Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Spartacus: Blood and Sand: 'Lashings of saucy romping here there and everywhere'


Blood-spattered potty-mouthed live-action comic book Spartacus: Blood and Sand, made by US cable channel Starz in 2009 and getting its first UK terrestial showing on Freeview's Pick TV (that's number 11 to you and me), would be quite a fun little fantasy drama, if it wasn't for the gratuitous decapitations and fountains of blood everywhere.

Of course, if you are going to slice someone's head or leg off in a series about a Gladiator in Roman times who fights a lot, fountains of blood are probably inevitable, but the slo-mo vivid 'fetishisation' of the action is quite something to behold - if you can bear to look, that is.

Equally arresting is the liberal use of the 'c' word, lashings of saucy romping here there and everywhere, and numerous nearly nude bodies, many smeared with grease and baby-oil to indicate toil and sweat, and none of which seem to feel the cold.
Lucy Lawless and John Hannah
and their costumes - they're 'in character'

Evocative it definitely is, but whether this tale of a Gladiator who led a rebellion of slaves against the Romans is realistic or accurate is beside the point. Just like tv-ooh favourite The Tudors before it, and other sexed-up historical drama ding-dongs, accuracy and realism doesn't matter.

Spartacus himself, played by the late Andy Whitfield (he died aged 39 in September 2011 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, having withdrawn from the second series due to his illness) is imprisoned after his wife, Sura, is taken and held hostage. In order to get her back, so they can romp again in the snow, he has to fight and fight and fight, and sit about with not many clothes on showing off his muscles.

And Spartacus is one of the luckier ones - other characters don't even bother with clothes at all; extras spend entire scenes writhing in shallow pools of water like they're enjoying themselves, and snarling actors in sandals talk in whispers about the plot.

Apart from the violence - which if you decide you're going to show, perhaps it is best to make it graphic, as an indication of how gruesome and unpleasant it actually is in real life - the show is fun, and a stronger or more colourful depiction of a historical world you probably won't find, especially  with such a varying array of different accents among its actors, partly due to its international cast and New Zealand-based shooting.

But like we say, who wants accuracy. It's not like we all speak, erm... Roman.

Related stories:
Spartacus - Gods of the Arena: 'You'll go out and wonder why men aren't all wearing dirty-grey loin cloths'

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