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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blu ray.
The transfer isn't great, it's acceptable but not quite what you'd expect for a film of this magnitude! There is a lot of softness to some scenes and the blacks are poor. It states that it is a restoration that was done in 1991...maybe it's time they did a new one! This is a 5 star movie, let down by an average (out of date!) transfer. On the plus side Kirks chin...
Published on 9 July 2011 by Mark A. Streets

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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus falls short on a sloppy Blu-ray
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...
Published on 28 April 2012 by Picard


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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blu ray., 9 July 2011
By 
Mark A. Streets (Derby. UK) - See all my reviews
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The transfer isn't great, it's acceptable but not quite what you'd expect for a film of this magnitude! There is a lot of softness to some scenes and the blacks are poor. It states that it is a restoration that was done in 1991...maybe it's time they did a new one! This is a 5 star movie, let down by an average (out of date!) transfer. On the plus side Kirks chin dimple is generally sharp and well detailed. ;)
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus falls short on a sloppy Blu-ray, 28 April 2012
By 
Picard (USS Enterprise) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kubrick's epic., 26 Oct. 2014
The perfect gift for all Roman history buffs is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Stanley Kubrick has given us many memorable films, but this is my personal favourite. It is hard to imagine that he was not even nominated for best director in 1960. I suppose his final satisfaction must have come in the endurance of this film's popularity after all the other nominees faded into obscurity.

'Spartacus' is one of the great Hollywood epics and Kirk Douglas' defining role. It is a brilliantly written screenplay that combines the struggle for freedom from oppression with a compelling love story in a setting that accurately depicts the majesty as well as the corruption of the Roman Empire. The scenes depicting the political manoeuvring of the Senate were priceless.

Kubrick's work was nothing short of brilliant. His attention to the details of the period was wonderful. The orchestration of tens of thousands of extras in the battle scenes was phenomenal. His presentation of the love scenes between Varinia and Spartacus were sensitive and compelling. I was most impressed with his treatment of the slave army. He put a human face on the slaves by showing mothers with their children and scenes of Spartacus walking among the people. This completely wins the affections of the viewer. His pacing was perfect and despite the film's length at over three hours, it did not seem to drag since there was always something fascinating on the screen.

Kirk Douglas gave a powerful performance and created a character that was bigger than life. He was strong and inspirational while simultaneously being gentle and kind. Laurence Olivier gave a riveting performance Crassus. He was cunning, imperious, consumed by ambition and utterly heartless. It is hard to imagine a more nefarious bad guy.

Jean Simmons has had an impressive acting career that has spanned more than 50 years. She is both a great beauty and an enchanting actress. She gave Varinia dignity, strength of character and a quiet seductiveness that played well off the power exuded from Douglas. Their screen chemistry was both passionate and touching.

Rounding out a great cast were Peter Ustinov who was terrific as the snivelling and cowardly Batiatius always conniving to profit from someone else's misfortunes, and Charles Laughton as the astute and duplicitous Gracchus, manipulating the Roman senate to his best advantage.

The last decisive battle scene between the slave army and Roman legions was magnificently staged. The extras playing the Roman legionnaires marched in formation so precisely, and the whole formation moved like a single organism. The blinding flash, which was created when thousands of extras simultaneously pointed their shields toward the camera, was absolutely awe-inspiring. Just before the two armies clashed, thousands of extras playing the Roman army quickly and precisely reorganized the formation to create skirmish lines. This was a site to behold. It must have been absolutely terrifying for the foes of Rome to watch the formations of these robot-like, super-precise Roman legionnaires charging toward them. (No wonder the extras moved with such a precision. The Roman soldiers were played by 8000 infantrymen from the Spanish Army.)

This is among the best epics ever made and certainly among the top three films about the Roman Empire.This film should be on every film buff's list of required viewing and is highly recommended for its moving story to anyone who hasn't seen it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kubrick's disappointment is still our triumph, 22 May 2011
Although he was never happy with Spartacus, due to creative differences with Kirk Douglas, any other director would be very proud of it.

But as we all know, Kubrick's level of perfection was so high that if his own vision was to be watered down - then he would never be happy about it.

On the whole, Spartacus is an excellent film. The transfer, on the special two disc edition, is very good but what marks this edition out as the best is the plethora of extra features, which have sadly been cut down on the blu ray edition.

Why that was done is anyone's guess as Dalton Trumbo's notes (read as an audio commentary) are fascinating and at times savage in their criticism of Kubrick and others.

