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Spartacus [1960 film] (1960)

de Stanley Kubrick (Director), Edward Lewis (Producer), Dalton Trumbo (Screenwriter)

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Spartacus is the bold gladiator slave who leads a massive slave revolt against Imperial Rome in this epic true account of man's eternal struggle for freedom.
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Il gladiatore Spartacus capeggia una rivolta di schiavi a cui Roma fa fronte inviando un contingente militare. (fonte: Film tv)
  MemorialeSardoShoah | Jun 27, 2020 |
Spartacus (1960)

Kirk Douglas – Spartacus
Jean Simmons – Varinia
Laurence Olivier – Crassus
Peter Ustinov – Batiatus
Charles Laughton – Gracchus
John Gavin – Julius Caesar
Tony Curtis – Antoninus
Nina Foch – Helena Glabrus
John Ireland – Crixus
Herbert Lom – Tigranes Levantus
John Dall – Marcus Publius Glabrus
Charles McGraw – Marcellus

Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, based on the novel (1951) by Howard Fast
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Colour. 207 min.

==============================================

I stand corrected. This movie is better than I remember it. The last time I saw it, many years ago, I thought it was slow and boring. Slow it is, mostly thanks to Kubrick’s inept direction. But boring certainly it is not. It is highly entertaining and even moving in an operatic sort of way. Operatic because it doesn’t necessarily hang very well together, but it’s brimming with fascinating scenes, characters and relationships. Operatic, also, in the sense of Verdi’s Aida or Wagner’s Lohengrin. For all of its crowd scenes and epic pretentions, this is a very intimate movie.

I don’t know whether Dalton Trumbo was a communist or a capitalist, blacklisted or whitelisted, short or tall, thin or fat, but I do know he wrote a fine script. It may be a great McCarthyist, Zionist or whatever allegory, but I don’t care about that either. I’m certainly not interested in “historical accuracy”. Looking at the script from a purely human point of view, it is an exciting if not very coherent story with plenty of strong dialogue and memorable characters. The game of Roman politics is rather more engrossing than the fight for freedom led by Spartacus, but that can’t be helped. Leaving aside trifles like pace and continuity, the script is a remarkable piece of work, surprisingly so considering the many rumours of rewriting by various hands. Even the romance between Spartacus and Varinia is handled in a touching way without too much melodrama, a rare thing in movie history. The ending, too, is less “Hollywoodized” than you might expect.

The recent death of Kirk Douglas at the ripe age of 103 was my reason to revisit this movie. The more I see of him, the more I wonder at the machismo reputation he has somehow acquired. I guess it was inspired more by his chiselled features and sculptured body than by his acting. This last certainly has greater range and more subtlety. He is excellent as the most famous slave of all time. Whatever the real Spartacus was, if he was anything at all, this one is a sensitive creature of great scientific curiosity. He is quite accidentally hurled into a war with mighty Rome, but he really wants to study anything from astronomy to anatomy. He wants to know everything about the lines and curves of the female body. Commendable aspirations! Douglas was fortunate to have the lovely Jean Simmons as his leading lady (not too hard to fall in love with her, is it?), but he still did excellent well with a long and tough part.

Kirk Douglas is the star of this movie all right, but his is not the greatest performance. This belongs to the trinity of Britons. Olivier, Laughton and Ustinov make for three of the most mesmerising Romans the screen has ever seen. They are cruel, cunning, sleazy, scheming, ruthless – in short, all too human. Ustinov got the Supporting Role statuette, but it really should have been split into three. Together or separately, it’s an endless delight to watch Olivier, Laughton and Ustinov in this movie.

Olivier sports another fake nose, different from the one he used in Richard III (1955), and his rather understated performance could not have been more unlike the gloriously hammy Duke of Gloucester. Crassus is a businessman. “Name your price” is his favourite phrase. He thinks everything can be bought, and he is usually right. He likes both oysters and snails. Shudder at the vast implications of this statement! Above all, he is an astute and patient politician, as greedy for power as only an ancient Roman could be. Olivier is chilling in his calmness. Watch out for his first meeting with Varinia (pulling her for the girdle is a fine visual symbol of the grasping Roman mentality) and the famous scene with Caesar and Gracchus in the baths (a steamy place in many ways more important than the Senate). Spartacus never had a chance against such rival:

I’m not after glory! I’m after Spartacus. And, gentlemen, I mean to have him. However, this campaign is not alone to kill Spartacus. It is to kill the legend of Spartacus.

Ustinov is grand as the mercenary slave trader. So smooth, so oily, so slimy, so absolutely brilliant! Batiatus is an untypical Roman. He aims at wealth for its own sake, not as a necessary prelude to power. He would sell his own mother, at a bargain price if you buy his father as well. He is a profound coward (“I’m more of a civilian than most civilians”), but for enough money he can be brave: “For such a sum I could bribe Jupiter himself.” The scenes with Gracchus are gems and so is the one with Crassus and his cronies in the beginning. Watch out for Ustinov’s face, or listen for his voice, when his character is offered a really good price. It is priceless.

Laughton’s Gracchus is the epitome of senatorial sarcasm. He has many of the best lines, and his tongue is dripping with milk and honey when he delivers them. “In Rome, dignity shortens life even more surely than disease.” The fellow knows what he’s talking about! Laughton’s face looks more than usual like a ball of fat, but his acting of the highest order. This was actually one of his last roles; he died in the end of 1962, aged only 63. The scenes with Olivier are a treat, but those with Ustinov are the real highlights. Corpulence is a fine bond indeed. But a common enemy is a much better one!

