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
The slave revolt that begins at the gladiator training school (ludus) instigated by Spartacus is shown in the film to be a spur-of-the-moment event stemming from a riot Spartacus and his fellow gladiators started. In reality, it is thought by some historians that the slave revolt at the ludus was planned by Spartacus several days in advance and where he and around 70 gladiators started the riot in the kitchen area after their revolt plan was in danger of being discovered. See more »
During the gladiator battle, the black slave just barely catches the right heel of Spartacus with his net, tipping him over. In the next shot, the net is tightly bound around both his knees. 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 »
The film premiered at 202 minutes. However, the prints from the premiere were lost in the 1970s when Universal threw out all the film's tracks, outtakes, additional prints etc. (This was parallel to 'John Landis'' claim during his work on creating the director's cut of The Blues Brothers). The Criterion Collection has 4 minutes of lost scenes involving the Gracchus subplot:
1.) After the first senatorial meeting scene, Gracchus and Caesar walk around the market discussing the dirty tactic of fishing votes. (Shown in production-still form)
2.) Gracchus commits suicide by slitting his wrist in the bathtub. This occurred immediately after he closes the curtain near the end of the film. Only the audio track was found in the studio vault.
"Spartacus" is an overrated spectacle whose parts (and there are many good ones) are better than its whole.
It starts out well with Douglas becoming a gladiator and learning the ins and outs of the business. But after the revolt, all the slave scenes become unbearably tedious.
The Romans steal the movie. The politics, the backstabbing, the jockeying. The Romans also are better actors, and their scenes are done with a wry humor. In one scene with Peter Ustinov's and Charles Laughton's characters are sharing a meal, and each of the actors desperately trying to outact each other -- and better acting you're rarely likely to see as the old ham and the up and coming ham both try to steal the scene.
Olivier's Crassus is also notable. In fact, some of the slave scenes are so cloying and tiresome one winds up rooting for the Romans. The slaves scenes are enlivened occasionally by the arrival of Herbert Lom (Inspector Dreyfus). So, many good scenes (especially the climactic battle), many good performances, some fine writing here and there, but ultimately boring with the people who should be most interesting and sympathetic, the revolting slaves who are willing to die for the cause of freedom.
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