Spartacus (1960)

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German title Spartacus
Original title Spartacus
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1960
length 198 minutes
Age rating FSK 12 (previously 16)
Director Stanley Kubrick
script Dalton Trumbo
production Kirk Douglas
Edward Lewis
for Bryna Productions
music Alex North
camera Russell Metty
Clifford Stine
cut Robert Lawrence

Spartacus is an American monumental and historical film from 1960 directed by Stanley Kubrick with Kirk Douglas , who produced the film, in the lead role. It is based on the true story of the slave revolt in ancient Rome . Since little is known about the historical Spartacus , this portrayal of his life is largely fictional. The script was based on Howard Fast 's novel of the same name.


The Thracian slave Spartacus has been forced to work in the mining industry in the Roman province of Libya since his childhood. When he tries to help another slave, he is whipped for it. He rebels and bites the slave overseer in the leg. He is sentenced to death by starvation.

Lentulus Batiatus , who runs a gladiator school, visits the quarry and is impressed by Spartacus' character and good physical condition. He buys him with six other slaves and takes him to his gladiator school . Here in Capua , Spartacus experiences how the slaves are humiliated and trained by the former gladiator and instructor Marcellus, so that one day they will fight each other in the arenas for life and death.

He befriends Crixus , Dionysius and David. He rejects the slave Varinia, who is assigned to him as a love servant, with the words “I am not an animal!” And renounces her “use”. When the general Marcus Licinius Crassus with his wife Claudia Marius, together with the commanding officer of the Roman Guard, Marcus Publius Glabrus , and his wife Helena Glabrus pays a visit to the gladiator school, the latter demands two fights - something that is actually not usual in the gladiator school To see life and death. The women choose their partners: Crixus has to play against Gallino and Spartacus against Draba. Spartacus is defeated, but survives the fight because his friend Draba does not have the heart to kill him. Instead, he throws his trident at the audience, but he does not kill them and has to die.

When Spartacus learns that Varinia has been sold to Crassus, that's the drop that brings the barrel to overflow: Spartacus kills the sadistic instructor Marcellus and rebels. Other gladiators follow him and they take control of the overseers. Spartacus, whom the others see as their leader, intervenes when slaves seek revenge on the overseers. He wants to follow a higher ideal than the Romans.

Spartacus unleashes a slave revolt and starts a revolt against Rome . The Roman Senate reacted with concern and instructed them to take military action against the slaves at the initiative of the tribune Gracchus, Marcus Publius Glabrus. Gracchus also ensures that his friend Gaius Julius Caesar Glabrus' post as commander of the Roman Guard is transferred. Crassus and Gracchus are bitter opponents: the patrician Crassus wants to usurp power in Rome dictatorially, which Gracchus, who is on the side of the common people, wants to prevent absolutely. With Caesar at the head of the guard, he can wrest control of Rome from Crassus.

More and more slaves join the revolt, among them Crassus' personal slave Antoninus and Varinia, who is soon expecting a child from Spartacus. Spartacus rents 500 ships from Tigranes, the negotiator of the Cilician pirates , with which the ex-slaves want to travel from Brundisium to their home countries. After Tigranes' warning, Spartacus is able to repel the attack by Glabrus, who now has to answer humiliated before the Roman Senate.

After Spartacus defeated two Roman legions in Megapontum, the ships promised by Tigranes let him down because Crassus bribed the pirates. Crassus, on whose side Caesar has meanwhile changed, offers the Senate his legions in the fight against the slaves and in return finally gets his long-sought political power. Spartacus learns that there is not only an army under Pompey in Regium, but also that Lucullus will soon arrive with another army in Brundisium, because Spartacus is to be forced to flee towards Rome, where Crassus is to defeat him with another army. Spartacus has no choice but to move to Rome.

Spartacus and his army face Crassus in the decisive battle. During the battle, Pompey and Lucullus appear, which allows the battle to be won. Crixus is also among the victims. Crassus promises life to the losers if they hand Spartacus over to him. But even in defeat the slaves stick together; so the prisoners rise up (among them also Antoninus, Dionysius and David) and claim: "I am Spartacus!"