A great film presented in an excellent edition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'I DON'T WANT TO KNOW YOUR NAME - ONE DAY I MAY HAVE TO KILL YOU' (CLASSIC-EPIC), 6 Dec. 2014
By 
rbmusicman (U.K) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
'Spartacus' (Kirk Douglas) had spent his childhood, youth, into manhood as a working as a slave for
his 'Roman' masters.
He is chosen by the visiting 'Batiatus' (Peter Ustinov) a visiting official for purchase as a a slave to be
trained at his Gladiatorial-Academy.
There he meets the woman who he'll eventually take for his wife 'Varinia' (Jean Simmons) who as a
slave at the Academy to both please chosen Gladiators and serve.
When an important 'Roman' General 'Crassus' (Laurence Olivier) visits the Academy he insists on a
Gladiator show, two pairs a fight to the death one on one.
'Spartacus' and three others are chosen, the Academy previously only training Gladiators to be sold on
to places such as 'Rome' never to fight and die at the Academy.
'Spartacus' is paired to fight 'Draba' (Woody Strode) an Ethiopian, the powerful 'Draba' chooses not to
kill 'Spartacus' but turn his 'Trident' toward 'Crassus' obviously losing his own life.
The enforced exhibition causes unrest among the Gladiators at the Academy so much so it triggers a
revolution led by 'Spartacus' who had always craved freedom.
'Varinia' had been seen leaving the compound earlier with 'Batiatus' who had sold her to 'Crassus'
Back in 'Rome' slave 'Antoninus' (Tony Curtis) has become a man-servant to 'Crassus' an educated man
who read poetry and sung songs.
'Spartacus' has many well-trained followers who have now set about freeing slaves and sacking 'Roman'
towns, this action has now got the attention of the 'Roman-Senate'
'Senator' Gracchus' (Charles Laughton) who is a sworn apponent of 'General Crassus' goads 'Marcus
Publius Glabrus' (John Dall) who 'Crassus' had appointed Commander of the 'Garrison of Rome' to take
two Cohorts of the Garrison to face and destroy the uprising of Slaves, he accepts the task.
'Spartacus' has continued to gather more slaves which now includes story-teller 'Anitoninus' who has escaped
'Crassus' he has also freed 'Varinia' who he learns had never reached 'Rome' and had run from the overweight
'Batiatus' with little effort, 'Spartacus' and 'Varinia' could now be together.
'Spartacus' has negotiated a price with the 'Silesian Pirates' to take his thousands of followers away from the
shores of Italy and feedom in seven months time.
In the meantime 'Spartacus' and his followers have trained the many slaves to be of Gladiatorial Quality to fight
their way to the coast if necessary,
The 'Cohorts' led by 'Glabrus' are now close by however because they ave underestimated the 'Slave-Army' they
have not followed protocol in defending their camp, they are easy prey for 'Spartacus' and his Army.
The 'Silesian-Pirates' have been paid by 'Crassus' to betray the 'Slaves' leaving 'Spartacus' no choice but to march
upon 'Rome' itself.......playing into the trap 'Crassus' has set for them.
A true 'epic' with a cast of thousands and without the benefits of the technology afforded to today's movies, 'Sets'
back then had to e built to create a level of reality.
The film tells of the 'Historical' tale of the slave uprising that came so close to achieving their desire to be free, had
the large slave force not separated as History tells us they had done before the final battle portrayed in the film, would
the outcome of been different, would History have told of a different outcome ?
I have noticed some earlier reviewers have been critical of the upgrade to this format, i myself think considering this is
a film released in '1960' the upgrade is pretty acceptable (I've seen films released during the 80's and 90's with poorer
picture quality in the upgrade than this)
Features -
* Deleted Scenes
* Archival Interviews with 'Peter Ustinov' and 'Jean Simmons'
* Behind the scenes footage
* 5 Vintage Newsreels
* Image Galleries
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Special Edition, 16 Jun. 2013
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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Undertaken in the late era of American Anti-Communism, the red scare had littered the 1950's as the crunch came in and the taps were turned on. Douglas wanted to make an epic, to prise away the squeeze and hired Dalton Trumbo, a man previously blacklisted (Johnny Got his Gun) and took a classic Communistic text then set about splicing it to a Hollywood film which would grab the sands of time and stand upon them. This took real guts in an era when few would stick themselves up to be knocked completely back. The result was one of the greatest films of the era; a full range spectacle. This made the biblical epics starring Charlton Heston appear a little threadbare, bombastic, just full of muscle and sandal chintz, roped around the edges.

