Like other epics such as 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'Ben Hur', Spartacus is a movie that has gone through an interesting series of home releases. I say interesting because as is always the way with classic movies, they are often compromised to such a degree that you would wonder how they could ever get away being released in such an un-authentic state. Of course, it was astounding to see what can be achieved with a modern 8K restoration (Ben-Hur
) and for 'Lawrence...' fans, the good news is that Sony are rereleasing the film this year with a similar 8K restoration. These are only two examples of the correct treatment such classics deserve, yet Spartacus appears to have gone unnoticed.
What we have here is a transfer from the 1991 print - what was at it's a time a seven figure sum paid to reconstruct the film in the most accurate way. The bulk of the work was done from black and white negative separations which don't fade, so the colours should be pretty much spot on to how the film looked originally. The problem with this Blu-ray, however, is that Universal have for some reason not invested a new digital restoration. This is just the 1991 print with some waxy and often careless DNR applied, meaning the resulting picture is incredibly soft and simply doesn't represent the Technirama format the movie was shot on. On top of this, little effort has gone in to using current technology for removing artefacts and colour fading throughout the film.
I focus on these technicalities because a movie as good as Spartacus deserves the same - if not better - kind of treatment that even lesser films have had on Blu-ray.
As a step up from the DVD release then you are going to notice more consistency in this viewing experience, but you certainly won't be overwhelmed. What a pity Universal will not be digitally restoring this film as part of its '100th Anniversary' releases.