Spartacus

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Universal Pictures and Bryna Productions Released 1960

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8.8
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Movie Summary

Director:
Stanley Kubrick
Released:
1960
Rating:
PG-13

Spartacus, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is the story of a real-life slave rebellion against the might of Rome. In 73 B.C., a Thracian slave is rescued from a slow death in the mines of Libya when he is sent to a gladiatorial school in Italy to be trained for the arena. Spartacus leads a revolt of trainee gladiators against their Roman masters after a fellow-slave is killed attempting an attack on a wealthy patron of the school, and his slave army - which, of course, has been highly trained in the arts of combat - grows ever bigger as more and more slaves are freed. Their attempts to flee Italy are dashed by the wily Romans, and Spartacus is forced to march on Rome itself. His arch-enemy, the rich general Crassus, uses the situation to establish himself as Rome's dictator. A huge all-star cast, much mighty spectacle and a degree of political sophistication unusual in Hollywood epics combined to make Spartacus one of 1960's great hits, a four-time Oscar winner and an enduring classic film of its type.

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Metacritic Score

  • 100

    San Francisco Chronicle Edward Guthmann

    Spartacus isn't the greatest epic ever made, but it's head and shoulders above most of the sword-and-sandal wheezers that came out in the '50s and '60s. And, given the prohibitive ...

  • 100

    Boston Globe Jay Carr

    Spartacus stands up handsomely. At times it's even stirring, as in Woody Strode's performance as the African gladiator who, in sparing Spartacus' life, opens his eyes. Spartacus is...

  • 75

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The most entertaining performance in the movie, consistently funny, is by Ustinov, who upstages everybody when he is onscreen (he won an Oscar).

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (4)

    • This was Dalton Trumbo's first screen credit under his own name since the 1940s. He had been one of Hollywood's highest-paid screenwriters, but, on being convicted of contempt of Congress following his refusal to discuss his political affiliations before a Senate committee, he was first jailed for several months and then blacklisted. He had, upon his release, been frequently employed as a script doctor (at a fraction of his former salary), but had had to use pseudonyms or else remain anonymous. His name appeared on both this film and Otto Preminger's "Exodus" (which opened two months later); both films were enormous hits and the blacklist was broken (though fellow-blacklistees were not all as lucky as he was).

    • A small amount of location work was done in Spain, where the big battle scene was filmed, but otherwise the film was made in America, mostly at Universal City. Some location work was done at William Randolph Hearst's famous mansion, San Simeon, and in Death Valley.

    • A number of eminent people made uncredited contributions of some importance to this film. Roger Furse worked on the set and costume design; Yakima Canutt was the second-unit director who arranged the climactic battle scene; Irving Lerner was involved in the editing; and Peter Ustinov rewrote some key scenes (as did director Stanley Kubrick). The first two weeks of filming were under the direction of Anthony Mann, until Kirk Douglas fired him. Mann's scenes are all retained in the film and can be seen right at the start.

    • At a cost of some $12,000,000, this was, in its day, one of the most expensive films ever made. Filming began in the Spring of 1959 and continued for over a year. The film eventually opened near the end of 1960.

  • QUOTES (1)

  • NOTES (2)

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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Themes

Classics, Historical, Epics