The missing link between the swords and sandals epic, and a modern action film. It’s ridiculously long, 10 minutes of initial credits, it even has an intermission in the middle.

Sometimes this is a bog standard swords and sandals oldie: big tracking shots over long mines, gladiators training in the background while patricians eat grapes, greased lens when Varinia looks at Spartacus. Oh, Kubrick greasing the lens, even the mighty start somewhere.

In other scenes, all hell breaks loose, with preposterous large scale action sequences, in the vein of The Ten Commandments.

In other intimate scenes, the Hays Code is destroyed once and for all. Naked female backs, Crassus gets a face full of gladiator blood, the whole speech about the oysters and the snails. Spartacus even chops off a Roman arm in the heat of battle.

This was only possible since they went for broke anyway, hiring Trumbo to write the script and crediting him: he was blacklisted for being a suspected Communist. This is better dramatised in Hail, Caesar!.

All this was only restored in 1991, kind of cheating. It’s the thought that counts.

Peter Ustinov is totally amazing as the brown nose head of gladiator school. He suck up to anyone, he’s sell his mother for a buck.


This is my place for ramblings about sequences of images that exploit the human visual limitation know as persistence of vision.

Ephemera of Vision