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Spartacus: The Complete Series

Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // September 16, 2014
List Price: $149.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted September 20, 2014 | E-mail the Author
The Series:

While Starz released the four different storylines of their smash hit series Spartacus individually on Blu-ray and DVD over the past few years, they've now assembled all of that material into one Complete Series boxed set release. And just to drive collector types crazy, there are some exclusive extra features included in this set that aren't available on those earlier releases. More on that in a bit, let's talk about the show first…

Spartacus: Blood And Sand:

Spartacus: Blood And Sand debuted in January of 2010 on Starz to fairly mixed reviews. Developed by Steve S. DeKnight, best known for his work on long running cult hits like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Smallville, the show was executive produced by DeKnight, Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi. So yeah, this is a series from the guys who brought you the aforementioned shows as well as The Evil Dead movies.

The series is set in 73BC where we meet a young Thracian who enlists in the Roman army to fight against the Getae and put an end to their raids into Roman territory. This man (Andy Whitfield) leaves his beautiful wife, Sura (Erin Cummings), to make this happen but figures once it's over with he'll be able to settle down and start a family with her. Unfortunately for him, his commanding officer, Claudius Gaber (Craig Parker) decides that he's going to earn himself a promotion by having his Thracian troops deal with a bigger problem by advancing on the Greeks. Our Thracian hero rallies his fellow soldiers and winds up leading them against Claudius and while this is very noble of him, it proves to be a bad idea. He's captured and sentenced to die in the gladiatorial arena while Sura is sentenced to a life in slavery.

Things start to change once he enters the arena, however. Here he proves to be very adapt with a sword and after slaughtering a few of his opponents, his death sentence is reduced and he's given the name Spartacus. He's then bought by Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah), who basically runs a training camp for gladiators. Lentulus sees in Spartacus a great future but all Spartacus wants is to get back to his wife and resume some semblance of a normal life. Lentulus makes a deal with Spartacus and promises to find him and reunite him with Sura if he'll fight for him in the arena. A more experienced gladiator named Doctore (Peter Mensah) takes him under his wing and trains him to become the best he can be, which doesn't sit well with another gladiator named Crixus (Manu Bennett). As Spartacus gets better and better in the arena, he soon becomes not just a celebrity but an important political figure as well and he unwittingly sets into motion a series of events that will shape Rome in the days to come.

Spartacus: Blood And Sand sets new limits for what you can get away with on TV. Shockingly violent and chock full of intense blood and gore, the series also features more full frontal nudity from both its male and female cast members than anything Cinemax or The Red Shoe Diaries ever hoped for. This, on the surface at least, equates the series to little more than glossy exploitation, a show that revels in cheap, tawdry tactics to get a rise out of its audience without ever asking them to think. That said, as the show evolves, it does start to become more than just tits and gore (though those two elements never diminish). As characters become more fleshed out and are developed to the point where they start to show some real personality, the story does become more interesting. The sensationalist aspects never go away, but the series does start to rely less on them as it progresses.

As far as the cast is concerned, Whitfield makes for a good lead. He isn't the most versatile of thespians but he does a good job of looking tough and he carries himself well. As his character builds his skill level and in turn his confidence level, he rises to the challenge and infuses his performance with enough macho bravura that we can buy him in the part. The rest of the cast are fine as well, with Bennett making for a fun foil to Whitfield's more noble character and Cummings offering up a sympathetic supporting character we can feel for. The series never gets so deep or heavy that we're going to lie awake at night wondering what happens to these people but it at least makes them interesting enough that we can have fun with the show.

And that right there is what makes Spartacus: Blood And Sand as entertaining as it is. If you into this expecting something heady and even intelligent you'll likely walk out after the first episode after being bombarded with loads of slow motion bloodshed and CGI arterial spray. That said, if you go in with your expectations in check, you can definitely enjoy this series as the glossy exploitation that it is. Sure, it could have used more exposition here and there and focused more on the political aspects of the series and its ramifications instead of naked ladies and severed limbs, but those of us who like naked ladies and severed limbs will have a good time with this show, historical accuracy be damned.

