ming movie reviews

in about 100 words or less

Spartacus (1960)

USA 198m, Colour
Director: Stanley Kubrick; Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis

Shot in widescreen “Technirama”, and boasting a star-studded cast and a young Stanley Kubrick as a last-minute replacement for the film’s original director, Spartacus has all the trappings of a major Hollywood blockbuster. Despite the technical achievements, excellent photography and fine art direction, this production lacks a credible screenplay and suffers from mediocre acting, and dreadful casting in most of the lead roles. Other than Ustinov, whose performance as Lentulus Batiatus, is strong, the dialogue is at times laughable and the acting is often second-rate. Compared to the Starz Network’s incredible 2010 Television series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”, the 1960 film version pales by comparison in every way (Klaus Ming October 2010).

4 comments on “Spartacus (1960)

  1. joem18b

    In its defense, Spartacus came out at a time when audiences were trained to expect English actors as Roman generals, senators, and emperors, and Hollywood stars as the soldiers, gladiators, and general riff raff. And the movie splashed a lot of money up there all over the screen. No CGI. A true cast of thousands.
    Plus, we were finally getting out of black listing and the fact that Dalton Trumbo did the screenplay from Howard Fast’s novel caused liberals to cut the writing a lot of slack.
    The problem with Spartacus when I saw it in high school was, everybody got crucified, unlike in Ben Hur, where only three bought the farm, while B.H.’s sister and mom concomitantly recovered from bad cases of leprosy.

  2. Klaus

    Thanks for the insightful comments. I suppose my childhood memory of Sparticus didn’t live up to my recent viewing, and as such, I probably came down a little too hard on poor old Sparticus – although the Kirk Douglas delivery is just short of hilarious at times (not to mention Tony Curtis “singing”).

    Visually, I agree it was a pretty good looking film – and certainly a lot tougher than Ben Hur and the other films of the genre – which are pretty difficult to watch these days.

  3. joem18b

    When I went to see Ben Hur, there was one seat left in the front row. This was the week it came out. It was unbelievably exciting. A theater opened in Hong Kong that just showed the chariot race over and over. It was an innocent time. Nobody noticed that Steven Boyd was coming on to Charlton Heston, least of all Heston.
    Years later I left work to watch it again one afternoon at a metroplex. The religious parts just seemed embarrassing.

    • Klaus

      “It was an innocent time” – that pretty much sums up so many movies that fail to have the same impact today.

      “Nobody noticed that Steven Boyd was coming on to Charlton Heston, least of all Heston” — hee, hee…

      “The religious parts just seemed embarrassing.” – I agree, and not that far removed from some of D. W. Griffith’s worst “inspirational” moments in film.

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This entry was posted on 10/02/2010 by in 1001 List, 1960s, All and tagged .
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