Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Ireland, Herbert Lom, John Dall, Charles McGraw, Joanna Barne, Harold J. Stone, Woody Strode, Peter Brocco
Written by: Dalton Trumbo, based on a book by Howard Fast
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 198
Date: 06/10/1960

Spartacus (1960)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'I'm Spartacus'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As far as Hollywood epics go, this one puts Ben-Hur and most others to shame. Kirk Douglas stars as the former slave who leads a revolt against Rome. Director Stanley Kubrick excised any long, talky scenes and replaced them with pure visual juxtapositions, though his images are softened, humanized, by Alex North's ever-present score. Many scenes ring passionate and rousing, while others are campy and silly, and somehow they all work together.

The amazing cast features the Oscar-winning Peter Ustinov (Best Supporting Actor), Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, John Dall and the great Woody Strode. Director Anthony Mann reportedly started the production, and was fired by Douglas. (Fortunately, Kubrick was free, having just been fired by Marlon Brando from One-Eyed Jacks.)

An equally epic commentary track (recorded for the 1991 laserdisc release) features Douglas and many others. Dozens of DVD extras are also included, the most amusing being interviews with Ustinov, both past and present. In 2001, the Criterion Collection released a spectacular 2-DVD set befitting a spectacular movie. In 2010, Universal released a 50th anniversary Blu-Ray edition.

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