The series does frequently rip off (yes, not just pay homage to, but literally copy from) 300 in its visual style and it drinks from the well of Scott's Gladiator on a semi-regular bases as well, but thankfully this subsides after the first few episodes where the series eschews the constant slow motion/sped up fight scenes that were obnoxious then and are still obnoxious now in favor of some smoother cinematography. The show also uses a predictably sun bleached and overly gritty palette, but in its defense, it is called Spartacus: Blood And Sand, so you have to at least half way expect that going into it. As it moves through its second half it does get more politically inspired and it's all the better and more interesting for it. Though it likely built its core audience from the sex and blood, it's the clever writing and interesting stories that ultimately held that audience. Which brings us to…

Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena:

Unfortunately, star of Spartacus: Blood And Sand Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As such, the producers opted to produce a prequel as obviously Whitfield was unable to reprise his role. Sadly, a year and a half after he was diagnosed, Whitfield would pass away.

The six episode mini-series tells the story of the House Of Batiatus in the city of Capua where Quintus Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah) takes charge of the stable of gladiators formerly run by his father, Titus Lentulus Batiatus (Jeffrey Thomas). Quintus is nothing if not ambitious and while his father did well, he fully intends to take things as far as he can and to have his gladiators dominate. Equally ambitious is Quintus' wife, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), and together they see great potential in a Celt gladiator in their possession named Gannicus (Dustin Clare). His ability to use two swords at the same time makes him an incredible foe and he quickly climbs to the top.

Crixus the Gaul (Manu Bennett), however, has his sights set becoming the champion when Quintus' foe, Tullius (Stephen Lovatt), tries to take Gannicus from him. When Quintus' relationships with his father and his friend Solonius (Craig Walsh Wrightson) start to fray, Solonius' ambitions of becoming a Gladiator lanista himself start to rear their head as Crixus' skills in the arena soon become a problem for Gannicus and some of the others. All of this leads up to the opening of the new arena that has been built in which the gladiators who survive the opening games will be deemed gods and possibly even earn their freedom in victory.

The plot for Gods Of The Arena is equal parts mad scheming and political backstabbing but once again with all of the over the top sex and violence you'd expect after watching Blood And Sand. In fact, there are episodes where things go so over the top that it's tough to take it as seriously as maybe you might otherwise, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining to watch. Things are definitely pushed even further this second go round and the sex and violence is nearly constant. This is a series where literally anything can happen and often times it can and will take you by complete surprise. No one is safe and once the storyline is off and running it seems entirely possible that anyone can die. There's a fair bit of suspense because of that, with Quintus' relentless ambition, fueled in part by his need to outdo his father and in part by his equally power mad wife, reaching a fever pitch quite early in the six issues that make up this run.

Visually, the series is more of the same. Lots of 300 inspired visuals heavy on CGI blood spray and epic, sweeping, computer generated green-screen backgrounds. Realism is but a mere afterthought here, the series goes full on comic book more often than not. It really does almost look animated at times. The action scenes, as hyperkinetic as they are at times, definitely deliver the goods as countless, beefy, brawny hunks engage in gleefully sweaty and at times overtly sexualized combat!

Perhaps because this series runs only six episodes it doesn't feel as fully fleshed out, as complex or as interesting as Blood And Sand did but there's still reason enough to watch. John Hannah and Lucy Lawless are a lot of fun to watch here while Craig Walsh Wrightson makes for a really entertaining foil for the pair. The gladiators, with Dustin Clare and Manu Bennett leading the charge, aren't given as much to do acting wise and they are really there to serve as pawns in a chess game taking place a few social steps above them, but they handle their roles well. As a prequel, we kind of know where it's heading and because of that, it's not as riveting or engaging as the first run, but yeah, it's fun and super trashy entertainment through and through.

Spartacus: Vengeance:

So with the prequel finished, the second series proper would turn out to be the ten episode run entitled Vengeance and it basically picks up where Blood And Sand left off. Spartacus (now played by Liam McIntyre) and Crixus (Manu Bennett again) are leading the freed gladiators and slaves and training them in hand to hand combat while they hide out in the aqueducts below the city. Spartacus desperately wants revenge against Glaber (Craig Parker), now a member of the Senate tasked by his father-in-law, Albinius (Kevin J. Wilson), to find and kill Spartacus and the rest of the group. Crixus, on the other hand, wants only one thing and that is to find Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), the woman he loves but who was banished before the revolution took place.

When Glaber returns, his pregnant wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) along for the journey, he finds that Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) is still alive but that she has lost her mind. Ashur (Nick Tarabay) arrives and sides with Glaber but they have trouble rounding up Spartacus and his crew. Spartacus remains almost entirely single-minded in his lust for revenge, however. Turmoil within both parties will soon erupt and as the two sides close in on each other, things can only turn deadly. As Spartacus and Crixus urge the group of fighters to move south in hopes of finding Naevia, an assassination attempt is made on Spartacus by a slave named Nasir (Pana Hema Taylor) while back in Rome, Lucretia is now seen as an oracle because she was able to survive the attack that everyone thought had left her dead. When Spartacus and Crixus free even more slaves from a mine, many will die and they will be chased and as those he leads become increasingly disillusioned with him, Spartacus will have to deal with an uprising of his own.

