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Spartacus: Blood and Sand Season 1 [Blu-ray]
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Betrayed by his country. Beaten into slavery. Reborn as a warrior. Spartacus: Blood and Sand is a graphic and visceral account of Rome s most famous gladiator. When he s separated from the love of his life, Spartacus is forced into the gruesome and bloodthirsty arena, where a grisly death is primetime entertainment. Spartacus must fight for survival, befriend his enemies and play politics in this new world of corruption, violence, sex and fame. He ll be seduced by power and tormented by vengeance. But his passion will give him the strength to prevail over every obstacle, in this modern and uninhibited tale of death, honour and endurance.
The "sword and sandals" genre isn't exactly known for its subtlety and restraint, but even by those standards, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is deliriously, delightfully over the top. Viewers familiar with the 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the best-known version of the Spartacus tale, will recognize the basic outline of the story: a Thracian warrior with a beautiful, loving wife is betrayed by his Roman "allies" and forced into slavery, whereupon he distinguishes himself as a gladiator nonpareil and, after enduring countless indignities, leads his brethren and others in a rebellion against their oppressors. But there's a lot more Caligula than Kubrick in the 13 first-season episodes (each a bit less than an hour long) of this Starz television series, which stars Andy Whitfield in the title role and also features Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) as the wicked wife of Spartacus's owner. The fight scenes are highly stylized (the entire production seems to have taken a cue from the surreal, painterly look of 300) but extraordinarily brutal, featuring multiple dismemberments and decapitations amidst seas of slow-motion, CGI-generated blood; a gladiatorial battle in episode 5 pitting Spartacus and his rival-turned-ally Crixus (Manu Bennett) against a monster named Theokoles is definitely not for the squeamish, but that's only one of many such scenes. There's also ample sex and nudity, as the couplings involving various studly gladiators and lustful Roman noblewomen are like salacious combat between Chippendales dancers and Victoria's Secret models. Meanwhile, the personal relationships are the stuff of soap operas, with the Romans in particular depicted as relentlessly decadent, duplicitous, and power-hungry.
If this all sounds outrageously entertaining, it is, though perhaps not for everyone. And although the future of the show (which was executive produced by Spider-Man director Sam Raimi) is in doubt due to Whitfield's ongoing battle with cancer, we'll always have this season to revel in. --Sam Graham
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Historical accuracy may not be at the forefront, being essentially gripping entertainment but it does capture the spirit of the subject with the costumes [were they exist] being authentic, the fights brutal, life harsh and treacherous, all set in a convincing debauched provincial Capua. This has lashings of squirty blood spatter flying everywhere, sex is waiting on every street corner, as is death plus we see the brutal reality of the underworld –the Pits, where survival is everything. Lucretia [Lucy Lawless] is the calculating and scheming wife, who draws on the seductive talents of her depraved and licentious friend Ilithyia [Viva Bianca].
The thirteen 50 minute episodes are spread over four discs, audio is 2.0 default, but use 5.1 if you can, it’s a much richer sound. Rated 18 this features decapitations and nudity [including full frontal] and swearing throughout. If you can look past the blood, gore and sex, this is a tale of love, love lost, friendships and betrayal. However it is worth watching the 2011 prequel first as it sets the scene and aids continuity.
Having rushed to get this season after finishing Gods of the Arena I found that this season didn’t disappoint. This season is sadder than Gods of the Arena, and it’s leant even more sadness by the tragic passing of the lead actor. This season is as good as Gods of the Arena and both are monumental statues of great TV making. They continue to push the boundaries of violence and sex to the limit and never fail to make you less than exhilarated, eager to watch the next episode. TV has nothing like it!
Extremely graphic violence, graphic injuries, graphic sex, graphic nudity, graphic language.