For, May 16, 2014

Stanley Kubrick, after establishing himself as a talent to watch with several low-budget films in the 1950s, got his first big break at age 30 with "Spartacus" (1960), an epic sword-and-sandal "true story" (more or less).

Nonetheless, Kubrick disowned the film and declined to include it in his personal canon because of interference from the studio (Universal) and his producer-star (Kirk Douglas). It is the only movie Kubrick could not control in minute detail from beginning to end, so he was dissatisfied with it, despite its enormous box-office and critical success.

As Kubrick followed his muse for the rest of his career and maintained complete control, he gave us such renowned films as "2001 — A Space Odyssey" (1968), "Dr. Strangelove" (1964) and "The Shining" (1980), among others. Hard to argue with most of his choices.

But in moviemaking, it's not a bad idea to work as a team. Film really is a collaborative effort, and despite such film geniuses as Kubrick, Hitchcock, Ford, Capra, Huston, Spielberg and others, having amazing track records as directors of singular vision, each creating too many iconic films to list, it's still note a bad idea to listen to others once in awhile. Despite all their successes, each of these filmmakers has flopped here and there, and even some of their best films have moments of excess that could have benefited from editing in some form.


            Woody Strode and Kirk Douglas in the epic 'Spartacus.'       

Despite Kubrick's reservations about the end result, most movie fans and critics agree that "Spartacus" remains a great film, one of the finest epics of the 1960s cast-of-thousands period of biblical-era us-against-the-Romans widescreen motion pictures.

In many ways, this is, despite its scope, a very personal character study and Douglas is in peak form in the title role as the real-life historical figure, a rebel slave-turned-gladiator who leads an army in open rebellion against Rome.

Excellent support from Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis and Peter Ustinov certainly doesn't hurt.

This is another movie that really deserves to be seen on a theater screen, free of distractions. And now's your chance. It's showing as part of the Cinemark Classic Series in various Cinemark theaters on Sunday (May 18) at 2 p.m. and Wednesday (May 21) at 2 and 7 p.m.