Propaganda? Of course, who knows what really happened. The film was made to tap a vein and let the electric current surge throughout the body infusing all the wiring, especially for the dispossessed. It also has one of the most beautiful gals of the era, who later succumbed to the ravages of alcohol blossoming in the support actress role, Jean Simmons. It is her love that keeps Spartacus focused.

So the baddies are all English, as per usual, playing the stereotypical roles of cunning, homosexuality, deceit slavery and other nefarious vices. Welcome on board Olivier and Ustinov. Each delivers a powerful punch, but with a twist in the knuckle. However it is also interspersed with various Americans, not exactly playing the part of godliness, so the good/evil Manchean sheen is burred somewhat. Douglas here is clever in playing to the gallery.

The camerawork, scale and vision of the whole thing is full panoramic breathtaking vision as it artistically sweeps over the hills and flowing rivers in aiming to capture the big event. Alternatively a deep sense of claustrophobia coupled to heavy handing descent arises in the latter stages as everyone becomes aware of their fate.

Delivered pre Civil Rights and just after the Trade Unions were smashed in the 1930's and 1940's, it was a signpost for a world about to be ushered in. Ford and Du Pont had put paid to any real life Spartacus - just ask Eugene Debs. The film was a piece of camouflage, see the artwork undertaken by Saul Bellow to understand the message being beamed - later censored.

As for the lead, Douglas displays the steel eyed grit, chin jutting and staring into the history books with a complete vision. Whilst he played the same character throughout his career, here he does it with an abiding stage filmic presence. Douglas controls the centre of the stage and makes America great, not the land of the dream, but those who live the nightmare.

So if you have three hours to spare and want some entertainment along with some education then imbibe the message. It is one of the cinema greats and meets the Russian films of the era head on - each operate as great emotional literacy masterpieces.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Young Kubrick facing three great "monsters.."., 15 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Spartacus [DVD] [1960] (DVD)
After the dismissal of director Anthony Mann,
Kirk Douglas hired very young Stanley Kubrick,
to direct his star studded film, Spartacus.Kubrick had
to face what we call in french"3 monstres
sacrés" - three giant actor- directors:Sir Laurence
Olivier, Charles Laughton and Sir Peter Ustinov,all
three with enormous experience on both stage and screen...

According to Sir Peter, who received an Oscar for
his performance in this movie, Charles Laughton and
Sir Olivier really hated each other. According
to Kirk Douglas, Charles Laughton threatened to sue
him (for a reason that he, Douglas, never discovered).
Douglas also treats Kubrick as an "idiot" and Howard
Fast (the author of the novel on which the movie is based)
as a "nuisance"...

One has some difficulty to understand how, in such an
atmosphere, the results could be so outstanding. The
fact is that everything and everybody is good in this
film: the three great "monsters",(Olivier, Laughton and
Peter Ustinov), Kirk Douglas as the slave Spartacus,
the everlasting model of revolts (remember Rosa Luxemburg
and Karl Liebknecht, the "spartakist" leaders of Germany's
short- lived communist experience of 1919...)Jean Simmons as
Varinia, his wife, Tony Curtis, Woody Strode, John Ireland are
all excellent.

The music composed by Alex North is very modern and quite
original, the battle scènes are beautifully filmed by Russel
Metty and - non credited - Calder Willingham.
Last but not least, the script of Dalton Trumbo
tranforms Howard Fast's courageous themes in a very
coherent, passionate story.

Speaking of courage: Kirk Douglas certainly had the
"guts" to hire two blacklisted artists: Fast, who
went to prison for "Being Red" (the title of his
autobigraphy) and Trumbo, who could not
sign his own scripts. And Kirk Douglas also had the courage
(and the insight)to hire Stanley Kubrick, then a relatively
inexperienced young director, and make out of Spartacus both
a good film and a huge box-office success.

PS. References for the "opinions" expressed in this review:
the interview that Sir Peter Ustinov kindly gave to me
in 1994, my interview, also in 1994, with french film-critic and
biographer of S.Kubrick, Michel Ciment (RTS, Radio-Television- Suisse
archives in Lausanne). Also Kirk Douglas's autobiography,
"The Ragman's Son".

Elisheva Guggenheim-Mohosh, Geneva, Switzerland.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sword and sandal epic that has everything., 29 Aug. 2012
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Spartacus [DVD] [1960] (DVD)
Spartacus is the Thracian slave who refused to be a Roman plaything, breaking out of their clutches he led the slave revolt that panicked the Roman Rebublic in circa BC 73, this film is based on that period in history.

