Spartacus: 2-Disc Special Edition (1960)

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Released 22-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
dts Trailer
Audio Commentary-Actors And Filmmakers
Audio Commentary-Screenwriter: Scene-By-Scene Analysis
Deleted Scenes-3
Featurette-Vintage Newsreel - 5 Short Featurettes
Interviews-Cast-Jean Simmons, Peter Ustinov (1960)
Interviews-Cast-Peter Ustinov (1992)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind The Scenes At Gladiator School
Gallery-Production Stills, Lobby Cards, Posters, Comics
Gallery-Kubrick's Sketches
Featurette-The Hollywood Ten
Theatrical Trailer
Storyboards
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 188:45
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stanley Kubrick
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Kirk Douglas
Laurence Olivier
Jean Simmons
Charles Laughton
Peter Ustinov
John Gavin
Nina Foch
John Ireland
Herbert Lom
John Dall
Charles McGraw
Joanna Barnes
Harold Stone
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Alex North


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.20:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Norwegian
Swedish
Icelandic
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas' classic 1960 film Spartacus has been re-released in a sumptuous double-disc edition. This is the same uncut and fully restored version that was released on DVD in R4 back in 2000, but this 2-disc edition boasts the addition of a colosseum full of extras and dts sound.

    Spartacus is a seminal piece of filmmaking that inspired many other great films, including Braveheart and Gladiator. Spartacus tells the true story of Spartacus: A soldier who became a slave; A slave who became a gladiator; And a gladiator who challenged the power of Rome.

   In the film, Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), is born a slave, and sold to a gladiatorial school owned by Batiatus (Peter Ustinov) in Capua. (Although according to historians, Spartacus was a freeborn provincial from Thrace, who served as an auxiliary in the Roman army in Macedonia. He deserted the army, was captured, sold into slavery, and then sold to a gladiatorial school owned by Batiatus). Anyway, in the movie, here he meets Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave girl who is used to 'entertain' the gladiators.

    Surviving the brutal treatment and training (and the other gladiators), Spartacus leads a revolt and escapes with about 80 fellow gladiators. Their makeshift camp soon swells with numbers, as many other slaves escape from Roman cities, towns, and farms to join Spartacus' growing army.

    In response, the Roman Senate sends a praetor, Claudius Glaber (presented as Marcus Glabrus (John Dall) in the movie), with an army of about 3000 soldiers. In Vesuvius, Spartacus' army of slaves and gladiators ambushes and destroys them. Spartacus went on to defeat more Roman armies before his army split into two groups: those, who like Spartacus wanted to flee the Roman Empire, and those who wished to continue plundering Roman towns. (This last event is not depicted in the film).

    Meanwhile, there is another absorbing political and personal storyline involving the two great Roman Senators and adversaries, Crassus (Laurence Olivier) the patrician (representing the interests of the aristocrats), and Gracchus (Charles Laughton) the plebeian (representing the interests of the ordinary Roman citizens). These men battle each other, using their wealth and cunning, for control of the Senate, and Rome itself.

    The historical significance of Spartacus is great, as noted by Erich Gruen in The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (University of California Press, 1974):

"It was not the governing class alone that would react in horror to the prospect of a slave insurrection. Whatever the grievances of men disenfranchised and dispossessed . . . they would have found unthinkable any common enterprise with Thracian or Gallic slaves. It causes no surprise that Marxist historians and writers have idealised Spartacus as a champion of the masses and leader of the one genuine social revolution in Roman history. That, however, is excessive. Spartacus and his companions sought to break the bonds of their own grievous oppression. There is no sign that they were motivated by ideological considerations to overturn the social structure. The sources make clear that Spartacus endeavoured to bring his forces out of Italy toward freedom rather than to reform or reverse Roman society. The achievements of Spartacus are no less formidable for that. The courage, tenacity, and ability of the Thracian gladiator who held Roman forces at bay for some two years and built a handful of followers into an assemblage of over 120,000 men can only inspire admiration."

    Rumoured to have cost over $US12 million, in 1960 Spartacus was the most expensive Hollywood film ever made. It was also the first secular Roman Epic, and thus, the unnecessary Christ theme which mars many other films such as Ben-Hur is not included. The story behind how this film was made, and how over 30 years later pieces of it were hunted down around the world to form a useable print for its re-release is a story in itself. A lot of the gossip from the original production is now well-known, such as: Douglas hiring black-listed scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo to adapt Howard Fast's novel using an assumed name; the arguments between the Studio and the original director, Anthony Mann, who ended up being replaced by a young and unknown Stanley Kubrick at Douglas' insistence; the subsequent arguments between new Director Kubrick and Co-Producer/Star Douglas which ended their friendship and their professional relationship; the battle of egos between Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton; the uncredited rewrite and 'script doctoring' by Peter Ustinov; and Kubrick later attempting legal action to have his name removed from the film. Despite all of this, Spartacus somehow ended up being a brilliant film. Despite its huge scale, it never forgets its characters, the detail, and a great story of heroes, villains, and a timeless fight for freedom.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is obviously limited by its source material (which is now over 40 years old), and it is often very grainy.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is close to its original 1960 ratio of 2.20:1.

