Spartacus [Criterion Collection] [2 Discs] [DVD] [1960]

Universal Pictures originally released Spartacus as a bare-bones DVD, and The Criterion Collection also released the film as a three-disc laserdisc with most of the same extras as this disc. Neither can hold a candle to this splendid two-disc release. The film's transfer is stunning. Spartacus' long-troubled restoration history, supervised by the preeminent film restorer Robert A. Harris (who also restored Lawrence of Arabia and Vertigo to their undisputed glories), has been well documented. The arduous process yields results that are nothing short of amazing. Shown in its original aspect ratio of 2.2:1, enhanced for widescreen TVs, the picture was digitally transferred from a 65 mm intermediate positive. Though Kirk Douglas does seem a bit too red at times, the color correction is stable, tends not to bleed, and seems perfectly balanced overall. The high-contrast picture is sharp throughout, giving many modern-day films a run for their money in terms of visual quality. There is no evidence of compression artifacts whatsoever. The film's 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks have also been remastered and reconstructed from multiple elements. Alex North's thunderous score really shines here. Disc one contains two audio commentaries. The first track, which was originally recorded for the earlier laserdisc release from 1992, contains insights, observations, and production details from producer/actor Douglas, actor Peter Ustinov, novelist Howard Fast, producer Edward Lewis, restoration expert Harris, and legendary designer Saul Bass. This is simply one of the best DVD commentary tracks around, as all of the contributors have ample time to reminisce about the film's sometimes troubled production. Ustinov almost steals the show with some of his more acerbic comments. The second track is a scene-by-scene analysis taken from screenwriter Dalton Trumbo's notes, written after he viewed a rough cut of the film. The track is narrated by Michael McConnohie and also contains some Alex North music compositions. Disc one also contains an informative restoration demonstration. Disc two contains a wealth of information, including some rare deleted scenes, vintage newsreel footage of the film's premiere, some rather amusing promotional interviews of Ustinov and actress Jean Simmons, another great interview with the droll Ustinov from 1992, an excellent documentary concerning the Hollywood Ten (of which Trumbo was a member) and much, much more.
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Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
90% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (25 out of 28)

Special Features

  • Disc 1:
  • 16x9 transfer of the 1991 fully restored Super Technirama version
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by producer-actor Kirk Douglas, actor Peter Ustinov, novelist Howard Fast, producer Edward Lewis, restoration expert Robert A. Harris, and designer Saul Bass
  • Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo's scene-by-scene analysis
  • Additional Alex North score compositions
  • English subtitles
  • Restoration demonstration
  • Disc 2:
  • Rare deleted scenes
  • Vintage newsreel footage
  • 1960 promotional interviews with Jean Simmons and Peter Ustinov; 1992 video interview with Peter Ustinov
  • Behind-the-scenes "Gladiatorial School" footage
  • 1960 documentary "The Hollywood Ten" plus archival documents about the blacklist
  • Original storyboards by Saul Bass
  • Hundreds of production stills, lobby cards, posters, print ads, and a comic book
  • Sketches by director Stanley Kubrick
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Stereo
  • 2.2:1 aspect ratio


Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a rebellious slave purchased by Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), owner of a school for gladiators. For the entertainment of corrupt Roman senator Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier), Batiatus' gladiators are to stage a fight to the death. On the night before the event, the enslaved trainees are "rewarded" with female companionship. Spartacus' companion for the evening is Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave from Brittania. When Spartacus later learns that Varinia has been sold to Crassus, he leads 78 fellow gladiators in revolt. Word of the rebellion spreads like wildfire, and soon Spartacus' army numbers in the hundreds. Escaping to join his cause is Varinia, who has fallen in love with Spartacus, and another of Crassus' house slaves, the sensitive Antoninus (Tony Curtis). The revolt becomes the principal cog in the wheel of a political struggle between Crassus and a more temperate senator named Gracchus (Charles Laughton). Anthony Mann was the original director of Spartacus, eventually replaced by Stanley Kubrick, who'd previously guided Douglas through Paths of Glory. The film received 4 Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Ustinov. A crucial scene between Olivier and Curtis, removed from the 1967 reissue because of its subtle homosexual implications, was restored in 1991, with a newly recorded soundtrack featuring Curtis as his younger self and Anthony Hopkins standing in for the deceased Olivier. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Kirk Douglas
    Kirk Douglas - Spartacus
  • Laurence Olivier
    Laurence Olivier - Marcus Licinius Crassus
  • Charles Laughton
    Charles Laughton - Sempronius Gracchus
  • Peter Ustinov
    Peter Ustinov - Lentulus Batiatus
  • Tony Curtis
    Tony Curtis - Antoninus

Overall Customer Rating

4.5 out of 54.5
28 Reviews
90%of customers recommend this product.

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