#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)

#176 Ben-Hur

Watched: April 13 2018

Director: William Wyler

Starring: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell, Sam Jaffe, Finlay Currie

Year: 1959

Runtime: 3h 32min (at least)

More numbering problems you say? See info here.

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In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

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“Uh, yeah, I’m here to register..? Yeah, with my wife. She’s about to give birth. No, no, I’m totally the father. Joseph. J-O-S-E-P-H. Know any good hotels hereabouts..?”

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We all know that story. However, this is not that story, but set in the same time. In 26 A.D. (probably not called that at the time, to be fair) Judah Ben-Hur (Heston) was a Judean prince and childhood friend of newly returned Roman tribune Messala (Boyd). Despite the intense homoeroticism of their interactions, the two have a falling out over political issues (one wants the other to sell out his people. That sort of thing).

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“God, I wish we were Greek instead of Roman…”

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After an accident involving a Roman procession and rooftop tiles, Messala finally has an excuse to arrest the Ben-Hur family and send Judah away to the galleys. His mother Miriam (Scott) and sister Tirzah (O’Donnell) are thrown in a dungeon, the family home is raided, and Judah is sent off.

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“I just thought I’d take a gap year. You know, to travel, sunbathe, grow my beard and learn about new cultures.”

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Strange destiny eventually brings the eponymous hero back to his hometown, now as an adopted Roman with a new fortune, new status in the Roman Empire, and excellent horse racing skills. His hatred for Messala has not diminished though, despite an encounter with Jesus, and he is also out for revenge and for the salvation of his family…

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We all know the best way to really humiliate someone is to beat them at their own game. And also kill them.

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Sometimes it’s hard to get in the right mood to watch an almost 4 hour epic from the ’50s, and we must admit we didn’t rush to pick this one up despite all we’ve heard of it. However, we’re glad we did as it lives up to its reputation (despite Heston’s occasional overacting). We loved the Roman perspective on Jesus, the (possibly unintended) homoeroticism between Judah and Messala, the sheikh, the general epicness of the feature, and the fact that we never actually see or hear Jesus.

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All we learn is that he has fabulous hair and can hypnotise Roman soldiers.

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We also loved the Roman uniforms, but mainly because they reminded us so much of Asterix that we spent the entire film quoting Asterix chez les Bretons (1986) and had to pull some strings to get our hands on the Norwegian dubbed version (AKA the only version worth watching) of our childhood favourite. So thank you, Kristian!

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“Er’re XVI her óg? Da har vi gått feil igjen, da.” – Classic!

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It’s easy to think Ben-Hur is a movie about horse racing (it’s by far the most famous scene), but it is really an epic saga of revenge and redemption with Jesus hanging out in the background. And a badass chariot racing scene.

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“Det skjærer meg i hjertet. Hører du, dekurion? Det skjærer meg i hjertet!” One for all Norwegian Asterix-fans. You’re welcome, people who don’t speak Norwegian and/or have no point of reference for this.

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What we learned: Romans, like most empires/powerful nations, were Biggus Dickuses.

Next time: Imitation of Life (1959)