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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


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."

It's bound to be a huge hit, here.


Amber said...

I do like those anachronisms in tv shows (I almost wrote historical anachronisms, but that would be redundant. Or a tautology? A redundant tautology? Anyway). Like when you go to museums, and there's a film presentation of the 'History of Old Montreal' or something, where the characters dressed as nuns and yeomen always have far-too-clean clothes and modern hairstyles, and nobody looks undernourished or has cholera.

Rick Spilman said...

Blood and Sand has been broadcast in the US, though only on the pay cable channel, Starz. I saw the first episode online, provided as a teaser, in several senses of the word. Lots of gore, nudity and sex. Apparently the 13 week series was a huge hit. Apparently Xena fans approved of Lucy Lawless naked and both gay and straight audiences liked the nude gladiators and slave girls. A second series has apparently been ordered.

World of the Written Word said...

That's amazing, Rick. On US TV already? And not shown in the UK or downunder yet? Good heavens! Did you notice the Maori gladiators? I suspect they were actually Samoan. Our extremely photogenic Samoan community provides lots of actors as well as bus drivers. If you get the chance, have a look at "Sione's Wedding."

Amber, I always notice their perfect teeth! It was one thing I liked about Pirates of the Caribbean, that the pirates had suitably horrible teeth.

Rick Spilman said...

I can't say I was paying too much attention to the gladiators. They certainly were a blend of various ethnicities.

You might find this amusing, an excerpt from an interview with Lucy Lawless where she discusses merkins and prosthetic penises on the set, among other things.

Lucy Lawless Talks 'Spartacus' Merkin, Prosthetic Penises

World of the Written Word said...

Good lord! I can't wait to see it -- but think I should have some breakfast, first.

I didn't know Lucy Lawless was in it. Though I have never met her, I feel a strange sort of connection. She's a New Zealander, Xena was filmed here, and a friend has a little Xena museum down south in Omarama. When the show finished she turned up at the auction of costumes and effects for fun, and ended up spending $4000. The costumes and armor are magnificent -- made in India by villagers, and the armor is real boiled leather.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joan, yes our museum is still attracting tourists and Xena fans. The costumes we have are made by New Zealand costume makers- sdesigned and made here. We have a Xena costume parts of which came from the wardrobe of the set and the rest made for us by the original costume maker. Lots of fun prop items and weapons. You can view it on www.totarapeak or on cheers Sally

Rick Spilman said...

After Xena, I will admit to thinking of your nation as New Xeland. In addition to being mildly amusing, Xena was a great showcase for the beauty of the country. Must have been great for tourism, at least until you had that regrettable outbreak of orcs.

World of the Written Word said...

The orcs, ghastly as they were, proved amazingly beneficial to tourism here. The Lord of the Rings brought a very different kind of tourist -- young, trendy, not particularly well heeled, but definitely enthusiastic. I wonder what Spartacus will do for us!