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Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Season 1
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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.
The "sword and sandals" genre isn't exactly known for its subtlety and restraint, but even by those standards, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is deliriously, delightfully over the top. Viewers familiar with the 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the best-known version of the Spartacus tale, will recognize the basic outline of the story: a Thracian warrior with a beautiful, loving wife is betrayed by his Roman "allies" and forced into slavery, whereupon he distinguishes himself as a gladiator nonpareil and, after enduring countless indignities, leads his brethren and others in a rebellion against their oppressors. But there's a lot more Caligula than Kubrick in the 13 first-season episodes (each a bit less than an hour long) of this Starz television series, which stars Andy Whitfield in the title role and also features Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) as the wicked wife of Spartacus's owner. The fight scenes are highly stylized (the entire production seems to have taken a cue from the surreal, painterly look of 300) but extraordinarily brutal, featuring multiple dismemberments and decapitations amidst seas of slow-motion, CGI-generated blood; a gladiatorial battle in episode 5 pitting Spartacus and his rival-turned-ally Crixus (Manu Bennett) against a monster named Theokoles is definitely not for the squeamish, but that's only one of many such scenes. There's also ample sex and nudity, as the couplings involving various studly gladiators and lustful Roman noblewomen are like salacious combat between Chippendales dancers and Victoria's Secret models. Meanwhile, the personal relationships are the stuff of soap operas, with the Romans in particular depicted as relentlessly decadent, duplicitous, and power-hungry.
If this all sounds outrageously entertaining, it is, though perhaps not for everyone. And although the future of the show (which was executive produced by Spider-Man director Sam Raimi) is in doubt due to Whitfield's ongoing battle with cancer, we'll always have this season to revel in. Bonus material in the four-disc set includes audio commentary on a variety of episodes and a batch of featurettes, most prominently a 15-minute "making of" documentary. --Sam Graham
- Featurettes: Gladiator Camp, History Rewritten, Make-up Effects, The Hole And more!
- Audio Commentaries
- Episodes with Enhanced Digital Effects
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage
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Top customer reviews
The episodes I've watched do look great, and there doesn't seem to be any cropping issues with the transfer to a wide screen format. The packaging is very cool, with a 3D-style image on the box and a very nice episode guide booklet inside. The box unfolds and has a nifty magnetic lock. It will look awesome in your home media collection, even though it's an odd size.
I'm hoping that Seinfeld gets the same treatment someday soon.
1. I have a US Blu-ray player, and every disc ran fine. I suspect that some people had problems because their firmware is not up to date. (If your blu-ray player has wi-fi, you’ll probably be fine.)
2. The discs run at 1080p. The pilot episode is a bit grainy, but all the rest have a great picture. It’s a softer HD than most movies use (probably because it was shot for TV) but it’s MUCH cleaner than DVD or even HDTV quality.
3. The menu always gave me the chance to resume and picked up right where it left off.
4. The menu of Season 1 is hard to navigate because they picked a bad highlight color, but the other 6 seasons’ menus are fine.
I honestly thought this deal had to be too good to be true, but I’ve got no complaints.
The only discernible quality between the DVD and Blu-Ray versions were noticeable in the first and second seasons. Other than a slight increase in sharpness on the later seasons, there's not much advantage in picture quality. This show was recorded for Standard Definition television and the Blu-Ray version doesn't increase it's quality to "upgrade" from the DVD.
When I learned that "Friends" was coming to Blu-Ray I was so excited, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Then I learned that this Blu-Ray boxed set would not contain the previously released extended episodes, but would instead have them as they appeared in the original NBC broadcast. Warner Home Video's reason for this is as follows: "The extended cuts were special versions created for the DVDs and no longer exist in a form that could be used for a Blu-ray release." ...What does THAT mean? You can transfer the short episodes but not the long ones? That makes no sense! Whatever was done to clean up the episodes that they've been showing on TV in HD, they can do for the extended episodes. I think someone just got lazy and decided this would be good enough. While I desperately want my favorite show in HD, I will not fork out over $200 for an inferior product! I know these (extended) episodes like the back of my hand, and I won't be able to truly enjoy the show with the absence of so many great scenes and lines. I'd rather watch bad resolution "Friends" in its entirety than watch a cleaned up abridged version. The only reason I'm giving this 2 stars is because it's still an awesome show, and for casual fans this might be enough. However, for fans like me this will simply not do. This reminds me of George Lucas only releasing the versions of Star Wars that nobody likes, or Peter Jackson putting out The Lord Of The Rings trilogy on Blu-Ray but waiting over a year to put out the extended versions. Warner Home Video won't be getting my money this time. Try again, guys!