Spartacus: Blood and Sand - The Complete First Season – Blu-ray Review
By Frankie Dees Sep 24, 2010, 11:49 GMT
Betrayed by the Romans. Forced into slavery. Reborn as a Gladiator. The classic tale of the Republic’s most infamous rebel comes alive in the graphic and visceral new series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Torn from his homeland and the woman he loves, Spartacus is condemned to the brutal world of the arena where blood and death are primetime entertainment. But not all battles are fought upon the sands. Treachery, corruption, ...more
Starz original series ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’ starts a bit shaky but becomes an entertaining amalgam of ‘300’, ‘Gladiator’ and, yep, ‘Caligula’ - with a level of violence and nudity that would rival that apex of 70’s excess. And now all that sordidness can be yours in high-def with this impressive Blu-ray, ahem, package.
Bearing little in common with the Kubrick pic outside of swords, sandals and thongs, the creators (including Sam Raimi whose past television output has been decidedly more innocuous i.e. ‘Xena: The Warrior Princess) look more to modern sword-and-sandal gorefests, particularly Snyder’s ‘300’, as its template.
But not content to merely regurgitate that pic’s slow-motion action and CGI hacking and slashing (despite the first couple episodes trying their damndest), the show ups the ante on every conceivable level with a storyline that goes to great lengths to be fascinating outside of all the debauchery. And the debauchery certainly doesn’t hurt.
The story (very loosely based on fact) tells the story of a lowly Thracian soldier (Andy Whitfield) taken into the Roman infantry and very quickly betrayed by Roman general Claudius (Craig Parker) when Spartacus (as he will become known) refuses an order that will leave Thracians in harm’s way. Separated from his wife Sura (who is sold into slavery), he is transported to Capua where he will be executed for entertainment by gladiators.
But he fights viciously for his life and comes under the purchase of Batiatus (John Hannah, the ‘Mummy’ franchise) that sees Spartacus as a great addition to his ludus, a gladiator school. It’s here that the series starts proper where we see the machinations of Rome at its most nasty.
Batiatus along with his scheming wife Lucretia (Xena herself Lucy Lawless) try to rise above massive debts while attempting to secure a reputable position amongst the Roman elite.
All the while, Spartacus commits wholeheartedly as a gladiator with the promise that Batiatus track down his wife and return her to him safely. But the road to being the champion of Capua will not be easily traveled as current champion Crixus (Manu Bennet) has no desire to give up his mantle.
To progress further into the plot would ruin some of the surprises but rest assured these 13 episodes will fly by in a whirlwind of blood-spurting violence, hedonistic sexual depravity and edge-of-your-seat theatrics.
With the wrong cast and the wrong approach, the show might have been so over the top that it becomes a comedic campfest, but luckily the cast brings it, particularly the male cast.
Andy Whitfield makes a solid lead and like the show gets better as the episodes progress - a highlight being a latter episode where he’s forced to make a tough decision with his only friend. It’s a pretty devastating sequence and Whitfield doesn’t hit a false note.
Most entertaining though is John Hannah as Batiatus who dominates every scene he’s in with a power-hungry sneer and an impressive mastery of perceived ancient Roman swearing. Manu Bennet makes an interesting antagonist who is nothing but honorable in his consistent hatred for Spartacus.
Also notable is Lucy Lawless who does a fine job siphoning whatever is left of the screen after Hannah is done with it.
All Thirteen episodes are presented with 1080p 1.78.1 encodes that are eye-wateringly beautiful with the severed limbs, decapitated heads, strewn eyeballs, bare breasts and prosthetic penises all sharing in the glory of fine detail and bright colors. Mostly red natch. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks are equally pounding.
And not to be outdone, the extras are as comprehensive as you would want with extended editions of many episodes, tons of commentaries, trivia tracks and more. The fourth disc also includes nine separate featurettes running roughly an hour that covers various cast/crew interviews, behind-the-scenes, historical facts and fictions, etc.
This is definitely not a show for everybody (particularly those that watch a lot of television with their kids, moms or grandmothers), but for those that know what their getting in to, you can’t get much more value for your entertainment dollar.
It’s not high art but it delivers on what it sells: ‘Blood and Boobs’, err, I mean ‘Blood and Sand.’
Visit the DVD database for more information.
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&CAndy Whitfield Biography -
Andy Whitfield Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesJohn Hannah Biography -
John Hannah Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesLucy Lawless Biography -
Lucy Lawless Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesViva Bianca Biography -
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