Spartacus got off to a troubled start, original director Anthony Mann was fired by leading man Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) after a falling out, some of Mann's work does remain in the final picture, tho, notably some of the early scenes in the desert are thought to be at Mann's direction. In came then director for hire Stanley Kubrick, who along with Douglas crafted arguably the greatest sword and sandal epic to have ever been made. One that holds up today as the one any prospective new viewers to the genre should seek out. Adapted by Dalton Trumbo from Howard Fast's novel (whilst also tapping from Arthur Koestler's novel, The Gladiators), Spartacus is a stirring experience highlighting the power of unity when faced in opposition to a tyrannical force. It's also boasting a number of intelligent and firmly engaging strands that are a credit to the excellent writing from the once blacklisted Trumbo. Politics figure prominently, whilst the story has a pulsing romantic heart beating amongst the blood and power struggles that are unfolding. Brotherhood bonds within the slave army are firmly established, and the love story axis between Spartacus and Varinia is very fully formed. We are in short set up perfectly for when the film shifts its emphasis in the second half.

So many great sequences are in this picture, the gladiator training school as Spartacus and his fellow slaves find that they have dignity within themselves; forced thru a tough regime designed to set them up for blood sport entertainment to the watching republic hierarchy. The break out itself is tremendous for its potency, but even that is playing second fiddle to the main battle sequence that Kubrick excellently put together. The Roman legions forming in military precision is memorable in the extreme (this before CGI, with Kubrick's directing of all those extras being worthy of extra praise from us). Then with the battle itself raging one can only say it's breath taking and definitely a genre high point. Then of course there is the sentimental aspects of Spartacus. Kubrick of course was never known for his warmness, but with the aid of Douglas they get it right and manage to pull the heart strings whilst simultaneously pumping stirring the blood via the action. Right up to the incredibly poignant and classical ending that stands the test of time as being cinematic gold. The cast are wonderfully put together, Douglas is fabulous as Spartacus, big, lean and brooding with emotion, very much a career highlight as far as I'm concerned. Laurence Olivier takes up chief bad guy villainy duties as Marcus Crassus, just about the right amount of sneering camp required for such a dislikable character. Peter Ustinov (Best Supporting Actor Winner) is in his pomp as Batiatus, Jean Simmons (perfectly bone structured face) plays off Douglas expertly as Varinia, with Tony Curtis (Antoninus), John Gavin (Julius Caesar) and Charles Laughton (Graccus) adding impetus to this wonderful picture.

Spartacus also won Academy Awards for Best Color Cinematography, Best Art and Set Direction and Best Costume Design, with nominations rightly going to Alex North for his score and Robert Lawrence for his editing. It's a special film is Spartacus, excellently put together and thematically dynamite. Which while also being technically adroit, it's ultimately with the story itself that it truly wins out. Even allowing for some standard Hollywood additions to the real story (Spartacus most certainly didn't meet his maker the way the film says), it's emotionally charged and as inspiring as it is as sadly tragic. 10/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rousing Roman epic, 1 April 2012
This review is from: Spartacus [DVD] [1960] (DVD)
Spartacus was one of a host of epics made in the early sixties. These epics were either about Romans or the Bible: Spartacus is a Roman epic with a bit of Biblical imagery.

Kirk Douglas is sturdy as slave-turned-gladiator-turned soldier Spartacus who despite being blessed with brawn rather than brains gathers together an army of slaves to defeat tyrannical Crassus (Laurence Olivier). Olivier gives as good a performance as he did in the prime of his career, making Crassus a pathetic figure who cannot comprehend the idealism that Spartacus has. Jean Simmons is good as beautiful slave Varinia, and Varinia and Spartacus' Love Theme is one of the most moving scores you will ever hear. It drew me back in at a point where my attention was flagging (the film is just over three hours- it's bound to be slow in parts).

There are some melodramatic moments (such as the oft-parodied "I am Spartacus" scene) but these parts are always entertaining. It's also unafraid to not look pretty- whilst epics like Cleopatra are extravagantly designed and shot, Spartacus is all red and brown. Rome is a harsh world.

The supporting actors, particularly Peter Ustinov as the gladiator trainer, are humorous. The funniest part of the film has to be the restored "snails and oysters" scene (Olivier's dialogue dubbed by Anthony Hopkins). It serves no real purpose, apart from scaring off Antoninus, but it's quite funny how shocked the film studios were.