This second storyline, told in ten parts, is a strong return to form after the less impressive Gods Of The Arena storyline. Yes, the sex and violence and chaos and bloodshed still play a huge role in the series but the storytelling this time around is more intense, more layered, more complex and considerably more interesting. There's a lot to the storytelling this time around, even more so than in both Blood And Sand and Gods Of The Arena and this third run does a really good job of building off of many of the interesting, and frequently absurd, plot points that they started with.

Performances are pretty solid across the board here. McIntyre fits into the role of Spartacus well, he has a style similar enough to that of Whitfield so that we don't feel like his is a completely new character, but at the same time he brings enough of his own personality to the role that he's able to expand on it as the storyline evolves. He and the rest of the cast handle themselves admirably during the many over the top action set pieces but McIntyre also handles the more dramatic moments in the series with enough care to make it work. It's obvious that no one wanted Whitfield to go, he was young and talented and this show was going to be his big break, but McIntyre is a very solid replacement. As to the rest of the cast, Lucy Lawless is a bit of a scene stealer here, really ramping up the intensity and insanity of her character and playing things with a whole lot of catty sex appeal. She really makes it work. Manu Bennett is also solid in his role, with Craig Parker and Kevin J. Wilson doing fine work as well.

All of this leads into…

Spartacus: War Of The Damned:

And so comes the beginning of the end as War Of The Damned brings to its conclusion series' creator Stephen DeKnight's take on the story of Spartacus. Picking up where the last arc in the continuity left off, the ever controversial show once again takes us back to the days of ancient Rome to offer up the final chapter of the slave revolt around which the show is based. As with the story arcs that preceded it, the show does not want for sex, nudity and graphic violence, much stronger than most have seen on TV before, but that there is half the charm. Everything about the series, from the performances the set design to the digital effects work is so over the top that it's hard to imagine the series being nearly as fun had the exploitative elements been toned down in the least.

When the story beings, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre again) has teamed up with Crixus (Manu Bennett reprising the role) and Gannicus (once again played by Dustin Clare) to lead the slaves in bloody revolt against the armies of the Roman Empire. They won't win an easy victory but Spartacus figures that to really win their freedom they're going to have to set up a city fortress of sorts in order to have a location that will serve not only as a stronghold but also as a headquarters.

As they set about making this a reality in hopes that once accomplished it will allow them to really ramp up their military operations, the powers that be in Rome lick their wounds and look for ways to replace soldiers lost in battle and refill their coffers. The Senate decides that the best man for this job is a wealthy Roman named Marcus Licinius Crassus (Simon Merrells). He comes in with enough money to help and is more or less put in charge of the military forces dedicated to putting the slaves back in their rightful place. While Crassus sets about doing this, a young Roman man named Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance) is brought on board for the specific purpose of going undercover and making his way into Spartacus' inner circle…

The series sticks to the same formula that made the earlier storylines so much fun: lush production values, sex, epic and bloody battles, sex, backstabbing political types, sex, nudity, sex and more sex. Even in this fourth storyline is remains trashy TV at its finest, a series that makes no qualms whatsoever about playing up not only the decadence of the Roman Empire during which it has been set (it brings things to Caligula-esque levels of debauchery and only stops very short of hardcore at times!) but also the more violent side of life during those times. It still isn't going for realism so much as it is sensationalism, playing everything to eleven and relentless in its pacing. The series is all the better for it. Underneath all of this surface level insanity, however, is the final chapter of a pretty well told story. Characters develop nicely and are given interesting personalities and the various plot lines that are woven throughout the series can occasionally be intricate and genuinely surprising. As such, there's a good amount of suspense here that gives the trashy element a reason for existence (or so we'll tell ourselves).

McIntyre shines in the lead again, showing a confidence and a naturalness in the part that really helps to carry the series. The other cast members all do good work here as well. Merrells and Lasance are both great on the opposing side of McIntyre and company as the soldiers. Performances are rarely, if ever, subtle but they fit the tone of the story and of the series as a whole. Merrells, in fact, tends to steal any scene he's in even if he occasionally chews the scenery. Throw Ellen Hollman as a female warrior named Saxa and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Naevia, Crixius' main squeeze, and you can see that the ladies not only look great here but they hold their own in front of the cameras as well.

