One of the most famous movies of all time is Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 epic, “Spartacus.” Like most folks, I’ve seen bits and pieces of this movie over the years, but I couldn’t honestly say that I’d ever watched the whole thing from start to finish. For that reason, I put it on my “bucket list” several years ago, and I finally got the chance to watch the entire thing over the weekend.
For those you unfamiliar with “Spartacus,” it’s about a common slave named Spartacus who was born into slavery during Roman times. Because he wouldn’t behave on the job, he’s picked for training as a gladiator. He and a sizable group of other slaves are sent to a gladiator training school, where they’re taught to fight and entertain audiences in the arena.
Spartacus and his fellow gladiators eventually stage a successful revolt and take over the gladiator school, which is located in what amounts to a Roman fort. Spartacus and his friends then begin freeing slaves across the countryside and raising an army of freed slaves. They eventually set their sights on the coast, where they plan to pay a friendly group of pirates to take them to their various homelands.
The Romans, however, have other plans and launch a three-pronged attack against Spartacus and his army. Before all is said and done, Spartacus finds himself in a pitched battle, and it doesn’t go well for the good guys. If you’re curious as to how it turns out, you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself.
Interestingly, this movie is loosely based on true events. According to what I could find out about it online, the events portrayed in “Spartacus” occurred between 73 BC and 71 BC during what’s sometimes called the Roman Servile War, the Gladiator War or the War of Spartacus. Kubrick’s “Spartacus” is considered a fictionalized and one-sided account of these real life events.
As mentioned, this movie was directed by famously quirky Stanley Kubrick, and Kirk Douglas starred in the lead role as “Spartacus.” Other cast members included Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov and Tony Curtis. Ustinov went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Batiatus, the surly Roman who ran the gladiatorial school.
One of the main reasons I wanted to watch “Spartacus,” which is a little over three hours long, is because I’ve seen it on a number of “best of” lists. About four years ago, one of my favorite Web sites, “The Art of Manliness,” included “Spartacus” on a list called “100 Must See Movies: The Essential Men’s Movie Library.” I also saw where the movie won the Golden Globe for Best Drama in 1960.
I was also interested to learn that “Spartacus” was based on a 1951 historical novel, also titled “Spartacus,” by Howard Fast. I’d honestly never heard of this book, but now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m left wanting to read the book. Maybe I’ll put it on my bucket list next year.
In the end, how many of you have seen Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus”? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.