Get a Special Edition version because an epic film like this, whatever its flaws, needs a bit of context to fully appreciate it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I'm Spartacus!", 1 Feb. 2008
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Spartacus is that genuine rarity, an epic that successfully combines the intellectual with the emotional, giving it an edge on almost all of its contemporaries - even Anthony Mann's superb Fall of the Roman Empire, which is never able to fully reconcile the two in its leading characters.

It was Mann who shot the striking opening sequences in the Libyan salt mines before being replaced by Kubrick, allegedly for losing his grip on the gladiator school sequences (though it seems everyone involved offers a different reason), and his trademark use of landscape to define character is very much in evidence. Spartacus begins the film as a virtual animal, mute, biting his guard, a creature of pure instinct. Yet through his fight for his freedom, he learns dignity and becomes more of a human being than his civilised masters.

Ironically, it is his doomed slave revolt that provides the spark to turn Rome into a totalitarian dictatorship, a development hinted at in his gladiatorial combat with Woody Strode, where their duel to the death is simply a background for the political backbiting of its noble Roman audience. Even after the rebellion is brutally crushed, the seeds for further change and disruption are sown in the shifting allegiance of a young Gaius Julius Caesar (Gavin), who moves from the side of Laughton's populist Plebian to Olivier's ruthless Patrician.

Despite this, Spartacus is an incredibly hopeful film. Its belief in the value of life and in people may be frowned upon as naive now, yet through its portrayal of the Romans' ignorance of the responsibilities of their civilisation in their endless manipulations and power plays remains painfully aware of reality. In hindsight, it seems impossible to separate it from the civil rights movement of the late fifties-sixties (JFK was a great admirer of the film), with Spartacus a Thracian composite of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The solidarity of the slaves in refusing to identify Spartacus to the victorious Romans and choosing crucifixion over their chains is an image at once universal myth and very much of its time.

Most unusual within the constraints of the genre is that it makes us feel its concerns rather than just think about them. The fight to the death between Spartacus and Antoninus (Curtis) is played as a personal scene rather than an action set piece, each trying to kill the other to Spain them the pain of crucifixion. And when he takes his place on the last of the crosses that pave the road to the gates of Rome, the final scene where his freed wife (Jean Simmons) shows him the son he has never seen for the first time and begs him to "Die, please die!", is one of the most intensely moving moments in cinema and carries an emotional charge that Kubrick's work never again attained or even attempted.

Despite his genuinely imaginative direction, Kubrick's erratic attitude towards the film is well documented (although Douglas claims the director originally wanted to take blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo's screen credit, he subsequently vociferously disowned the film). Unfortunately, the 1990s cinema re-issue of this original restored version met with some of the worst reviews in recent memory: Douglas' reputation had faded while Kubrick's had soared, rendering it an act of critical blasphemy to disagree with him.

Nonetheless, the film endures even if its reputation has not. Trumbo's script is both intelligent and involving and filled with memorable and beautifully constructed scenes, the cast uniformly excellent, with Olivier giving one of his last great performances before he turned to intermittent silly voices and self-parody. Aside from the now infamous attempted bathtime seduction of Tony Curtis (far less explicit than the subsequent speech about `debasing yourself' before Rome), the extra footage in this restored version is largely violence - more crucifixions, the burial of a baby in the snow, gladiator Woody Strode's blood squirting onto Olivier's face as he slits his throat and a lot more of the climactic battle (itself shot as an afterthought after an unsatisfactory rough-cut).

Sadly, it is here that one of the film's most visually powerful moments, when the Roman Legion stops to a man in their advance on the slave army, just does not work even on the largest of small screens. Whereas in 70mm on the giant screen you could feel them approach foot by foot, here they barely seem to be moving, rendering the jolting shock and ominous dread of their sudden halt (actually achieved via freeze frame) barely noticeable. The prelude to the main battle does remain an incredible musical tour de force by North, however, predicting both the savagery and hollow victory of the coming carnage with brief, brutal crescendos on vicious sharp cuts. Even in a strong field that year, it is amazing that North did not win an Oscar for his contribution.

Of the various versions available, the Criterion NTSC disc is the best, though most of the extras are carried over for the PAL special edition - but avoid the standard film-only edition. Unfortunately Universal's Blu-ray is a disappointment - it may contain some of the extras but the transfer is riddled with DNR that softens the image and loses detail. A remastered version has been rumoured for some time and it's worth holding out for that.
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