The series ends on a high note, bringing together everything it laid out beforehand rather nicely. Would it have been possible to stretch it out further? Sure, but then you run the risk of the series starting to become old hat and with it already being repetitive in certain ways this far in, that was probably a legitimate concern on the part of the writing crew. As it stands now, the series remained a solid watch all the way through, a show that put entertainment first and succeeded in doing so. It's easy to see why this quickly became and stayed a fan favorite.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Every episode of Spartacus is presented on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p high definition presentation that really looks quite good. The show is shot in a fairly specific way with a lot of attention paid to color reproduction and style, but this doesn't come at the cost of fine detail. The image is certainly a stylized one, but close up shots often times look reference quality with long distance and medium shots also generally impressing. As the series progresses, you'll start to pick up on just how much picture information there really is here, noting how facial hair and stubble differ from character to character and noticing the craggy lines in various faces that appear throughout the show. Detail isn't limited to just the actors, however, the texture that you'll notice in the costumes worn throughout the show is impressive as is the amount of detail that you'll pick up on seen in the various sets that are used. Black levels generally look nice and strong without sucking out the shadow detail while color reproduction is typically very good, though sometimes leaning towards the hotter side of the palette, obviously a stylistic choice on the part of the producers. There are a few spots where this 'hot' looks makes some of the darker scenes a bit too bright looking and the series does tend to really pump up the reds of the bloodshed that is so frequently seen on screen (again, a stylistic choice, but one that might irritate some), but aside from that, this series looks excellent.

Sound:

The English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that this set sports is pretty great stuff. Surround activity is a constant, particularly during the action sequences, and there are a lot of really impressive directional effects to marvel over. Levels are well balanced throughout while the show's dialogue stays clean and consistently easy to understand. The score is punchy and powerful enough to really punctuate some of the more dramatic moments, as a good score should, without overpowering the performers. Generally this is a very active series and the mix here represents that really nicely. Every clank and clash of a sword is audible, as is every crack of a whip - the action scenes benefit the most from the surround activity but even more dramatic moments have some nice ambient noise in the background to fill things in really well. The low end is particularly strong, offering thundering bass when the material calls for it but not to the point where the rest of the mix gets lost. Optional English closed captions are provided as are optional Spanish subtitles.

Extras:

Extras are ‘season specific' and are included in the set as follows:

Spartacus: Blood And Sand:

First up are a series of commentaries on these episodes, all of which were included on the first Blu-ray release:

The Red Serpent features input from director Rick Jacobson, writer/producer/series creator Steven DeKnight, executive Producer Rob Tapert and executive producer Joshua Donen
Sacramentum Gladiatorium teams up director Rick Jacobson Steven S. DeKnight, and Rob Tapert
The Thing In The Pit features director Jesse Warn and actor Andy Whitfield. This disc also offers extended versions of the first two episodes
Shadow Games features a commentary with director Michael Hurst, Andy Whitfield and actress/Warrior Princess Lucy Lawless
Delicate Things includes input from Rick Jacobson, Steven S. DeKnight, and actor Erin Cummings
Whore includes input from cast members Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless, and Viva Bianca
Party Favors also includes input from cast members Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless, and Viva Bianca
Revelations teams up Writer Brent Fletcher with DeKnight and actor Nick Taraby

Kill Them All, which includes a commentary from DeKnight and cast members Peter Mensah and Katrina Law

New and exclusive to this Complete Series release are three commentary tracks:

Legends: features Steven S. DeKnight, Rob Tapert, and actors Viva Bianca and Lucy Lawless
Great And Unfortunate Things includes Tapert, Hannah and Lawless
Mark Of The Brotherhood features DeKnight and actors Manu Bennett, Viva Bianca and Lawless

Most of the commentary tracks are pretty scene specific so if you want to learn about any one particular aspect of one particular episode, odds are pretty good that it'll be covered (if it's one of the episodes that has a commentary, and as you can see, most of them do). You get a feel as you listen to the tracks that all involved had a lot of fun working on the show and that they really appreciate just how hard everyone worked on the series. The tracks are also quite interesting in that they offer up a lot of input on the writing process and the directing process but also let those who work in front of the camera chime in as well. This results in a pretty well rounded look at the making of this series.

