post #9 of 27
For some reason I always fail to empathize with the slaves and end up siding with the Romans in this. I think it may be because I like Olivier so much more than Douglas. He just rubs me the wrong way while I find Olivier fascinating.
post #10 of 27
I think that's a good thing. I always prefer a villain with a point of view you can get behind.
post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 
It would be interesting to know what you find sympathetic about Crassus, Stelios. The writers kind of go out of their way to make the character as unsympathetic as possible. He represents the classist view on which the slave system is based, is portrayed as the same sort of Snidely Whiplash-like gay rapist that the Turkish general in Lawrence of Arabia is, and act three goes way out of its way to paint him as both an akratic and coward. Then, there's the whole viciously stabbing the black guy to death when he makes his heroic stand that gives rise to the slave uprising.

Is it just Olivier's charisma or do you find that they give the character something I'm missing?
post #12 of 27
Just saw this for the first time, and wow! I get that it's not really Kubrick's vision, but it's still a masterpiece. I really like the redemption that Ustinov and Laughton are given. Yeah, they both do what they do for their own reasons, neither of them necessarily gives themselves to Spartacus's cause, but considering where they both begin the film, morally speaking, the fact that at the end they not only go out of there way to help Varinia, but the little moment where Ustinov asks Laughton to join them, shows that if nothing else, these two guys were loyal to each other. It's a nice, subtle moment that I really wasn't expecting.

Also surprising is that even Olivier and John Gavin's Caesar, while antagonists, are given well-rounded, believable reasons for their motivations.

I also appreciate the fact that all of the slaves are portrayed as unequivically justified, even in their violence. For a movie made in 1960, that kind of a stance is surprising, especially considering that Rome is not necessarily shown to be all that hedonistic in the film (Olivier's/Curtis's infamous scene exluded).

There are so many great moments of grace in this film - the obvious "I'm Spartacas!" scene, Tony Curtis's "Song", the aforementioned parting scene b/t Ustinov and Laughton, Douglas/Curtis trying to do right by each other by killing the other so as to spare them crucifixtion, the last scene. And, for me the best scene, where Woody Strode sacrifices himself rather than be forced to kill another human being for sport.

When people say that Kubrick films lack heart or the human element, this film alongside Paths of Glory should be held up as counter evidence.
post #13 of 27
There was a long (3 hours) interview session with Paul Verhoeven on Dutch TV recently, where he commented at length on several video clips he'd chosen himself. One of his picks was the chariot race in Spartacus. I had only seen the movie (several times) on TV when I was a kid (last time must've been about 15y ago) so I didn't really notice it at the time, but it is indeed masterfully shot. Great composition, and still very exciting to watch even to this day.
Verhoeven also made the observation that the shoot of that whole scene took about 3 months, and that it must've been insanely dangerous, filming those horses and actors in chariots with truck-mounted camera's, at a ludicrous speed. He said no one would ever get away with attempting that nowadays in Hollywood.
post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheftournel View Post
There was a long (3 hours) interview session with Paul Verhoeven on Dutch TV recently, where he commented at length on several video clips he'd chosen himself. One of his picks was the chariot race in Spartacus. I had only seen the movie (several times) on TV when I was a kid (last time must've been about 15y ago) so I didn't really notice it at the time, but it is indeed masterfully shot. Great composition, and still very exciting to watch even to this day.
Verhoeven also made the observation that the shoot of that whole scene took about 3 months, and that it must've been insanely dangerous, filming those horses and actors in chariots with truck-mounted camera's, at a ludicrous speed. He said no one would ever get away with attempting that nowadays in Hollywood.
You're thinking of 'Ben-Hur', chef.
post #15 of 27
The hell, Stelios? Crassus needed to get stabbed in the most painful way.
post #16 of 27
Definitely a schizophrenic movie. The scenes with Douglas feel like a completely different movie from the stuff in Rome with Olivier. And the differences in the way those segments are shot really define this movie for me. The character melodrama with Douglas and his lady works to personalize the story while all the political stuff sets the backdrop and builds the legend of Spartacus.

