#196 Spartacus

Watched: August 18 2018

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Dall

Year: 1960

Runtime: 3h 17min

Spartacus

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In the days of the Roman Empire, Spartacus (Douglas) is born into slavery and sold to a gladiator school after exhibiting some disobedience. Batiatus (Ustinov), the owner of the school, sees some promise in him and provides him with training and a prostitute – anything he could possibly crave.

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Along with some fancy body paint, of course

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Trainer and former gladiator Marcellus is not a fan of his new pupil though, and when he notices Spartacus’ feelings for servant Varinia (Simmons) he makes a point of keeping them apart.

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Ah, the feelings one can convey with only a glance when one is fearing for one’s life…

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One day, a bunch of rich bitches come by and demand a fight to the death. One of the chosen fighters is our hero, but when he loses the battle, his fellow gladiator refuses to kill him and charges the spectators instead.

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Draba just couldn’t let Spartacus go to his grave in that outfit, citing the theory that your ghost form will forever wear the clothes you had on when you died and no one deserved that fate

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After Draba’s death, and the continued mistreatment of the gladiators, Spartacus leads a rebellion and marches on Rome, freeing and recruiting more slaves on the way. Their plan is to amass enough riches to hire pirates to take them all back to their countries of origin. However, the Roman leaders are furious that someone dares defy them and set out to capture and/or kill them all, particularly Roman Braveheart Spartacus.

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“They make take our lives. But they may never take our freedom!”

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Spartacus is an epic not unlike Ben Hur, and apparently it was Kirk Douglas’ response to not getting the part of the Judean hero. Clocking in at well over 3 hours each, we’re grateful to Edgar Wright and the list for finally convincing us to watch them because they are fantastic.

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As an added bonus, Roman uniforms always remind us of Asterix

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We loved the political games, the old slave couple, Batiatus (for some reason, ’cause he’s a bit of a bastard. We think it was the actor who saved him), the humour, all the men looking for consent from the women before sexy-times (as a powerplay, but still!), and the epicness of it all. If you have 3+ hours to spare, Spartacus is the way to go. It’s impossible to dislike a story of people who are mistreated and repressed and who fight back.

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Also, Tony Curtis is there, being all handsome and musical

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Now, we are sorry to end this blog entry on a sad note, but one of the reasons it has taken us two weeks to update this time is because our beloved doggo Dewin had to be put down last weekend. He was our trusty film watching partner, and the bestest boy, but he was old and sick, and in the end we had to do the only humane thing for our wonderful friend. We will always remember his enthusiasm when watching anything with animals, particularly westerns with lots of horses, and (for some reason) Ingmar Bergman films. He loved Bergman. He was a better and more sophisticated man than us. Thank you for the good times, Dewin. We love you.

 

What we learned: I’m Spartacus.

Next time: The Apartment (1960)

#136 The Night of the Hunter

Watched: September 17 2017

Director: Charles Laughton

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, James Gleason, Evelyn Varden, Peter Graves, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 32min

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Harry Powell (Mitchum) is a preacher on a killing spree – a self-appointed Soldier of God on a mission to rid the world of attractive widows.

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“The Lord said not to have sex before marriage. I don’t remember reading anything about sex being mandatory once you’re married, so… You’re on your own, wifey!”

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He serves a stint in prison for driving a stolen car (very Christian of him) and shares a cell with robber Ben Harper (Graves). Harper tells his cell mate about his family and Powell figures out Ben’s children know the whereabouts of the money from the robbery.

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The best way to earn the trust of children is to take their father’s place

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Powell tracks down Harper’s bereaved widow and successfully woos her (with help from the very busy Icey Spoon [Varden]), set on learning her children’s secret. However, son John (Chapin) is not a fool, and he never trusts his new step-father.

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“SHOW ME THE MONEY!”

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When Powell’s misogyny, frustration and general disposition drives him to kill his new wife, the children grab the money and go on the run, drifting down the river in their boat in search of a safe haven, which they find in the form of Rachel Cooper (Gish). But Powell is not about to give up on “his” fortune…

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This is what you get for wanting to have sex with your husband

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We have no words to express how much we loved The Night of the Hunter. A serial killer (who may have been the inspiration for characters in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Carnivale), resourceful children, absolutely beautiful imagery (even the above picture of dead Willa Harper (Winters) is eerily gorgeous in its grotesqueness), and the exquisite Lillian Gish are the main ingredients which made us fall, but there was nothing about it we didn’t love.

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A badass lady with a shotgun. Need we say more?

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It’s scary and stunning, creepy, sad and hopeful. We loved the shadows, the music, the knuckle tattoos and the performances. Will definitely watch again.

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Lillian f**king Gish. Just amazing.

What we learned: It’s a hard world for little things.

Next time: The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

#26 The Old Dark House

Watched: August 27 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 12min

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Sometimes titles are just a perfect summary of the plot. A bickering couple in a car are caught in a storm and soon the road is undrivable. Luckily(?) for them and their hoot-and-a-half passenger (Douglas, who’s amazingly sarcastic and funny) they spot an old (dark) house and make their way there to take shelter from the storm. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Seems a perfectly charming and not at all sinister place to spend the night.

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Upon knocking on the door, they are greeted by The Karloff who mumbles something incoherent to which Douglas comments “Even Welsh ought not sound like that!” Karloff turns out to be the dumb servant to house owners Rebecca and Horace Femm (Thesiger, who looks strangely like Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera), an old creepy sister and brother duo who are less than thrilled about their unexpected visitors. It’s almost as if they’re hiding something in the house they do not want outsiders to see… Still, they reluctantly invite the guests to stay the night and offer them dinner.

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Not even a creepy manservant and a flimsy dress can relieve the tension

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Soon, another couple join them as they too are caught in the storm. This does very little to raise the spirit of Ms. Rebecca Femm (no one can have beds!) but romance blossoms and drinks are had.

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The hosts are thrilled about the whole affair!

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This film was awesome! It’s one of the ones we’ve heard of several times but have never actually seen before. While we expected suspense and horror, we were not at all prepared for how hilarious this film truly is. The dialogue, the gags and the characters, not to mention the use of wonky mirrors and shadows to create the eerie atmosphere, all make this another new favourite to play at parties (which might explain why no one comes to our parties). We’ll definitely watch it again at some point.

What we learned: This is a local house for local people – there’s nothing for us here!

Next time: 42nd Street (1933)