There are also a host of featurettes here too, most of which are pretty interesting, though they're all on the brief side. First up is Spartacus: Blood And Sand - Behind The Scenes (14:50), a general look at how the production is handled by way of a series of cast and crew interviews. Here we learn about the writing process, the show's unique look, and more. We also get a good feel for the training that the cast members have to go through in order to make for convincing period combatants. Spartacus: Battle Royale (7:26) goes more in-depth into the action scenes and shows us how some of the more memorable action set pieces that are scattered throughout this first season were put together, while Gladiator Boot Camp (4:21) is, as the title explains, a more specific look at what's involved as far as prepping the cast members to play their gladiatorial roles. Between these three featurettes, you'll definitely garner an appreciation for just how physically intense this series can get for those who appear in front of the camera.

Grime And Punishment: The Hole (4:55) is a piece that gets into the nitty-gritty on how this one particular moment from the show was constructed while Andy Gets Plastered (2:44) shows how leading man Andy Whitfield had to have a full body mold made out of plaster for the series and what all was involved in that rather uncomfortable looking process. The Legend Reimagined (4:00) offers up some interesting insight into the writing process and how the team opt to take creative liberties with the series' historical accuracy in order to make for more entertaining viewing, while Oh Those Randy Romans (6:14) is, as you could probably have guessed, a peek at how the many love scenes that are scattered throughout the first season were put together. Yowza! Rounding out the fourth disc are Shooting Green: The Shadow Of Death (4:48), which is a look into how green screen technology is used throughout the show and how this can create both obstacle and opportunity for those involved, Exposing Your Ludus (5:21), a collection of humorous moments from the set, and a trailer called Spartacus: Vengeance (1:31), which is a promo for the series and the only high definition supplement in the collection.

Each episode in the set also includes MovieIQ Connectivity (for online enabled players), a Spartacus Pop Up History track, and episode synopsis/recaps to make it easy to get up to speed. Classy animated menus and episode selection accompany each disc.

Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena:

Once again, we get a series of audio commentaries for a few episodes this season. Here's how that works:

Past Transgressions: features executive producer Rob Tapert, director Jesse Warn, production designer Iain Aitken and costume designer Barbara Darragh
Misio: brings together series creator Steven S. DeKnight and actors Dustin Clare, Peter Mensah and Maime Murray
Paterfamilias features Tapert, director Michael Hurst and actress Lucy Lawless
Beneath The Mask: features Steven S. DeKnight and cast members Clare, Lawless and Jaime Murray
Reckoning: includes DeKnight, writer Brent Fletcher and actors John Hannah and Lucy The Bitter End: wrangles up DeKnight, director Rick Jacobson and actor Mensah

These tracks are interesting and if you've seen the series on TV and crave more information, they turn out to be a pretty fun way to get some more re-watchability out of the show. Plenty of stories are told about what it was like on set, how the effects sequences were done, some of the more intense gore scenes in the run, the show's use of sexuality, some character development eccentricities and plenty more.

Gods Of The Arena also includes a bunch of featurettes starting with the five and a half minute long 3-D Ring Of Fire Battle Sequence piece which is a 3-D version of what is arguably the most complex set piece in the entire mini-series. You've got to have a 3-D capable set to view it, obviously. The fifteen minute Starz Studios: Gods Of The Arena is your basic making of featurette that includes talking head interview clips with the cast and crew who worked on the show all talking about how much fun and how much work it was. They also talk about what happened to Andy Whitfield, which is fairly touching and more than a little bit tragic. Weapons Of Mass Disruption is just shy of three minutes and in this piece Property Master Rob Bavin talks about and demonstrates some of the prop weapons used in the show. Battle Royale: Anatomy Of A Scene is a six minute segment that takes us backstage to see the training that the actors who played the gladiators had to go through in order to convince on camera with their fighting and weapons styles. The six and a half minute long On Set With Lucy Lawless gives the actress best known as Xena a chance to show off her experiences behind the scenes of the shoot while the two minutes 10 Easy Steps To Dismemberment is a quick piece that summarizes the series' ten most ridiculous kill scenes.

A little more serious and a bit more in-depth is the seven minute Post Production: The Final Execution segment that demonstrates how the post-production work is employed to compliment the live action work performed by the human cast. If you're an effects junkie you'll get a kick out of this, it's pretty neat. The three and a half minute Enter The Arena: Production Design piece is, as it sounds, an examination of what went into designing and building the arena sets showcased in some of the series' more memorable moments. Dressed To Kill spends six and a half minutes with costume designer Barbara Darragh and some of the show's cast members to talk about the importance of the costumes to the look and success of the series. Closing out the extras are a six minute long Convention Panel featuring some discussion from DeKnight, Lawless, Hannah and Vivia Bianca that took place at the San Diego Comic Con in 2011, a five minute collection of Arena Bloopers (basically some amusing outtakes), promos for a few other Starz/Anchor Bay properties, animated menus and chapter/episode selection.

