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February 2, 2016

Color Behind-the-Scenes Photos From the Making of 'Spartacus'

Critics, to absolutely no one’s surprise, were sharply divided over Spartacus when it was first released. TIME magazine called it “a new kind of Hollywood movie: a super-spectacle with spiritual vitality and moral force.” The New York Times‘ long-time film critic, meanwhile, dismissed the movie as “heroic humbug.” Over the years, most reviewers and movie fans, alike, have come around to the view that, while the film has its problems — its pacing alone drives some viewers to distraction — Spartacus remains one the most successful admixtures of action-flick and high-minded drama ever attempted .

The film’s eponymous star, Kirk Douglas, had teamed with Kubrick a few years earlier, in 1957, on one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made — the lean masterpiece, Paths of Glory. Everything about Spartacus was different, more complex, bigger than that first Douglas-Kubrick pairing.

Here, a collection of rare color photos from the Spartacus set by LIFE’s J.R. Eyerman, who, along with writer David Zeitlin, spent time chronicling behind-the-scenes action on the massive, $12 million production.

Laurence Olivier (right) on the set of Spartacus, 1959.

Extras on the set of Spartacus, 1959.

On the set of Spartacus.

Kirk Douglas on the set of Spartacus, 1959.

On the set of Spartacus.

A view of the gladiator ring on the set of Spartacus, 1959.

The Roman Senate.

A boom microphone slips into the frame of a photo capturing the famous "snails and oysters" scene between Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis.

Having dispatched the luckless gladiator trainer, Marcellus, confident slaves prepare to launch their inspiring, albeit doomed rebellion.

Characters played by Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov — as Batiatus, the owner of a gladiator school — confer during a scene.

Shockers abound [in the film] ... as Spartacus the slave leader deals a grisly death to cruel Marcellus, the gladiator trainer (Charles McGraw), by holding his head in a hot pot of stew until he perishes in the greasy stuff.

Marcellus the gladiator trainer receives his just desserts.

Kirk Douglas and Woody Strode film a scene on the set of Spartacus in 1959.

World War II vet, decathlete and football star-turned-actor Woody Strode, as the gladiator Draba. Todd von Hoffman, author of The Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness, once wrote that Strode was "one of the most ridiculously perfect human specimens to ever walk the Earth." Note the camera peeking in from the lower left.

Kirk Douglas and athlete-turned-actor Woody Strode battle in a scene from Spartacus.

(Photos: J.R. Eyerman—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)



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