Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Summer re-vews: favourite Spartacus moments

Though I have the dvd and have seen it several times, it was on television again (with no commercials) so it seemed a good idea to record it and watch again -and I liked it again as much as ever. Its certainly up there with BEN HUR, EL CID, CLEOPATRA and FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE as one of the great epics of that epic era. Kubrick may not have thought much of it (Douglas hired him - they had already done PATHS OF GLORY in 1957 - to replace Anthony Mann, who at least had EL CID lined up next, and teamed up with Douglas again for his HEROES OF TELEMARK in 1964, one of those movies I just never needed to see), but it has several Kubrickian moments on themes on power corrupting. It has some great set-pieces too (I like the scenes with the Romans led by Crassus visiting Ustinov's slave school, which sets the revolt in motion) but it is that cast that delivers. Olivier as Crassus is one of his great performances of that time, Laughton and Ustinov are fascinating scene-stealers, Jean Simmons is ideal, and so is Kirk (he is 100 this December!) and Tony Curtis too as Antoninus. We get that bath scene now between Crassus and Antoninus (with Olivier voiced by Anthony Hopkins) which was considered too suggestive at the time!. Here are some favourite moments and behind the scenes shots:  Tony with Jean and wife Janet Leigh ... Olivier and Jean together again, after their HAMLET in 1948, and John Gavin showing his marvellous chest at the baths .....
Speaking of epics, word on the street has it that the new BEN-HUR is not going to be a success. It seems its just another run of the mill mainly CGI shallow blockbuster for a week or two at the multiplex, and lacks the complexity and richness of the 1959 Wyler film, still wonderful after almost 60 years. Even that TV version of a few years ago (with Ray Winstone as Quintus Arrius) is totally forgotten now. Arrius is not even in the new version (which is 90 minutes shorter than the 1959 one, no Nativity prologue either as it plays down the religious aspect...) as they make more of Sheik Ilderim - Morgan Freeman - the only big name in the cast - but can a black man be a realistic sheik back in this Roman era? Just asking ..... the supposed homoerotic tensions are also gone - Ben and Massala are almost brothers now. But the main question is how will the chariot race look now?
I saw the 1925 silent version last year too (Epics label) and it was nothing compared to the 1959 film, looks like this redundant one will not be around much longer either, another mediocre remake of a classic film. That old quip comes back: "Loved Ben, hated Hur". 

1 comment:

  1. No matter how many times I've seen it I never tire of SPARTACUS and your comments have made me want to see it again. I doubt if the wildest of horses could drag me to the new BEN HUR; trailers are meant to make you want to see a film but the trailer for this put me off! As for THE HEROES OF TELEMARK; I disliked it a lot when it came out but I watched it again about a year ago and thought it rather good. It more than passes an afternoon.