'Spartacus: Blood and Sand - The First Season'
(Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, Peter Mensah, Lucy Lawless, Nick Tarabay, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2010 / Starz - Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Overview: 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, and the allure of sensual pleasures will constantly test Spartacus. To survive, he must become more than a man. More than a gladiator. He must become a legend.
DVD Verdict: 'Spartacus: Blood & Sand - Season 1' is about the slave who became Rome's most notorious rebel leader. However, in this version, a Thracian who loves his wife greatly goes off to war for Rome. When it becomes clear that they are not going where they thought, he and the other Thracians desert.
Not a good idea as the commander of that Roman garrison finds he and his wife after a night of reunion love and Claudius Glaber rips the young virile Thracian from his warm pallet and wife's arms. Young Thracian guy gets carted off to be meat for the arena while the wife is sold off to slavery.
When said young Thracian snaps at the arena and slaughters the four beastmen who were to execute him, he is dubbed Spartacus by the man who buys him. Batiatus, his new owner, has a stable of gladiators. It is a family business. It is there that Spartacus will learn to fight and eventually despise his Roman masters.
As this series was filmed in New Zealand, the lead is an Australian actor named Andy Whitfield. He is lean and handsome and has an Australian accent. A lot of the actors have Australian accents. Except John Hannah (of The Mummy fame) who has a Scottish accent. I'm used these B-list series having American accents so the Australian is kind of refreshing.
There is a lot of sex in the series. Spartacus and his wife. Batiatus and his wife, Lucretia. Lucretia and the top gladiator, Crixus. So on and so forth. But hey, it is Rome. Sex is expected.
What was surprising was the gore porn. Yes, I know. This is about gladiators. But the way the filmmakers lingered on the violence really did make me go, "This is like porn except violence is the replacement of sex." Slow-mo shots of smashed faces, cut throats, and gushing blood are a-plenty.
Now, I like my violence in movies and non-network television as much as the next American consumer, but this was a lot. There are at least 3 episodes that I couldn't get through. I made it through the last episode but I was also sleepy so maybe I was too tired to remember how gory it was.
There are some things I did like. I really liked the subplot of Crixus and Navia. Both are slaves and while Crixus is a brute of a man, he is made tender, if clumsy, in Navia's presence.
But even for the elements I liked, it was so unrelentingly bloody that it was hard to focus on anything else. [SN] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Featurettes: Gladiator Camp, History Rewritten, Make-up Effects, The Hole And more!
Episodes with Enhanced Digital Effects