Spartacus (Special Edition) [DVD] 
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Stanley Kubrick's star-studded, historical epic concerns the efforts of the slave-gladiator Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) to lead the slaves of the Roman Empire in a rebellion against their masters. The ranks quickly swell as the slave army makes its way across Italy towards the coast. But the despotic Roman senator Crassus (Laurence Olivier) determines to quell the revolt for his own selfish ends, and the stage is thus set for a tremendous battle.
Stanley Kubrick was only 31 years old when Kirk Douglas (star of Kubrick's classic Paths of Glory) recruited the young director to pilot this epic saga, in which the rebellious slave Spartacus (played by Douglas) leads a freedom revolt against the decadent Roman Empire. Kubrick would later disown the film because it was not a personal project--he was merely a director-for-hire--but Spartacus remains one of the best of Hollywood's grand historical epics. With an intelligent screenplay by then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (from a novel by Howard Fast), its message of moral integrity and courageous conviction is still quite powerful, and the all-star cast (including Charles Laughton in full toga) is full of entertaining surprises. Fully restored in 1991 to include scenes deleted from the original 1960 release, the full-length Spartacus is a grand-scale cinematic marvel, offering some of the most awesome battles ever filmed and a central performance by Douglas that's as sensitively emotional as it is intensely heroic. Jean Simmons plays the slave woman who becomes Spartacus's wife, and Peter Ustinov steals the show with his frequently hilarious, Oscar-winning performance as a slave trader who shamelessly curries favor with his Roman superiors. The restored version also includes a formerly deleted bathhouse scene in which Laurence Olivier plays a bisexual Roman senator (with restored dialogue dubbed by Anthony Hopkins) who gets hot and bothered over a slave servant played by Tony Curtis. These and other restored scenes expand the film to just over three hours in length. Despite some forgivable lulls, this is a rousing and substantial drama that grabs and holds your attention. Breaking tradition with sophisticated themes and a downbeat (yet eminently noble) conclusion, Spartacus is a thinking person's epic, rising above mere spectacle with a story as impressive as its widescreen action and Oscar-winning sets. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.See all Product description
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Comparing this to the DVD version to the Blu-ray even the opening credits are better and from the first scene the improvements in sound and picture are very evident with the flesh tones more convincing and the red of the Roman soldier’s capes are now popping from the screen there is also a wider range of blacks giving a greater sense of depth to the picture and the audio track reveals details in the music soundtrack and the sound effects such as the thud of the wooden swords and clang of the metal ones while the Gladiator’s train.
This Blu-ray is in 1080p resolution using the codec MPEG 4 AVC in aspect ratio 2.22.1 the Original aspect ratio was 2.35; the original cinema version which was in Mono this Blu-ray’s audio track has been up-graded to DTS-HD master audio 5.1 48 kHz 24 bit there are also 14 sets of subtitles which include the following:- English for the hard of hearing, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish.
There are also soundtracks in French: DTS 5.1, German: DTS 5.1, Italian: DTS 5.1 and Spanish: DTS 5.1 this Blu-ray came with a UV digital copy (expired) and a Digital copy which is also (expired)
The Ensemble cast which includes Kirk Douglas in the title role and the ever excellent Peter Ustinov as the owner of Gladiator school Batiatus and Laurence Olivier as Crassus being of note.
Well, again perhaps like many, I was a little disappointed with the release as it was certainly cleaned-up, but a little dark and occasionally weirdly-'coloured'; I really should have heeded the reviews I had read beforehand !
Happily, this more recent 55th Anniversary 'Restored' Blu-ray release is what should have been on offer those few years ago - the picture is massively improved in colour and (most significantly) sharpness AND brightness PLUS we get some additional extras and a UV copy (unfortunately of the original 1991 restoration, NOT this 2015 version). For those with the audio capability, the English DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is now 7.1, instead of 'just' 5.1....
I got it in the Amazon '2 for £10' offer, late Jan 2016 - the apparent popularity of this release has made the latest offer for it appear in the worse-value '3 for £20' offer....
The film is well explained on the Amazon synopsis, EXCEPT there's no mention of the fact that initially (about the first week apparently !) the film was directed by Anthony Mann - but he was summarily sacked by Kirk Douglas, the film's 'star' and ultimate producer (since he owned the production company).....
So, Stanley Kubrick was then employed and I think many might not realise this is a film of his, as it's quite different from the other classics he went on to produce...
For me, most of the notable aspects of this film are to do with the gladiator training scenes and then of course the marvellous 'finale' battle which involved a cast of some 8000 - nowadays it's all CGI, here the clinking of armour/weapons as masses of soldiers march forwards towards their likely doom is real and sounds magnificent, along with the spectacle of seeing them en masse moving around to change formation etc.
Another notable aspect is the the lead cast, and their exceptional/totally committed performances, which is (aside from Douglas) essentially British: Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) Jean Simmons and Charles Laughton are all on top form, confirming how accomplished they were at their profession.
Just a few minutes into watching the film it was clear this Blu-ray was a justified purchase (and upgrade from the one I'd bought just a couple of years ago !).
The early scene where the purchased slaves arrive at the gladiator training school owned by Lentulus Batiatus (Ustinov) demonstrates all the improvements - as the cart carrying them is wheeled into the central area of the school we see Batiatus move towards a balcony to make a 'welcome' address to his new 'purchases'. His form and surroundings are no longer shrouded in murk of varying grades as he moves forward, but instead look completely natural - the distant cart/slaves below him are sharply defined and bathed in the obviously present 'sunlight', where previously they were of 'mushy' appearance and similarly bathed in murk.
The improvement/difference is staggering and happily it's like that for the whole film.
Don't believe me ? I've provided a link to a comprehensive review with comparison screencaps in the Amazon discussion section for this Blu-ray; it's entitled 'Comparison Review with Screencaps' and dated 6 Feb 16.
I've also attached photos of the box back and interior, as Amazon omit them - you can see the info is a little misleading/sparse as the added footage is nothing new, the restoration details vague (when they are very significant !) and the audio spec is devoid of any detail whatsoever ! Finally, owners of the '50th' disc can see that this new '55th' disc is similar, but not exactly the same and continues the oddity of not stating the film title !!!
So, an essential acquisition for fans of this film, whether it's a first or 'repeat' purchase, to enjoy this classic at it's best - and how it should have been in the first place !!!
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