5/17/14: Spartacus (1960)


[Aristocratic British] “I’m Spartacus!”, Paulie Spartacus. But you can call me Paulie. My brother Mike is a vegetarian. I like to eat meat, especially chicken from Fimbria’s Poultry in Wolcott. The proprietor knows what I am going to say when I get there: “‘Oh, one fat one, Fimbria.’. And he hands it over. But I don’t eat oysters or snails? Not because I consider the eating of oysters or the eating of snails to be moral or immoral. It is all a matter of taste to me & therefore not a question of morals. My taste includes chicken but it does not include snails, nor does it include oysters. And while I am not a vegetarian, I do not consider anyone that is a vegetarian or a vegan to be immoral. However, they do tend to be rather gaunt, don’t they? As you can see, I have a tendency towards corpulence. Corpulence makes a man reasonable, pleasant and phlegmatic. Have you noticed the nastiest of tyrants are invariably thin?” But most of all you must not neglect the mind. I like to feed my head a good supply of beer & vodka & the like, which also helps keep me corpulent. A good body with a dull brain is as cheap as life itself.”

Spartacus - MeSpartacus - MikeSpartacus - ChxSpartacus - OystersSpartacus - Shot

Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 masterpiece, Spartacus, is played by Kirk Douglas. Spartacus, while not corpulent, had a keen mind, a fit body & cast iron buffalo ba…um, never mind. He’s a rebellious slave driven by dreams of freedom. After a particularly violent attack on one of his captors, he’s tied in the sun to rot when Batiatus (Peter Ustinov won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role at the 33rd Academy Awards), a Roman slave trader, spots him & is impressed with his non-corpulent body, keen mind & strong will. Batiatus decides to train Spartacus to be a gladiator where he quickly takes the lead in a slave rebellion against the tyranny of Rome. The film is based on the Third Servile War (aka The Gladiator War and The War of Spartacus) that took place from 73-71 BC. The cast is monumental & includes: Laurence Olivier as Crassus; Charles Laughton as Gracchus; and Tony Curtis as Antoninus. The picture won 3 additional Oscars: Color Art Direction; Color Costume Design; and Color Cinematography (Russell Metty).  But the credit went to Stanley, who became forever known as a master cinematographer.

Spartacus - DouglasSpartacus - BatiatusSpartacus - OlivierSpartacus - LaughtonSpartacus - CurtisSpartacus - Metty  

Douglas starred in Stanley’s previous & first legendary film, 1957’s anti-war drama, Paths of Glory. In his dual role as Spartacus’ Executive Producer, Kirk brought Kubrick on after one week of dissatisfaction with the original director, Anthony Mann. Douglas’ artistic influence on the film bothered Stanley so much that they never worked together again. Ya, I’m pretty obsessed with Kubrick. I’m currently teaching my 2nd Stanley Kubrick course for UConn’s OLLI Program, which is held at he Waterbury Campus. My 3rd is planned for the Winter. Please sign up (http://www.campusce.net/uconn/course/course.aspx?C=76&pc=52&mc=&sc=). I have 7 students so far, but the more the Strangelover. As you study him more, you’ll begin to notice his incredible influence on other filmmakers. Seemingly every fine movie these days pays homage to Stanley. As do his own movies. Supposedly, Eyes Wide Shut, his final picture, alludes to every one of his other 12 features. I haven’t looked for all of them…YET!!! If you watch movies closely, you’ll see the references. In the mean time, here’s a few you may find interesting: The Grand Budapest Hotel looks like Stanley was the Director of Photography; Transcendence is non-stop stream of references to 2001; in Edge of Tomorrow, a billboard with the image of the warrior, Rita, the female lead (Emily Blunt) is graffiti’d “Full Metal Bitch”;  the drive-in in Twister is playing The Shining, and 2 characters who are never referred to by name in the film are credited as Stanley and Kubrick; and in Back to the Future, Marty labels his amp CRM 114, the nuclear bomber’s radio model number in Dr. Strangelove. The recently released Birdman tributes Kubrick through its use of Steadicam tracking shots that bring Paths of Glory immediately to mind; and one of the backstage hallways of the St. James Broadway theatre, where most of the action takes place, is adorned with The Shining’s famous carpet though the hexagons are in miniature. And the middle segment of this year’s The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror is the hilarious homage A Clockwork Yellow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-NQhqxgw8I). So now, watch the trailer to Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus below, then add the picture to your Netflix Queue because, after all, “Kirk Douglas is Spartacus.” 4 Stars!

Spartacus - PathsSpartacus - OLLISpartacus - StrangeloveSpartacus - EWSSpartacus - BudapestSpartacus - TranscendenceSpartacus - EdgeSpartacus - TwisterSpartacus - CRMSpartacus - Birdman


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