Category Archives: kirk douglas

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Yeah, I know, I’m late to this party as this Starz TV series originally aired at the beginning of this year. Having just recently obtained Starz I had an opportunity to catch up via OnDemand, watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, despite Comcast mucking with the HD. It wasn’t that I was really that bored or had lots of time on my hands, the series was really that compelling.

Now period pieces of this type I am usually all in or all out. I’m not a sword and sandal guy, and I don’t really dig gladiator movies. They seem just a bit too gay bathhouse for me. Reality check – I haven’t even seen all of Kirk Douglas’ 1960 Spartacus by genius Stanley Kubrick. I guess I should fix that. On the other hand, I am a big fan of movies and programs about Rome and the history of that time. I loved “I Claudius” and HBO’s “Rome” for instance. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” falls solidly into the latter category. I loved it.

At first glance, I didn’t think I was going to like it though. There is a lot of the slow motion blue screen CGI effects that made things like 300, Sin City and The Spirit so visually unique. While the comparison to 300 is obvious because of the time period and the violent content, I did not mean to compare “Spartacus” to the others. This has nothing to do with Frank Miller, because this TV series is actually good.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is visually thrilling and something we haven’t ever seen on television before, and that alone makes it must-see, but there is also a compelling story, addictive characters and performances that are better than most on TV. In all aspects, this is must-see-TV.

Just one of those performances you will only be able to see in this thirteen episode series unfortunately. Title actor Andy Whitfield was stricken with cancer and will not be returning to the series in its second season, but will make a brief appearance in the prequel series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” that begins in January on Starz. He will be hard to replace, but rest assured I will be on hand for whatever comes next. This is truly great television.

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20,000 Leagues Under Turok


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ~ The 1952 Disney version is by far the best and most entertaining of this Jules Verne classic. I love the classic Disney opening with the book opening just like their animated films, even though this was their first live action film. Seeing Kirk Douglas sing “Whale of a Tale” is worth watching all by itself. Douglas and James Mason as Captain Nemo make this one rock. It does swerve into True Life Adventure territory from time to time and gets preachy in some places (as in the book) but this is still one of the best. I love Douglas’ comment about Peter Lorre’s eyes looking like soft-boiled eggs. One note about the closed-captioning on TCM however – it’s very streamlined, changing the dialogue slightly for time, and it didn’t make me very happy. Otherwise this is a great flick.

The Enchanted Cottage ~ Perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever filmed, this 1944 remake was originally written by Arthur Pinero to give hope and inspiration to soldiers who had been wounded in the first World War. It’s a magical film, and I watch it every time it airs. Heartily recommended.

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver ~ Despite the fact that they are missing at least one if not more worlds that Gulliver visited this is still a pretty entertaining flick. The highlights include a wonderful score by Bernard Herrmann and not enough effects by Ray Harryhausen. Enjoyable for kids for than adults.

Turok: Son of Stone ~ Turok first began as a Dell Comics hero back in 1954, and began a rocky (pun unintended) journey through several other comics companies, like Gold Key, and later Valiant and Acclaim. The character has long achieved cult status eventually leading the property to become a video game and now, a direct-to-DVD movie. Always a reliable formula, Turok was a Native American warrior who stumbles upon a land inhabited by dinosaurs, hilarity ensues. Yes, Turok is a great character and it’s a shame that he’s pretty much wasted here. The animation is much the same simple stuff seen in the recent Marvel DVD features, no frills stuff. About all I can recommend here is the excellent score by James Venable which is superb.