Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Spartacus (1960)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton


Without a doubt, a huge production. A combination of Planet of the Apes and Braveheart. Nice and slow-moving. Nice and gory for an older movie. The battle scene (choreography and photography) was great, although there should have been more of them. Armbands for a crucifixion? The story is told with only a trace of real emotion, a Kubrick trademark. The sterile cinematography often has a lot to do with that.

Some neat parallels with Braveheart. Both are long epics. Both are gory. Douglas produced and starred in Spartacus, Gibson produced and starred in Braveheart. The battle scenes for Braveheart, as Casper said, are right out of Spartacus. But why no archers? Didn’t they have archery back then? One big difference, though. In the end of Spartacus, Spartacus loses, and in Braveheart, Wallace wins. I really think Braveheart is a better movie, mainly because in the last thirty years filmmakers have learned from the mistakes of others. I would venture to agree with Drew in that Braveheart is a copy of Spartacus, but it is known by most people (including me) as a great film because Spartacus is long forgotten.

Even though it has the feel of a studio mega-production, there are still a few examples of classic Kubrick cinematography. Symmetry, order, jarring camera movements, all medium/long shots, elaborate sets. Cool title sequence, but a bit long. Nice Terminator 2 face close-up. Neat crosscut speeches. Neat intermission. inconsistent lighting, though. Obvious changes in lighting for close-ups. The close-up of Verrinia is ridiculously soft and diffused. It seems as if the incorrect film sock is even used for some scenes. What’s with the pauses (duplicate frames?) before some of the cuts?

Kubrick prefers his stars to be tall, slim, lanky, almost generic-looking, and stoic, with few words to say but a good yelling voice. They are always tested to their limits. What’s with the hole in Douglas’ chin? Looks like someone stuck their pinky into a ball of clay. Verrinia looks just like Elizabeth Taylor. Ustinov is great, really funny. Olivier is almost decent. I can’t see how everyone is awed by his acting. He didn’t use his eyes effectively (it sucked, actually). Olivier looks like a cross between Steve Martin and Charles Grodin. Gavin is built!

The “I don’t know how I should ever be able to repay you” line was a bit wordy.

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