Spartacus (movie, 1960)

Spartacus is an American film of Stanley Kubrick released in 1960 , adapted from the novel by Howard Fast .


Stanley Kubrick conducts Kirk Douglas

73 av. J.-C. Spartacus is a Thracian slave who is made to work in the mines of Lydia . He is noticed and bought by Lentulus Batiatus , owner of a gladiator school in Capua , where he is supported by coach Marcellus who introduces him to the gladiator’s profession. He becomes acquainted with other slaves, including Draba the Black and Crixus . He is also interested in Varinia, one of the slaves Marcellus sometimes gives as a reward for a gladiator night that earned him.

Crassus soon arrives at the Gladiator School with his wife, Marcus Glabrus’s brother, and his wife. He asks Batiatus, to celebrate the recent marriage of his brother-in-law, to fight two pairs of gladiators until death. Spartacus is selected to fight against Draba, the Ethiopian, in the arena. He is defeated but Draba refuses to kill him and throws his trident towards the box of the spectators. He then rushes up the platform but Crassus kills him with a dagger .

Disgusted with the death of Draba and the provocation of Marcellus, who reveals that Varinia was bought by Crassus, Spartacus attacks Marcellus, which leads to the revolt of the gladiators. Marcellus is slaughtered by Spartacus, and Batiatus, seeing that he will not come to the end of the rebellion , saves himself by taking Varinia with him. Spartacus becomes the leader of this troop which plans to free the Roman slaves and to escape from Italy thanks to the boats of the pirate pilots.

In the Senate of Rome , the plebian Sempronius Gracchus, declared opponent of Crassus, makes vote a motion giving Marcus Glabrus , head of the garrison of Rome and protected Crassus, the command of an army in charge of the slavery revolt which is are refugees on the flanks of Vesuvius . Meanwhile, Caesar , ally of Gracchus, takes command of the garrison of the city. At the moment of the departure of Glabrus’s army, Antoninus, a slave poet of Crassus, escapes and leaves to rejoin the rebels.

These cut into pieces the army of Glabrus. The goal of Spartacus is to cross Italy to his men, as far as the sea, where he will pay the Cilician pirates to embark them on their boats and transport them as far as possible from Rome. At the beginning of the trip, he was joined by Varinia, who managed without much trouble to get out of the clutches of Batiatus. They become lovers and Varinia soon becomes pregnant with him.

When the slaves arrive at the coast, the Cilician leader tells them he will not be able to ship them because Crassus paid for their fleet to set sail. He only offers to board Spartacus, Varinia and some of his other officers on his personal boat but Spartacus refuses and has him thrown out of the camp. He is preparing to face the Roman armies . In Rome, Crassus promised to crush the rebellion on condition that he be named dictator , and the Senate agreed despite Gracchus’ protests. Slaves soon see the threat become clearer. The army of Crassus arrives from Rome and is supported by that of Pompey , who comes from Calabria , and that of Lucullus, who has just landed at Brundisium .

The slave army suffers a complete defeat and Crixus is killed in battle. Spartacus and Antoninus are taken prisoner. On the battlefield , Crassus finds Varinia, who has just given birth, and brings her back to Rome. He had coveted her ever since he had seen her in the house of Batiatus at Capua. Crassus promises the captives that they will not be punished if they deliver Spartacus to them. To his surprise, everyone says, ” I am Spartacus!  “. The victor condemns them to be crucified all along the Appian Way to the gates of Rome. He orders that Antoninus and Spartacus, chained to each other, be the last to be crucified.

Batiatus, ruined by the revolt of his gladiators, wants to take revenge on Crassus, whom he accuses of being the cause of his misfortune. He returns to Rome and joins Gracchus, now disgraced. This one gives him money to remove Varinia and take it to Gaul where she will find freedom. After their departure, Gracchus commits suicide .

Meanwhile, Crassus, to whom Caesar rallied, was at the gates of Rome and ordered Spartacus and Antoninus to fight a duel to the death. The winner will then be put on the cross. Spartacus wins the fight and it is he who is crucified near the walls of Rome. The next morning, Batiatus and Varinia leave the city by the Appian way and see Spartacus, still dying on his cross. Varinia shows him his son by declaring that he will be a free citizen before moving away in the cart with his former master.