Crassus takes Varinia, who has had her child in the meantime, with him, as 40 women captured had been hiding with their children on a hill. He had 5,000 of the survivors crucified along the Via Appia . On the other hand, he lets Spartacus and Antoninus fight each other until one of the two dies; the victor of the battle is also to be crucified. Spartacus feels compelled to kill his friend to save him from dying on the cross. Gracchus, branded a traitor by Crassus, helps Varinia to escape in order to get revenge on Crassus. Then he takes his own life to avoid Crassus' terror. When Batiatus brings Varinia out of town, she tearfully shows the crucified Spartacus their son, who will now live in freedom.


In addition to starring, Kirk Douglas was the executive producer. For the monumental "star vehicle" Spartacus he had hired the director Anthony Mann , but after the first few days of shooting there was a difference of opinion between the two, whereupon Mann was fired and Douglas entrusted the then relatively unknown Stanley Kubrick with the direction. He had been in Paths of Glory (Paths of Glory) worked with him.

For Kubrick it was the first and only film in which he did not have unlimited artistic freedom. Thereupon he decided not to make any more films in the future that would require creative compromises.

The choice of the screenwriter also caused a stir. Kirk Douglas undertook Dalton Trumbo , who in the 1950s during the McCarthy era as one of the Hollywood Ten on the blacklist of the HUAC had stood.

The film had to go through a lot of editing. Among other things, a scene between Laurence Olivier (Crassus) and Tony Curtis (Antoninus) was deleted. In this scene, in which ancient bisexuality is shown, Crassus tries to seduce Antoninus while Antoninus is bathing him ("I eat oysters and snails"). When Robert A. Harris restored the film in 1991, this scene was added afterwards. However - as Tony Curtis explained in several interviews - the scene was filmed without sound because it was apparently assumed that it would fall victim to censorship anyway. Since Olivier had already died in 1989, Anthony Hopkins dubbed Crassus, and Tony Curtis dubbed Antoninus, which he portrayed.

For the role of Varinia, Ingrid Bergman , Jeanne Moreau and Elsa Martinelli were also considered before the German Sabine Bethmann was chosen . Kubrick cast the role to go to Jean Simmons .

The sometimes brutal depiction of violence, for which Kubrick was also known in his later films, was mostly rejected at the time. The film was only released from the age of 16. The nude representation of Jean Simmons as well as the crucifixion scenes at the end of the film contributed to this. The film was, however, re-evaluated later and received the Certificate 12 years.


The synchronization took place in 1960 at Berliner Synchron GmbH under the direction of Volker Becker.

role actor Dubbing voice
Spartacus Kirk Douglas Arnold Marquis
Marcus Licinius Crassus Laurence Olivier Siegfried Schürenberg
Varinia Jean Simmons Marion Degler
Sempronius Gracchus Charles Laughton Eduard Wandrey
Lentulus batiatus Peter Ustinov Fritz Tillmann
Julius Caesar John Gavin Horst Niendorf
Helena Glabrus Nina Foch Tilly Lauenstein
Crixus John Ireland Jan Hendriks
Tigranes Levantus Herbert Lom Alfred Balthoff
Marcus Publius Glabrus John Dall Dietmar Schönherr
Marcellus Charles McGraw Ernst Wilhelm Borchert
Claudia Marius Joanna Barnes Bettina Schön
David Harold J. Stone Heinz Petruo
Draba Woody Strode Alexander Welbat
Ramon Peter Brocco Heinz Welzel
Guardian Robert J. Wilke Rolf Defrank
Dionysius Nick Dennis Otto Czarski
Officer Caius John Hoyt Paul Wagner
Laelius Frederick Worlock Knut Hartwig
Antoninus Tony Curtis Herbert Stass
Symmachus Dayton Lummis Kurt Waitzmann

