Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar-winning Technicolor ’Scope sandal saga – centred on a Roman slave revolt headed by Kirk Douglas’s titular folklore hero – has aged amazingly well. If there are any reservations, it’s Douglas himself, who trades mostly on his chiselled, dimpled jawline and well-built pecs. That said, his stiltedness eases when in the company of Jean Simmons’s coy slave girl; their short moments of laughter are touching and naturally conveyed.
Needless to say, the film’s big Brit hitters – Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier and especially Charles Laughton – all make exceptional work of Dalton Trumbo’s reflective screenplay, while Kubrick himself handles the film’s mechanics of corruption with skill. This is widescreen, epic filmmaking on a massive scale: the final battle scene – punctuated by Alex North’s quaint but occasionally overwrought score – stretches as far as the eye can see, and its choreography from afar is remarkable given the lack of communication technology back then. To see it once again on the big screen, in all its expansive glory, is a treat.