That massive ending battle is all Kubrick though.
post #17 of 27
I liked SPARTACUS well enough growing up, but as soon as I began to study Latin I quickly grew to dislike the film, specifically for the reasons Cuch mentions. Christianity and the fall of Rome brought about the dark ages. I see nothing wrong with Paganism as practiced by the Romans and don't like seeing their religion looked down upon. If you're going to make a film about Romans and then denegrate their religion and culture, you've already turned off a great portion of the audience. Spartacus was not a christian, and it's silly to pretend that he was fighting for Christian ideals (the bible is pro slavery!). The end of SPARTACUS reminds me of the end of Apocalypto, where plague carrying genocidal spaniards are heralded as saviors simply because they're toting a cross. Tone deaf and historically indefensible

PS I guess it's also that over the past decade I've decided that Spartacus himself wasn't that great. Maybe if he'd succeeded he'd be some kind of hero, but Rome's population was made up of over 70% slaves, and he still couldn't pull off a victory. I'm a fan of winners, not bumblers. Instead I'm left kind of rooting for Rome to crush the insurrection

EDIT: Though in fairness to the film, the "I'm Spartacus!" sequence is undeniably stirring
post #18 of 27
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Originally Posted by Judas Booth View Post
You're thinking of 'Ben-Hur', chef.
Y'all changed the title of the thread while I wasn't looking! No fair!

(uhrm, carry on *ducks into a nearby bush*)
post #19 of 27
<Sigh.> I know it's pointless, but..

Quote:
Originally by Princess Kate
I liked SPARTACUS well enough growing up, but as soon as I began to study Latin I quickly grew to dislike the film,
This is one of those unfortunate side affects of a liberal college education.

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If you're going to make a film about Romans and then denegrate their religion and culture, you've already turned off a great portion of the audience.
No you haven't. You've turned off one person who doesn't know how to watch movies.

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Spartacus was not a christian,
Movie never says he was

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and it's silly to pretend that he was fighting for Christian ideals (the bible is pro slavery!).
Movie never says he is. (Also - how do you have a favorable opinion of paganism but not Christianity, when the former is more pro-slavery? THey even believed in slaves in the afterlife for Jupiter's sake!)

There's one line at the beginning of the film that mentions Christianity, and then it never comes up again. Spartacus is as much a Moses figure as a Christ figure, and that's only in thematic terms.

Quote:
The end of SPARTACUS reminds me of the end of Apocalypto, where plague carrying genocidal spaniards are heralded as saviors simply because they're toting a cross. Tone deaf and historically indefensible
I must have missed the part where Jesus shows up and takes Douglas down off the cross.

Quote:
PS I guess it's also that over the past decade I've decided that Spartacus himself wasn't that great. Maybe if he'd succeeded he'd be some kind of hero, but Rome's population was made up of over 70% slaves, and he still couldn't pull off a victory. I'm a fan of winners, not bumblers. Instead I'm left kind of rooting for Rome to crush the insurrection
Understandable. Fuck Dred Scott and Sitting Bull while were at it. Plus all those Jews that died in the holocuast. There were six million of them and still they bumbled it. Losers!
post #20 of 27
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Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
<Sigh.> I know it's pointless, but..
It's not pointless, I will do my best to answer you

Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
This is one of those unfortunate side affects of a liberal college education.
I have not attended college (yet), kind of in the midst of a multi year life crisis that I still have not sorted out

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Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
No you haven't. You've turned off one person who doesn't know how to watch movies.

I would disagree.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
Movie never says he was
It suggests that he's fighting against the principals of Roman society, which was brought down by Christianity. Therefor it's saying that Spartacus fought for christian principals, even if Christ didn't exist yet

Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
Movie never says he is. (Also - how do you have a favorable opinion of paganism but not Christianity, when the former is more pro-slavery? THey even believed in slaves in the afterlife for Jupiter's sake!)
Because I'm a huge classics geek. Also,


1) I like the Roman "myths" and pantheon of gods more than the Christian myths and their one god
2) The religion of ancient Rome wasn't stuffy and sexually repressed
3) It was a long time ago so it's difficult for me to empathize with people who ended up enslaved by the Roman Empire. I am a proud card carrying member of the JCL, and as such I've attended Parentalia in full Roman regalia on multiple occasions. The first boy I ever slow danced with was wearing a toga. Therefore I can't help but identify with the Romans more than the people they conquered.