Technical sheet

  • Title: Spartacus
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Making scenes of the slave camp in Libya: Anthony Mann
  • Scenario: Dalton Trumbo , based on Howard Fast’s novel
  • Historical and Technical Adviser: Vittorio Nino Novarese
  • Artistic direction: Alexander Golitzen , Eric Orbom
  • Sets: Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron
  • Costumes: Peruzzi , Valles and Bill Thomas for Jean Simmons costumes
  • Makeup: Bud Westmore
  • Hairstyles: Larry Germain
  • Photography: Russell Metty and Clifford Stine (additional views)
  • Sound: Waldon O. Watson , Joe Lapis , Murray Spivack and Ronald Pierce
  • Editing: Robert Lawrence  ( picture), Arnold Schwarzwald (sound)
  • Music: Alex North
    • Musical Direction: Alex North and Joseph Gershenson
  • Production: Kirk Douglas and Edward Lewis
  • Production Companies: Bryna Productions, Inc. , and Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
  • Distribution Company: Universal Pictures
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Original language: English
  • Budget: 13 million $
  • Box Office: 60 000 000 $
  • Format: Colors ( Technicolor )
    • original version: (Super Technirama 70 stereo 6 tracks) and 35 mm – 2.35: 1 – Mono sound ( Westrex Recording System )
    • restored version of 1991 : 70 mm – 2,20: 1 – Stereo 6 tracks
  • Genre: Historical film , peplum
  • Duration: 184 minutes (cinema), 197 minutes (restored, 1991)
  • Poster for France: Yves Thos
  • Release dates:
    •  United States :( New York ), (national release)
    •  France :
    •  United States :, (restored version, first in New York )
    •  France :, (restored version), Deauville American Film Festival


  • Kirk Douglas (VF: Roger Rudel ) : Spartacus
  • Laurence Olivier (VF: Jean Davy 1 ) : Crassus
  • Peter Ustinov (VF: Roger Carel ) : Lentulus Batiatus
  • Jean Simmons (VF: Arlette Thomas ) : Varinia
  • Tony Curtis (VF: Hubert Noël ) : Antoninus
  • Charles Laughton (VF: Paul Bonifas ) : Gracchus 2
  • Woody Strode : Draba
  • John Ireland (VF: Raymond Loyer ) : Crixus
  • Joanna Barnes (VF: Martine Sarcey ) : Claudia
  • Peter Brocco (VF: Jean Berton ) : Ramon
  • Nina Foch ( FW : Jacqueline Porel ) : Helena Glabrus
  • John Gavin (VF: Roland Menard ) : Jules Cesar
  • Herbert Lom (VF: Serge Nadaud ) : Tigranus
  • John Dall (VF: Jean Berger ) : Glabrus
  • Charles McGraw (VF: Jean Clarieux ) : Marcellus
  • Frederic Worlock : Laelius
  • Vic Perrin (VF: Paul-Émile Deiber ) : the narrator
  • Ted de Corsia (uncredited): a legionnaire
  • Harold J. Stone (VF: William Sabatier ) : David
  • Woody Strode – The Reborn Gladiator
  • Paul Lambert
  • Robert J. Wilke : The captain of the guards
  • Nicholas Dennis
  • John Hoyt
Uncredited Actors
  • Arthur Batanides : Legionnaire
  • Harold Goodwin : Slave
  • James Griffith : Otho
  • Dayton Lummis : Symmachus
  • Richard Farnsworth


  • On their entry into the city of Metaponto , Spartacus’ troops marched in the middle of dwellings that seemed by no means of time.
  • Near Brindisi , rebels sketch dance steps that, like the music accompanying them, are medieval. In horseback scenes, riders have stirrups , accessories unknown in Roman times.
  • On several occasions, Spartacus considers possible military movements using a map of the Italian boot; on this last (where the Sardinian and Corsican coasts are very precisely drawn) the names of localities interesting the plot are carried in contemporary Latin characters. In addition, these cards are much more accurate than vintage cards; and these are maps of contemporary Italy.
  • While the majority of “Spartacists” sleep on a beach, modern candles illuminate some members of the revolt staff again consulting a plan.
  • In the sequence where the gladiator riot occurs in Batiatus, the alert is given by whistles similar to the modern whistles of the urban police.
  • Crassus only became consul after the end of the slave revolt.
  • Caesar exercised military command only later, being too young at that time.
  • The equipment of the legionaries presents elements of the imperial era.
  • There was no garrison in Rome at that time.
  • At one point Crassus is indignant in these terms “No way to pass for clowns”. The first clown will appeared at the end of the xvi th century.
  • In the film, most actors and actresses have hairstyles that were fashionable in the late 1950s , which many historians have not failed to point out, like a great anachronism. In some scenes of the film, Kirk Douglas would even have gel in his hair.
  • At the end of the film, Spartacus is shown dying crucified. For some historians of antiquity, including Tacitus, Spartacus died in combat, and formally identified a few hours after his death. Similarly, Spartacus did not want to be taken alive by the envoys of Rome.
  • In the film, Kirk Douglas is 43 years old. From the point of view of historians, it appears that gladiators would die, or would cease to be gladiators before the age of 34, with a gladiator’s life expectancy being very short. Gladiators over 30 were rare. It might happen that former gladiator slaves were pardoned, by notables, or emperors, and they then passed on to another activity, for the few survivors. If physically so, the age of Kirk Douglas could be questionable, at the time, in antiquity, it was quite unthinkable to see a gladiator reaching the forties, and above, exceed it.