All three are marvellously humanised in the end in a more sentimental but not melodramatic way. Crassus’ crush on Varinia is the least convincing part of the whole script, but somehow it works on the screen thanks to Simmons and Olivier. (First Hamlet and Ophelia, then Crassus and Varinia, not too happy in their screen romances, are they?) And Varinia is not an ordinary slave. “It would take a great woman to make Crassus fall out of love with himself”, Gracchus wisely observes. Batiatus discovers that he has dignity and even, the miracle of all miracles, some honesty in himself. “Dignity and honesty in one afternoon, I hardly recognise you”, to quote the same fountain of wisdom. Gracchus himself ends his earthly journey with a noble and selfless deed, mostly to annoy Crassus of course, but perhaps for a deeper reason as well. Note the tears of Julia, one of the many women Gracchus keeps in his house “out of my respect for Roman morality”. They suggest that Gracchus is indeed not such a bad fellow. If we haven’t seen the best of him so far, this is because Roman politics brings out the worst in everybody.

The likes of John Gavin (young and very green Caesar) and Tony Curtis (“singer of songs” who wants to fight) are hopelessly out of their depth in such a company. But they can afford it. Their roles are small enough, and their bodies are fine enough. Other charming bonuses among the minor roles include Herbert Lom’s campy Cilician pirate, Charles McGraw’s nasty trainer and Nina Foch as a proof that Roman women were no less brutal than the men.

All in all, Spartacus holds better than I expected and better than many historical epics sixty years old. The production and cinematography are spectacular, not least the colours which manage to be vivid in a gloomy sort of way, but the characters and the cast make this movie really special. I can’t think of another one in which you have Olivier, Ustinov and Laughton together, and in parts not unworthy of their colossal talents. You must make allowances for the rather sketchy plot and occasional bits of weak dialogue. Kubrick’s direction, if that’s the word for his collection of long and stodgy takes, must be endured. ( )
  Waldstein | Apr 1, 2020 |
(Spartacus, Usa 1960, col, 183') Stanley Kubrick. Con Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Herbert Lom, Woody Strode, Nina Foch.
* Portato a Roma da Lentulo Batiato (Ustinov), il gladiatore trace Spartaco (Douglas) si mette a capo della rivolta di sessantamila schiavi contro Roma. Dopo avere vinto una prima battaglia viene sconfitto e crocifisso: ma la sua donna Varinia (Simmons), schiava liberata, gli mostrerà il loro figlioletto nato libero mentre parte per una nuova vita. Tratto da un romanzo di Howard Fast, sceneggiata da Dalton Trumbo. Kubrick è subentrato alla regia dopo che Anthony Mann aveva litigato col produttore Douglas, ma non si è mai riconosciuto nel risultato. Certo, Spartacus è un gradino al di sopra dei kolossal hollywoodiani, c'è del talento visivo nelle scene di massa (pensate graficamente da Saul Bass) e i personaggi non sono di cartapesta: ma il progetto di girare il primo kolossal rivoluzionario della storia del cinema rimane a metà per i contrasti in fase di sceneggiatura tra Trumbo e Douglas. Esagerata, come sempre in questi casi, la durata. Quattro Oscar: all'attore
non protagonista (Ustinov), alla fotografia (Russell Metty), alla direzione artistica (Alexander Golitzen, Eric Orbom, Russell A. Gausman, Julia Heron) e ai costumi (Bill Thomas, Valles). Nella versione restaurata di 196', uscita nel 1991, Anthony
Hopkins ha doppiato Laurence Olivier (che interpreta Marco Crasso) nelle scene nuove in cui mancava il sonoro e nelle quali è esplicitata la sua relazione omosessuale con Antonino (Curtis). ( )
  videotecadsu | Jul 4, 2016 |
(Spartacus, Usa 1960, col, 183') Stanley Kubrick. Con Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Herbert Lom, Woody Strode, Nina Foch.
Portato a Roma da Lentulo Batiato (Ustinov), il gladiatore trace Spartaco (Douglas) si mette a capo della rivolta di sessantamila schiavi contro Roma. Dopo avere vinto una prima battaglia viene sconfitto e crocifisso: ma la sua donna Varinia (Simmons), schiava liberata, gli mostrerà il loro figlioletto nato libero mentre parte per una nuova vita. Tratto da un romanzo di Howard Fast, sceneggiata da Dalton Trumbo. Kubrick è subentrato alla regia dopo che Anthony Mann aveva litigato col produttore Douglas, ma non si è mai riconosciuto nel risultato. Certo, Spartacus è un gradino al di sopra dei kolossal hollywoodiani, c'è del talento visivo nelle scene di massa (pensate graficamente da Saul Bass) e i personaggi non sono di cartapesta: ma il progetto di girare il primo kolossal rivoluzionario della storia del cinema rimane a metà per i contrasti in fase di sceneggiatura tra Trumbo e Douglas. Esagerata, come sempre in questi casi, la durata. Quattro Oscar: all'attore
non protagonista (Ustinov), alla fotografia (Russell Metty), alla direzione artistica (Alexander Golitzen, Eric Orbom, Russell A. Gausman, Julia Heron) e ai costumi (Bill Thomas, Valles). Nella versione restaurata di 196', uscita nel 1991, Anthony
Hopkins ha doppiato Laurence Olivier (che interpreta Marco Crasso) nelle scene nuove in cui mancava il sonoro e nelle quali è esplicitata la sua relazione omosessuale con Antonino (Curtis). ( )
  videotecadsu | May 16, 2016 |
184 minutos
  Miquinba_F | Feb 4, 2012 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Kubrick, StanleyDirectorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Lewis, EdwardProducerautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Trumbo, DaltonScreenwriterautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Curtis, TonyActorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Douglas, Kirkautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Foch, NinaActorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Gavin, JohnActorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Laughton, Charlesautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Olivier, Laurenceautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Simmons, Jeanautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Strode, WoodyActorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Ustinov, PeterActorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
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