Fair enough?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
I must have missed the part where Jesus shows up and takes Douglas down off the cross.

I misspoke, I meant to say the beginning.. though I did get the feeling that there was alot of christian imagery going on with the crucifixion business. The only movie I've ever seen that managed to depict crucifixion without milking it for christian sub text was ROME (a TV show), which treated the subject matter of factly, as a chore to accomplish and not a tragedy*


Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
Understandable. Fuck Dred Scott and Sitting Bull while were at it. Plus all those Jews that died in the holocuast. There were six million of them and still they bumbled it. Losers!
It was a long time ago, that's all I can say. My favorite person in all of history killed and enslaved millions of people, but one of the main reasons I like him anyway was his incredible unmatched success as a conqueror. Spartacus was quite simply not successful at what he set out to do. In fact, he was so terrible at it that virtually no one ever dared to repeat his little stunt again in the history of the Roman Empire

PS Once again though, the "It's-a-me, Spartacus!" sequence is undeniably stirring, as I previously stated. Excellent film making

*in fairness to people crucified by the Romans, it no doubt sucked. Pretty much the one of the worst ways to die ever invented

EDIT: BTW, American slavery was much worse than Roman slavery, as I've stated on the boards before. People shouldn't conflate the two. Also, I'm a tireless advocate of black and native American rights, and BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE is one of my favorite books.
post #21 of 27
.

Edited by Agentsands77 - 6/4/16 at 2:50pm
post #22 of 27
This movie was the first major epic I probably enjoyed as a kid (I think I saw it first around 9 or 10). The intense gladiator parts were obviously my favorite back then, but the ending impressed the hell out of me as well. I watched it again with my wife recently, and I have to say it held up pretty well. Spartacus' character was more impressive as a complete human being this time around. Yes, this movie has gladiator violence, a slave uprising, and people being killed in the thousands, but Spartacus himself is very anti-violence. Spartacus is interested in beauty, love, freedom, and above all human dignity. The whole reason the final battle happens is because Rome bought out the escape route at the sea (money is the most powerful weapon in the Roman army here).

This movie broke the damn McCarthy blacklist by Douglas giving Trumbo writing credit. It is the man who wrote Johnny Got His Gun for christsakes. It is almost an anti-epic, and I have to tip my hat to the bravery of that choice. Maybe Spartacus is too perfect of a character, but *spoiler* he dies and loses like most advocates of human equality and dignity. Cynical and humanistic in the same breath, and I like it.
post #23 of 27
The Spaniards at the end of Apocalypto were portrayed as saviors?

Kate, please stop watching movies. You don't understand them. At all. You so completely missed the point of this movie that it's just stunning.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Princess Kate View Post
I would disagree.
Okay, but your wrong. You're judgment of a film is tied to your personal preference of what you deem the fairness of how they portray the ROMAN FUCKING EMPIRE. That's such a blatant disregard for critical perception that it's mind-boggling. Which is fine on a personal/Aspergers level (and I know were all supposed to be sensitive about that word now, but it really, really fits here), but its shows absolutely that you DO NOT KNOW HOW to watch or judge a film.




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The first boy I ever slow danced with was wearing a toga. Therefore I can't help but identify with the Romans more than the people they conquered.
This is the silliest thing I've ever read. God am I tempted to sig this.


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It was a long time ago,

Glad to know that at some point down the line some idiot watching an old movie about Wounded Knee or Harriet Tubman will be able to use that line to justify why they were totally rooting for the Calvary/Plantation owners. Not b/c Laurence Olivier played the shit out of them and is charismatic as fuck (that's understandable in the context of film viewing), but because they related more to those characters b/c they slow-danced with a boy wearing a blue coat and with a saber rattling off his beltafgghasdfhk;lasdfgjakds;lfas....


