Kirk wanted to play the role of Ben-Hur, but Charlton Heston beat him to it.
Michael and Kirk
Michael and Kirk
Continued from part 1…
After the long intermission, which consisted of more rousing Hollywood orchestra, the story headed for the inevitable battle scene. And it was quite an impressive one as they used eight thousand Spanish infantry soldiers as extras. There were the Roman soldiers all done up in their armour, and the slave army all done up in rags and helmets. The Roman army spent some time doing formation manoeuvres which was impressive to watch (but not as impressive as this).
The battle scene went on for a short time, and had a few scenes cut out as it was deemed too gory by test audiences. One particularly impressive scene was when the slave army pushed flaming rollers made of hay down a hill right into the Romans. The stunt dudes certainly earned their money as they were rolled over or sometimes caught briefly in the flames, which looked to be burning very hot.
Stanley Kubrick was his usual fatidious self in this film. From Wikipedia:
So precise was Kubrick, that even in arranging the bodies of the slaughtered slaves he had each “corpse” assigned with a number and instructions.
The story followed it’s logical, and not so accurate ending (the real Spartacus died in battle, but he was crucified in the film). Actually, historically it was not the most accurate film, but entertainment trumps history. In the film he met a woman and had a baby, all fiction of course because Hollywood needs some romance and kissing scenes.
Being a big Hollywood production there was a lot going on behind the scenes, mostly due to egos clashing, especially between Kubrick and the cinematograher. A screenwriter who was one of the Hollywood Ten was taken on by The Kirkster to replace the original screenwriter, which helped to break the Hollywood blacklist. Spartacus!
Stanley Kubrick ended up disowning this film although why is not clear, probably because he didn’t get his way in how the film was made.
At the box office back in the day it made back five times what it cost to make, but did not win any major Academy Awards. The Kirkster was not even nominated!
Reading about The Kirkster I found that he was an avid blogger and wrote posts on the Huffington Post which you can see here. There have not been any posts this year, but Wikipedia says he is probably the oldest celebrity blogger in the world! Spartacus!
I would not say this is an essential “epic” to watch, but it is still well worth watching, not only for The Kirkster, but also for the excellent supporting actors and the gnarly battle scene at least.
And here is a John K. blog about The Kirkster.
Date watched (part 2): August 28th
Film count 2017: 96
This is a film I have been looking forward to watching, but due to it’s three hour and sixteen minute running time I have been putting it off. But, I could put if off no longer. At the half-way point there was an actual intermission so I decided to finish watching and will continue tonight. I will also split my review into two parts.
It actual started off with an “overture” consisting of a black screen whilst some rousing Hollywood brass orchestra played a tune for several minutes. We then go into the opening scene where a narrator gives a short history lesson and introduces us to Spartacus, otherwise known as “The Kirkster”. This was the main reason I wanted to watch this film as I have become a huge Kirk Douglas fan, I think he is the champ of all Hollywood actors, past and present. And with his 101st birthday coming up this year I cannot see how any other actor will be able to best him. He was also the executive producer of this film.
The Kirkster was a bit miffed that he missed out on the role of Ben-Hur, which instead went to The Heston, so he wanted to do his own epic and helped get this film together. I have not seen Ben-Hur yet, but I imagine The Kirkster would have been just as good, if not better than The Heston.
There is a fine cast apart from The Kirkster, namely Peter Ustinov (excellent), Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Herbert Lom (he hasn’t appeared yet), Charles Laughton (also excellent as a pompous Roman), and good ol’ Woody Strode. It was directed by a young Stanley Kubrick, and was the only film he made where he did not have complete artistic control, which is obvious.
So far the story has been engaging, and despite the length moves along at a good pace. There have been some epic scenes which included hundreds of extras (the Spanish infantry no less), and some very impressive sets. What impressed me most though was The Kirkster’s strength, he was a really buff guy. There was one scene where he picked up his love interest in the story and threw her onto a horse like she was a rag doll. In another scene he lifted up an older lady who was not fat, but not thin either and lifted her into the air, again with complete ease. He also did his own stunts.
So it has been a good watch so far.
Date watched (part 1): August 26th
Score (so far): 8/10
Film count 2017: 96
Recently I learned that Kirk Douglas turned 100 last December. We all know that Kirk is a legend, but I did not realise that he is still a living legend. So, in honour of his greatness I decided to seek out a Kirk film, and found this 1958 Viking tale on Dailymotion.
The story is pretty typical stuff filled with revenge, romance, treachery, and merry Viking banquets. The Kirk plays the son of a Viking King, a rather aggressive fellow with no scruples. Early in the film he was eye-gouged by a hawk and lost one eye. I was impressed by the job makeup did on his eye, not bad for 1958.
The King, Ragnar, is played by a very merry Ernest Borgnine, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Brian Blessed based his role of Richard IV in Black Adder on Ernest’s performance… very funny.
“Drink, be merry, and be rambunctious! Hahahaha!”
Also starring was Tony Curtis as the hero of the story who is destined to become King of some part of England (England in those days was a bunch of mini kingdoms). And rounding off the excellent cast was Janet Leigh who I did not recognise until she screamed, the exact same scream she did in Psycho.
The whole gang. Remember this was taken 59 years ago.
It was filmed in Norway, which looked fantastic, at a great castle in France (being passed off an an English castle), and at a fiord in Croatia.
They also built some really good looking Viking ships. There was one great scene where the ships were making their way back into the beautiful home harbour after a successful raid on England, and the Viking crew set the oars out so that they were horizontally fixed. The crew then took turns running along the oars from the back to the front, most of them falling into the water before making it. But not The Kirk of course, he did it a couple of times without falling in (no stuntman, Kirk don’t need no stuntman).
There were some good battle scenes too. The first was when the Vikings took off to England to kidnap the fair maiden who was to marry the evil King. They intercepted her ship and had a good ‘ol sea battle with spears, arrows, and axes which continued as they boarded the English ship. The final battle scene where Tony Curtis and The Kirk fight it out with swords on the top of the French castle was also well done, with both of them doing most of the stunts. Quite often in sword or light sabre battles you will see one actor pause as he lets the other actor do his part, the choreography is good, but the timing is off. But not with The Kirk and Tony Curtis, they were really going all out.
A lovely place for a battle to the death.
So, obviously I enjoyed this one. The story was nothing original, but it was entertaining and fun. The Kirk, Tony, Ernest, and Janet were all brilliant. And if this was to be remade today I would imagine The Clooney, The Cruiser, The Shat, and Scarlett Johansson respectively taking on the main roles, but really, it does not need a remake.
This film was actually made by The Kirk’s (real name Issur Danielovitch) own production company, The Kirk don’t need no big movie studio. Here is an interview with him about the film. And needless to say, he is now on the MBMS Page of Fame.
Date watched: February 3rd
Film count 2017: 26
This is a 1949 film with Kirk Douglas.
Very standard stuff, and quite predictable with all of the usual plot points associated with films about rags-to-riches boxers. However, I did enjoy this, mostly because it had Kirk Douglas.
Kirk was impressive mostly because he either trained a lot for this film, or he was already quite the physical rumble-tumble kind of guy. He can use a jump rope like a demon, and obviously had the physique. His acting was a bit over-done at times though, but he is Kirk Douglas so all is forgiven.
I recognised a line from a Ren and Stimpy episode in this: “we’re not hitch-hiking anymore, we’re ridin’!”.
Date watched: February 27th
Film count 2016: 37
Here is the whole thing. Unfortunately the quality is not the best.