For the new, uncut version from 1991, new voices had to be selected for the inserted scenes because either the old speakers had already died or were no longer available. The names of the new speakers - if known - are as follows:

role actor Dubbing voice
Marcus Licinius Crassus Laurence Olivier Norbert Langer
Antoninus Tony Curtis Stephan Schwartz

Historical inaccuracies

In many respects the film does not stick to historical facts. At no time did Gaius Julius Caesar command the Praetorian Guard of Rome, which at that time did not even exist; at the time of the uprising he had not yet started his political career. Research also assumes that the historical Spartacus died in battle and not, as shown in the film, on the cross. Nor did Crassus ever become a dictator in Rome (but he did hold the consulate in 70 BC ). The idea that he, as commander in chief, led the Roman army sent to fight the slaves does not correspond to the actual course, although he actually played an important role in the fighting. The figure of Sempronius Gracchus, modeled after the historical Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, is invented (the real tribune was dead for over 60 years at the time of the Spartacus uprising; the office of the people's tribune was also temporarily almost meaningless at the time of the uprising due to the previous Sullan reforms). According to the film, the likewise fictional character of the slave girl Varinia comes from Britain , which, however, was actually only entered by Roman troops for the first time twenty years after the plot of the film and was not permanently occupied until 43 AD. The retiarius type of gladiators did not exist at this time either.


“A freedom fighter saga with melodramatic and sentimental accents in a free interpretation of historical facts and a strong simplification of events. The film gives an impression of this first revolutionary freedom movement alone in the extraordinary composition of the crowd scenes and combative conflicts. In 1992 the reconstructed, uncut original version of the film was released in cinemas ( OmU ); With all the dramaturgical weaknesses and social-historical simplifications, hitherto undiscovered stimuli reveal themselves here, for example the homoerotic undertones of the fable. "


  • Also in 1961 there was a BAFTA nomination for best film.
  • Kirk Douglas and Peter Ustinov were recognized for their roles at the Laurel Awards .
  • later awards from the renowned American Film Institute :
    • 81st place in the 2007 list of the 100 best films of all time (1998: not yet considered)
    • Number 62 on the list of the 100 Best Thrillers of All Time
    • The role of Spartacus played by Kirk Douglas reached number 22 in the list of the 50 greatest movie heroes of all time
    • # 44 on the list of the 100 most inspiring films
    • Number 5 on the list of the 10 greatest screen epics of all time

"I am Spartacus!"

At the dramatic climax of the film, the slaves are asked to betray their leader, Spartacus, in order to save their own lives. In the documentary Trumbo (2007) about the denounced screenwriter, it is assumed that this is an allusion to the McCarthy era , in which denunciation was required.

In his next film Lolita , Kubrick included a corresponding insider gag: Humbert Humbert asks Clare Quilty: “Are you Quilty?”, To which Clare replies: “No, I'm Spartacus. Are you here to free slaves? "

The 1979 Monty Python film The Life of Brian parodies the scene. A Roman asks those hanging on the cross which of them is Brian, because he should be pardoned. Then everyone shouts that they are Brian.

In 2005, Pepsi-Cola used the famous quote in a television advertisement in which a Roman legionnaire is supposed to find someone who has ordered a packed lunch.

In the 10th episode of the 10th season of the Family Guy series, the famous scene is also alluded to in a short sequence. Peter Griffin reveals the real Spartacus here, which he comments with a succinct “I'm not afraid to stand up for my friends”.


In 2004 Robert Dornhelm published the remake Spartacus .

Blu-ray and DVD

  • For the 55th anniversary, an improved resampling in 4k on Blu-ray was released in 2015, in which the sharpness and gloss of the Technicolor colors come into their own.
  • Spartacus. Special edition . 2 DVD set, Universal 2004


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Retronews: Bad luck for Sabine Bethmann | Retrieved July 6, 2020 .
  2. a b synchronous files
  3. Spartacus. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  4. ^ Martin M. Winkler: Spartacus: Film and History. Wiley-Blackwell, 2007, ISBN 1-4051-3181-0 , pages 6-7
  5. ^ Creativity Online, Pepsi: Spartacus