  • Kirk Douglas , interested in Fast’s novel, decided to produce it and asked Trumbo to adapt it. Douglas bravely protected Trumbo, who had been ” blacklisted ” and had to start work on the film under the pseudonym Sam Jackson. By the end of the film’s production, the Hollywood blacklist was out of date and Trumbo could be duly credited. ref.  desired]
  • The novelist Howard Fast and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo had been condemned by the Committee on Un-American Activities . Victims of McCarthyism , they narrated all their impulses of human freedom. The scenario includes many anticipatory allusions to American history and the political debates of its time: for some, Spartacus is pre-Christian, for others, pre-communist, etc. ref.  desired]
  • David Lean was first contacted to make the film, but he refused; we then asked Laurence Olivier to do, but he refused too, arguing that the dual role of actor and director would be too taking 3 . Anthony Mann then took the direction of the film, but was fired by Kirk Douglas after only two weeks of filming (scenes of stone quarries), Douglas considered too docile to the actors of film 4 . Douglas then hired Stanley Kubrick , who began to turn in February 1959 5 .
  • In 1990, Universal started a restoration of the film, which was made by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz . The new version incorporates scenes cut during the previous editing, including the “snails and oysters scene” 6 . As Laurence Olivier died at that time, Anthony Hopkins was asked to say Crassus’s dialogue. The restored version was presented April 21, 1991 in New York for the benefit of the American Film Institute 5 .

Around the film

  • The film takes liberties with the historical Spartacus . The latter, for example, was not the leader of the slave revolt, but just one of his most important figures. He would have died in combat and not crucified. Only Spartacus, Crixus, Lentulus, Crassus , Gracchus, Pompey and Caesar had a historical existence, the other characters are fictitious.
  • The film also takes liberties with the gladiator fights: the equipment of Thrace (Kirk Douglas) and rétiaire (Woody Strode) are incomplete. Kirk Douglas should have had a helmet (galea), a rectangular shield (parma) and shin guards (ocreas) in addition to his curved dagger (sica) 7 . Thumb up or thumb down never existed in ancient times 8 . The phrase “Aue Caesar morituri” was never pronounced in a gladiatorial 8 . There is no referee in the arena.
  • With thirteen million dollars, the film was the second most expensive film of the time after Ben-Hur , which cost sixteen.
  • John Gavin , who plays the role of Caesar , was best known for one of the lover of Marion Crane in the movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock . Subsequently, he left the world of cinema and became American ambassador to Mexico .
  • Spartacus has many shocking scenes for their time: visions of mass graves , bloody scenes. Some of these scenes only appear in the restored version in 1991 .
  • Riccardo Freda had already made a film in 1953 on the same subject, but there are notable differences of scenario between the two films. For example, Kubrick has a total impasse on Spartacus’s past decurion and Ricardo Freda is killing the hero on the battlefield and not crucified on the via Appia . Freda also plays a very important role in Spartacus ‘romanced and totally improbable romance with Sabine, Crassus’ daughter. However, in both adaptations, ” homosexuality , very present in Howard Fast ‘s novelis erased from this ancient and virile parable about the class struggle, at the exit, the only equivocal scene ( in Kubrick’s film ) was censored ” 9 .
  • The Alex North movie soundtrack Love theme has been repeated many times, some of which have become standards like Bill Evans , Yusef Lateef , Terry Callier , Carlos Santana (on Swing of Delight ), Ahmad Jamal , etc. The theme was also sampled in 1998 by the French rapper Shurik’n in the song Manifeste (featuring with Akhenaton ), on his album Where I live .


  • The film received 4 Oscars in 1961 :
    • Best Supporting Actor for Peter Ustinov
    • Best costumes for a color film for Valles and Bill Thomas
    • Best photograph for a color film for Russell Metty
    • Best artistic direction for a color film for Alexander Golitzen , Eric Orbom , Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron
  • The film was also nominated twice at the Oscars in 1961 :
    • Best movie music for Alex North
    • Best editing for Robert Lawrence

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Gérard Rinaldi for an additional scene in the restored version
  2. ↑ Historical Gracchus is actually died 48 years before the revolt of Spartacus.
  3. ↑ According to Hollywood Reporter, October 6, 1958, quoted on the AFI website
  4. ↑ According to the autobiography of K. Douglas, quoted in the record of the AFI
  5. ↑ a and b According to a note on the AFI sheet (see external link)
  6. ↑ According to the AFI, the National Catholic Legion of Decency asked that five minutes be cut, including some scenes of battle, and what is called by some sources the “snails and oysters scene”. In this scene, Crassus is in his bath and questions Antoninus about his sexual orientation by talking about his own preferences, sometimes for snails, sometimes for oysters.
  7. ↑  [ archive ]
  8. ↑ a and b  [ archive ]
  9. ↑ Critical Cecile Mury in Télérama , o 3160/61 of 7 August 2010.

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