The final season of the Starz original series Spartacus was given the subtitle name War Of The Damned for the season. This is a fantastic mix of over the top sword and sandal comic book like violence not unlike the film 300 and a lot of decadent sex and nudity that though is not even softcore by modern standards is the closest I have ever seen in a historical action epic series set during the era when Rome ruled much of Western European civilization and was expanding it's influence as it slowly evolved from a Republic to a monarchy ruled Empire as depicted in the HBO original series Rome. I would say the only thing that goes beyond the mark set by Spartacus is the film Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell and while uncut it does cross the line with unsimulated sex scenes that were intercut into the film after the initial production ceased, much of what would be considered as XXX in the 1970s is now simply marketed as an unrated cult film.
However Spartacus in all of it's four seasons always chose the high road so please do not misunderstand my comparison to Caligula as being the same sort of thing because it is not. While Caligula may have featured Shakespearean trained actors, it never reached the pathos and drama of Spartacus: War Of The Damned. In fact Spartcus' use of the English language dialogue constructed in as close to possible Latin style and sentence structure feels Shakespearean even though it is not.
The casting is terrific as is the portrayal of Crassus (Simon Merrells) that is more three-dimensional as a character than Laurence Olivier's portrayal in the Kubrick directed and Kirk Douglas produced and starring vehicle classic.
While this is not intended to be a historically accurate account of the legend, the complete Spartacus TV series when combined with the complete HBO Rome TV series and the PBS/BBC series I'Claudius make for a compelling triple feature despite the obvious differences between the productions.
The battle scenes are amazing and despite being shot entirely indoors using green screen and practical sets, Spartacus: War Of The Damned suspends one's disbelief and never feels fake.
Anchor Bay Entertainment's Blu-ray Disc edition presents all ten episodes in their original high definition broadcast aspect ratio of (1.78:1) coupled with an aggressive English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Soundtrack and a Spanish Language Monaural Soundtrack is included as an option along with English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired as well as Spanish Language Subtitles.
Extra value features include extended cuts of nearly every episode, which means you see more than was aired on Starz. The premiere episode also features an audio commentary track with Rob Tapert, Mark Beesley and Chloe Smith.
Six behind the scenes featurettes that range from nearly three minutes to nearly ten minutes in length are included also on the third disc. They appear to have been made to air on Starz though since I am not a subscriber I could be wrong.
Spartacus: War Of The Damned is arguably the best season in the entire series that pays respect and tribute to both the Stanley Kubrick feature film as well as the legend while still maintaining it's own original perspective and voice.
Spartacus: War Of The Damned is available on Blu-ray Disc now at retailers on and offline courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark Rivera
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