The best of the best of British actors are gathered together to play the Roman elite who keep slaves for pleasure and for entertainment, but American Kirk Douglas rebel and get all his followers to scream out "I am Spartacus" - one of the memorable movie quotes and scenes of all time. A epic film that deliver moments after moments of great scenes even if this is Kubrick on Hollywood's pay roll.
Actor-producer Kirk Douglas fired director Anthony Mann and replaced him with a young chap named Stanley Kubrick, who fought legendary d.p. Russell Metty and infamously told him to sit down and watch him work instead (Metty got the last laugh: he won an Oscar!). Kirk Douglas was deeply impressed: "Kubrick will be a fine director some day. If he falls flat on his face just once. It might teach him how to compromise."
There is a scene in this film where the character Crassus (Olivier) attempts to seduce his slave, Antoninus (Curtis). It was originally cut from the theatrical release, however in 1991 the film was restored and the scene was put back. Unfortunately the soundtrack for the scene had been lost, so it had to be re-dubbed. Olivier had been dead two years at this point so in the end the scene was dubbed by Anthony Hopkins
Ustinov and Laughton are a delight as sneaky and effete Romans. Kirk is the angry, pro-He-Man we expect from a vessel for post-war values. It's way too long, but it's a wonderful way to waste a Sunday afternoon. The cinematography and art direction and Kubrick's eye make it all special. I think of Douglas and his opponent waiting to spar. Kubrick knows the action is on their faces, not in the ring.
I'm sorry, but not even Kubrick and a cast of giants were able to make me like a historical studio epic. Mind numbingly boring, with only a few glimpses of interesting tidbits (and great performances, obviously). And let's face it: we don't really know for sure how much Kubrick contributed in this.
Kubrick may have disowned it, but this is Saturday matinee entertainment at its finest. The British thespians emerge triumphant - I could watch Ustinov, Olivier and Laughton play their game of thrones for ever - and it's fascinating to watch Kubrick wrestle with subsequently abandoned demons like plot, character and emotion. The restored scene between Olivier and Curtis is as Kubrickian as any that came after.
It's probably sacrilege to say this is my favorite Kubrick film. I know he took over for Anthony Mann and Kirk Douglas had a large say as producer. It is the most immediate of his films. Real blood courses through the veins of these characters. There is little satire though Ustinov, Laughton and Olivier get a good one in now and then. Maybe the film is too simple and straightforward to be a true Kubrick movie.
7/10 - Its interesting how some of the auteur directors have that one movie that is the odd one out, the one movie that doesnt feel like they have made it, probably because their hands were tied. This is it for Kubrick. And for Kubricks standards, its not a great movie, but for those odd one out movies, its spectacular.
I think this is one of only 2-3 Kubrick films Ive actually made it all the way through without being bored to tears and changing the channel. Then I read he basically disowned it. What an elitist prick. Shouldve stuck with Douglas. This and Paths of Glory are his high points. Most overrated director besides QT? Yep.