For years, I deliberately avoided watching Spartacus
because I knew of the behind-the-scenes strife between Kubrick and Douglas and Kubrick's lack of complete creative control over the production, which wasn't even his originally. However, for this marathon, I finally decided to look past these facts and watched the film.
is an epic film on the same scope as Ben-Hur
and Lawrence of Arabia
and has a brilliant cast of Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Peter Usinov, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, and John Gavin. While not entirely historically accurate, it succeeds in being a highly dramatic film of a slow building story with an epic battle that's only matched years later by Peter Jackson and concludes with a bittersweet ending. It's an entertaining film, but it's not much of a Kubrick film.
While there's plenty of Kubrick-esque attention to detail, very little felt like a Kubrick film and more like the atypical grand film of the 50's, complete of the overly dramatic music. Nowhere are the strange eccentric characters, nowhere is the deep psychological analysis, nowhere is anything that screams Kubrick
Coming back to the music, I understand this style of scoring was normal practice of that era and Alex North's score here is highly praised, I often found it distracting and taking away from the scene, especially when Spartacus is forced to fight to death against Antoninus, who he loved like a son. When I should have felt sad over the tragedy of the situation, I found myself merely shrugging the whole thing off. It should also be noted that this was the first Kubrick not to feature the work of Gerald Fried, who scored all of Kubrick's feature-length films up to this point and his first short film, Day of the Flight
At the end of the day, I might be judging the film too harshly against the Kubrick scale (which may or may not be fair), but I found nothing special about the film beyond the scope of the story for a film during that time.
One side note: In regards to the infamous "I'm Spartacus!" scene, I never knew the context of the actual moment and had always assumed it was something that occurred during his enslavement and people were speaking up to gain favor (a la the end of Life of Brian
). The actual scene is intended to be more poignant than that but I found it to be a bit heavy-handed (again, because of the music) and rushed without much of a thought on the moment (until reflected upon much later).
Next up: Lolita