    Overall the sharpness is okay, but the image sometimes is very soft, for example at 39:57 (Disc One). The film has a very high contrast, and the shadow detail is very poor, for example at 25:45 (Disc One) or 72:32 (Disc Two) . The colour is desaturated, yet very harsh at times, and the image often has a dirty brown tint, for example at 23:00 (Disc One). The skin tones are also far too brown.

    There are no problem with MPEG or film-to-video artefacts. But of course, as mentioned earlier, the image is often very grainy. As one would expect with a film of this age, film artefacts appear throughout. Most are small, but some are large, especially where the original print looks to be scratched or damaged. The restoration work, however, is amazing, and while there are a few film artefacts, they should not hinder your enjoyment of the film

    English, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic subtitles are present. The English ones are accurate.

    Unlike the 2000 DVD release (one RSDL disc), the movie is now presented over two dual-layered discs (with the addition of many extras and dts sound). The layer changes occur at 50:52 (Disc One) and 58:32 (Disc Two). Both layer changes are placed in between scenes, when the screen has faded to black, so
they are not disruptive. There is an intermission in the film, which provides the perfect place to have a cup of tea and change discs. The only thing I found odd was that the entr'acte (the introductory music after the intermission), is included at the end of Disc One. I would have placed it at the start of Disc Two.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are a few audio options on this DVD, including English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s), and Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s). There is also an English Audio Commentary presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). While many DVDs have benefited in the past from the addition of a dts track, this is not one of them. Indeed, there is no notable difference between the Dolby Digital and dts audio options.

    The dialogue quality is reasonable, and audio sync is usually good. There were a few rare sync problems, such as at 30:40 (Disc One). Interestingly, Tony Curtis and Anthony Hopkins redubbed a scene (cut from the original theatrical release due to its homosexual nature). Hopkins, a master vocal impressionist of other British actors such as Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, and Richard Burton, provides the late Olivier's voice.

    The musical score music is credited to Alex North, and it is an exciting and dramatic score that underlines the on-screen emotion.

    The surround presence is a mixed bag. There is minimal ambience at times, such as the rain at 92:25 (Disc One), and the score can also be heard
subtly through the rears. However, at other times, such as during the rowdy rabble scene at 102:07 (Disc One), the rears are very noticeably silent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are plenty of genuine extras spread over the two discs.

Menu

    The menus are animated with audio.

Audio Commentary-Actors And Filmmakers

    A interesting commentary featuring producer/actor Kirk Douglas, actor/co-screenwriter (uncredited) Peter Ustinov, novelist Howard Fast, producer Edward Lewis, restoration expert Robert A. Harris, and designer Saul Bass. Seemingly (and not surprisingly) recorded separately, this commentary is very insightful. I particularly enjoyed the comments by the witty Ustinov, and the sometimes critical Fast.

Audio Commentary-Screenwriter:  Scene-By-Scene Analysis

    A film-student's wet-dream, Dalton Trumbo provides a scene by screen critique of the film. Rather than a glowing back-slapping tribute, Trumbo is sometimes quite cutting and highly critical.

Deleted Scenes

    Three 'deleted' scenes (these are actually extended versions of scenes that appear in the movie):

Featurette-Vintage Newsreel

Interviews

Featurette-Behind The Scenes At Gladiator School

    1960 behind-the-scenes footage, with the film's score.

Gallery-Promotional Materials

Gallery-Kubrick's Sketches

Featurette-The Hollywood Ten

    The ten filmmakers serving a one-year prison sentence for refusing to name names at the McCarthy hearings.

Original Trailer

    Although described as being the "original" trailer, this trailer mentions the film's 4 Oscars, so I'm guessing it's from the 1967 re-release. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 Enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Storyboards

    A gallery of stills from the very creative Saul Bass.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Spartacus was originally released on DVD in Region 1 without 16x9 enhancement. This version was followed by the vastly superior Criterion version, which most closely resembles ours.

    Our new Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 Criterion DVD misses out on:

    I would call it pretty even. While the Criterion version has a couple of additional extras, we have the option of dts and a superior PAL transfer.

Summary

    Spartacus is a great, epic film that, despite its huge scale, never forgets its characters, the detail, and a great story of heroes, villains, and a timeless fight for freedom.

    The video quality is good, considering the age and condition of the source material.

    The audio quality is very limited in its presence.

    There are plenty of genuine extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Who's name? - Daniel REPLY POSTED
Hollywood Ten on Criterion disc - Sam O (read my bio)
Gladiator??? - Neil