Spartacus (Bryna Productions; Universal-International) is a new kind of Hollywood movie: a superspectacle with spiritual vitality and moral force. Quality, of course, is not permitted to inhibit quantity. Shot in a widescreen, full-color process known as Super-Technirama 70. Spartacus runs for 3 hr. 25 min., including a brief intermission, employs 100 major sets, 8,000 extras and far more big names than most marquees can carryamong them Kirk Douglas. Sir Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton. Peter
Ustinov, Tony Curtis, John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Dall, Herbert Lorn, John Ireland. Even in reserved-seat release at advanced prices ($1-50-$3.50 ), the movie will have to run for at least a year before it returns an investment ($12 million) that comes close to matching the average annual revenue of the Roman Republic in the time of Spartacus.
Spartacus, hailed by Plutarch as a man "in understanding and gentleness superior to his condition," was the leader of a band of 78 slaves who in the year 73 B.C. escaped from a training school for gladiators at Capua, 130 miles south of Rome. Eluding the Roman garrison, the gladiators stole weapons, pillaged estates, and freed thousands of slaves (who then made up four-fifths of the population of Rome). After two years of revolt, during which he defeated nine armies sent against him by the Roman Senate, Spartacus commanded a force of 90,000, cavalry and foot. Emboldened by their victories, his men finally forced him to fight a pitched battle against the main body of the Roman army, commanded by Crassus. In the unequal fight Spartacus himself was cut to pieces, the slave army finally destroyed, and its 6,000 survivors crucified along the Appian Way.
In all ages since, Spartacus has been revered as the patron saint of revolutions. In this century the Communists have claimed him, and both Howard Fast (now an ex-Communist) and Arthur Koestler (now an antiCommunist) have written historical novels about the heroic slave. The script of this picturebased on Fast's book and written by longtime Far Leftist Dalton Trumbo, whose name until recently led the Hollywood blacklistplays Fast and loose with the historical facts.
Crassus, actually only a competitor for the consulship while Spartacus was on the loose, is presented as the Dictator of Rome. To compound the cinematic crime, Caesar, the empire builder, is portrayed by Actor Gavin, a rose-lipped, sloe-eyed young man who looks as though he never got to the first conjugation, let alone the Gallic Wars. And Antoninus, a Roman poet, is played by Actor Curtis with an accent which suggests that the ancient Tiber was a tributary of the Bronx River. To these blunders is added the customary quota of glaring goofs (a map of Italy that looks like nothing seen in Rome before the 19th century), slobbery sentiment ("Be gentle with me. I'm going to have a baby"), a generous helping of cheesecake (Actress Simmons takes a bath in which she womanfully breasts the waves), and barrels of bright red, fresh-from-the-paint-can blood.