Sunday, 29 November 2009


It was a wet and windy Saturday here and I was waiting for a friend to come over.

I had cleaned the flat and checked my emails so I was at a loose end and switched on the tv. With nothing more productive to do, I found myself flicking through the channels on Freeview.

And that's how I came upon Spartacus. The uncut and digitally restored version.

It was made by Stanley Kubrik in 1960, the year before I was born and so, along with Ben Hur and Cleopatra became a staple of my childhood blockbuster film watching. My whole vision of the Roman Empire was based squarely upon the faultlessly photogenic snapshots presented by the Hollywood elite in that golden period of film-making over the late 1950s and early 1960s. Brave, handsome men and feisty beautiful women sold into a life of crushing slavery through no fault of their own only to rise, triumphant, to the top of the pile through their courage but this was always reinforced by a love story that left them dependent upont the whims of good and bad men.

I had forgotten just how beautiful Kirk Douglas was, with his burning eyes and that fabulous cleft chin. Jean Simmonds was totally breath-taking as his wife, Varinia, the woman who was also desired by the Roman leader, Crassus, played by another gorgeous man, Laurence Olivier.

This triangle of lust, supported by Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov, played out over a gladiatorial contest and several amazing battles to the moment that everyone remembers where an entire army claims 'I am Spartacus' in an attempt to save their beloved leader from harm.

In 1994, they re-made Spartacus as a mini-series with the lovely Goran Visnij from ER in the title role. He's a lovely guy, but he doesn't have the screen presence of Kirk Douglas.

I haven't seen the film but, apparently, the ending is different and more in line with the original book by Howard Fast.

It has a good support cast with Sir Alan Bates, Rhona Mitra and Angus McFadyen so perhaps I shall give that a go as a rental from in the New Year.


Gorilla Bananas said...

The real Spartacus was not crucified but died in battle. He also crucified a Roman prisoner in front of his men so they would understand the fate that awaited them if they surrendered. And his wife was also Thracian, which was just as well given that the British women of the day were appalling hags.

Joanna Cake said...

Ah, MrB, I am indebted to you for providing the historical context x

But was Queen Boudicca really so bad?

Gorilla Bananas said...

Boudicca was was probably one of the better ones in her youth, red-haired human females usually have cute faces. But she was born decades after the slave revolt.

Joanna Cake said...

I stand corrected :P