By all accounts, Spartacus is the least "Kubrickian" of all of Stanley Kubrick's films, and yet it was the film that made me a fan. After seeing it at an early age, I was eager to check out his other work, but I was perhaps thankfully not shown more until I was smart (or maybe just old) enough to appreciate it. Today, the film maintains a tenuous sort of longevity as Kubrick's mainstream breakthrough, and probably ranks high in audiences' collective memories as one of the better biblical epics made during the 1950s and '60s.
Of course, I say "probably," because it's a movie that a lot of people remember, but not as many have seen recently. But Universal's recently-released Blu-ray gave me an opportunity to revisit the film in high definition. Much has already been said about the new transfer, which restoration expert Robert Harris said was abysmal – and he should know, since he assembled the version that Criterion released a few years ago. (Personally, while I defer to Harris' expertise, I would say that the film looks pretty amazing at 50+ years old, and more casual fans of the film will be duly satisfied by this presentation.)
But notwithstanding the controversy over its remastering, I was especially curious to see if Spartacus continued to survive as any kind of superlative example of Kubrick's filmmaking. As such, the film is the subject of this week's "Shelf Life."