Jesus I can't do it anymore.

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Also, I'm a tireless advocate of black and native American rights
Actually, I take it back. This is the silliest thing I've read. And by silly, I mean douchey. Stay away from Hispanics Kate, we can manage without you.
post #25 of 27
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Originally Posted by PragmaticPriest View Post
This movie was the first major epic I probably enjoyed as a kid (I think I saw it first around 9 or 10). The intense gladiator parts were obviously my favorite back then, but the ending impressed the hell out of me as well. I watched it again with my wife recently, and I have to say it held up pretty well. Spartacus' character was more impressive as a complete human being this time around. Yes, this movie has gladiator violence, a slave uprising, and people being killed in the thousands, but Spartacus himself is very anti-violence. Spartacus is interested in beauty, love, freedom, and above all human dignity. The whole reason the final battle happens is because Rome bought out the escape route at the sea (money is the most powerful weapon in the Roman army here).

This movie broke the damn McCarthy blacklist by Douglas giving Trumbo writing credit. It is the man who wrote Johnny Got His Gun for christsakes. It is almost an anti-epic, and I have to tip my hat to the bravery of that choice. Maybe Spartacus is too perfect of a character, but *spoiler* he dies and loses like most advocates of human equality and dignity. Cynical and humanistic in the same breath, and I like it.
Now returning to our regularly scheduled program: Sanity.

Nice summary, and I think that's what really got to me watching it. i was expecting Spartacus to be much more of a hard-bitten hero. But the fact that he is not only so vulnerable at times, but that the vulnerability comes from a place of deep-seated compassion and humanism really threw me.

That the appeal to human virtue shown on screen was also practiced behind it is a testament to just how morally brave this film is.
post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
Okay, but your wrong. You're judgment of a film is tied to your personal preference of what you deem the fairness of how they portray the ROMAN FUCKING EMPIRE. That's such a blatant disregard for critical perception that it's mind-boggling. Which is fine on a personal/Aspergers level (and I know were all supposed to be sensitive about that word now, but it really, really fits here), but its shows absolutely that you DO NOT KNOW HOW to watch or judge a film.


Every person here is entiteld to their own take on a given film. We all have a unique personal perspective that informs our opinions about the movies we see. Most of the time I end up agreeing with my fellow Chewers on the quality of the movies we watch, so I must be doing something right

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Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post
This is the silliest thing I've ever read. God am I tempted to sig this.

It was supposed to be a little silly. I was telling you simply to communicate in a light hearted manner how important Latin has been to my life for a long time now in order to help you understand my view point on the Spartacus uprising and SPARTACUS the movie.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.Vasquez View Post

Glad to know that at some point down the line some idiot watching an old movie about Wounded Knee or Harriet Tubman will be able to use that line to justify why they were totally rooting for the Calvary/Plantation owners. Not b/c Laurence Olivier played the shit out of them and is charismatic as fuck (that's understandable in the context of film viewing), but because they related more to those characters b/c they slow-danced with a boy wearing a blue coat and with a saber rattling off his beltafgghasdfhk;lasdfgjakds;lfas....

2000 years from now no one will give a tinker's dam about the pathetically failed Confederacy of Racist American States, where as many of the roads the romans built are still in use today. There is a reason people still care about Rome.

Also, as I stated, AMERICAN SLAVERY =/= ROMAN SLAVERY. I've gone into detail about this before in other threads, but suffice it to say being OK with Roman slavery (as a theoretical thing in the distant past) does not mean that you'd be ok with what happened in the American south.

Anyway, that's my final word here I just had to return to the thread to respond to your post.
post #27 of 27

I originally came in here to talk about my first every viewing experience of Spartacus in 70mm at the Museum of Moving Image in Queens last night. It was interesting, but barely Kubrick in its construction outside of the shots. That battle scene is one for the ages. In fact, according to the paper they gave me last night, Kubrick had amassed 10,000 people in the field and the budget back then was 12 million. Jesus fucking christ, you can't get more practical than that!

 

Until today, however, I never understood the reasons for Princess Kate's departure... and now I have. 

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