Reflections by award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett, author of many books about the sea
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010
SEXED UP SPARTACUS
Immersing myself luxuriously in the the online London Times newspaper for the first time, I was intrigued and very amused to read the review of a new sandals-and-toga epic series that is about to hit British TV screens. This is SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND, which, apparently, is guaranteed to be banned in America.
By sheer coincidence, a couple of nights ago we hauled out our old DVD of the mumbling Russell Crowe version of the Roman arena, Gladiator. I had forgotten the actual amount of gore, though the tigers did strike a chord of memory. Crowe's gladiator, Maximus, had a great motive for being a great gladiator -- revenge on the suitably effete and ghastly Commidus, who looked more Italian than the rest of the cast put together. And Spartacus had an equally heart-touching reason for slaughtering on the sand -- to save his wife from slavery.
This TV extravaganza features the early life of the hero, which, being almost completely undocumented, is supremely eligible for conversion to the flat screen TV. And gladiators had the same sexual appeal as All Blacks rugby players (though they might not have had the haka, they had the same commitment to photogenic muscles), which gives a great excuse for plenty of nakedness and sex. Hence the likelihood that it will be banned in the US.
The reviewer, though I suspect with tongue in cheek, recommends it -- well, he reckons it is better than all the other Romanesque stuff that is hitting the screen. It was low budget but spectacular, so naturally was shot in New Zealand. This, says he very thoughtfully, "might explain the surprisingly large number of Maori gladiators to be found in this version of Italy in the 1st century BC."