Spartacus: Vengeance:

The commentary tracks for Vengeance are as follows:

Fugitivus: features Steven S. DeKnight and actors Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless and Liam McIntyre
A Place In This World: includes participation from DeKnight, Lawless, McIntyre and Peter Mensah
The Greater Good: brings together Rob Tapert as well as Lawless and Craig Parker Empty Hands: also features Tapert, this time joined by director Mark Beesley, VFX Art Director Peter Baustaedter and actress Viva Bianca
Libertus: brings together director Rick Jacobson and Liam McIntyre
Chosen Path: features DeKnight and cast members Bianca, Lawless and Nick Tarabay
Sacramentum: has got Tapert, director Jesse Warn and actor Dustin Clare on deck
Wrath Of The Gods: features input from DeKnight and cast members Bianca, Lawless and McIntyre.

Again, these commentaries are very informative and often times somewhat humorous as well. These guys all worked very hard on the show but they're pretty aware of what they were doing and what they were going for here. There's a lot of discussion about the different character development paths that the main characters follow in this season but so too is there discussion of the sets, effects, action scenes and quite a bit more.

Moving on to the obligatory featurettes we begin with Starz Studios: Spartacus: Vengeance, a twelve minute long piece that gives us some insight into what the cast and crew went through on the shoot. It kind of covers a lot of plot related stuff that those who watched the series will already know, but there are some interesting stories here and some good footage to compliment them. The Making of Spartacus: Vengeance is a five and a half minute piece that brings us behind the scenes of the series to show off how practical effects and computer effects are worked into the mix to create the show's over the top visual style. There's also some discussion of the stunts, the action set pieces and the more gratuitous gore scenes. Behind The Camera: Directing The Rebellion is a quick four and a half minute featurette that looks at how some of the more complex scenes were put together and some of the challenges that arose while doing so. The six and a half minute On Set With Liam McIntyre sees the series' leading man training for the roll, getting into costume, talking about his relationships with his other cast members and quite a bit more. He comes across as a pretty nice, down to Earth guy. Burning Down The House: The VFX Of Episode 205 spends twelve and a half minutes with Visual Effects Supervisor Charlie McClellan in which he delivers a running commentary over a series of clips from the show talking about what went into getting the visuals right, just as we see them in the finished product. The Legend Of Spartacus is an eleven minute featurettes with two historians, Aaron Irvin and Jeffrey Stevens, who talk about the actual historical events that the series writers used as inspiration for the show. The last featurette is the six and a half minute Famous Last Words and it allows some of the cast members whose characters were killed in the series to talk about their work on the show and what it meant to them.

Rounding out the extras for Spartacus: Vengeance are three minutes of Bloopers, animated menus and episode/chapter selection.

Spartacus: War Of The Damned:

Extras include a selection of audio commentary tracks as follows:

Enemies Of Rome: executive producer Rob Tapert, director Mark Beesley and producer Chloe Smith
Wolves At The Gate: writer/creator/executive producer Stephen S. DeKnight, actor Manu Bennett, actor Liam McIntyre and actor Simon Merrells
Men Of Honor: Stephen S. DeKnight, actor Dustin Clare, actor Anna Hutchinson, and actor Todd Lasance
Decimation: Stephen S. DeKnight, Simon Merrells producer Rick Jacobson, actor Christian Antidormi
Blood Brothers: Stephen S. DeKnight, Manu Bennett, director TJ Scott, and actor Dan Feuerriegel
Spoils Of War: Rob Tapert, Mark Beesley and visual effects director Peter Baustaedter
Mors Indecepta: Rob Tapert, director Jesse Warn and executive visual effects supervisor Charlie McClellan
Separate Paths: Stephen S. DeKnight, Manu Bennett, Liam Mcintyre and producer Rick Jacobson
The Dead And The Dying: Stephen S. DeKnight, Anna Hutchinson, Todd Lasance and actor Cynthia Addai-Robinson
Victory: Stephen S. DeKnight, Rob Tapert, Liam McIntyre and director Rick Jacobson

Lots of good information scattered throughout the various tracks pertaining to stunts, effects, sets, locations, character development and more. The tracks with Tapart and DeKnight tend to be the most in-depth as these guys really got behind the series in a big way.

From there we also get some pretty interesting featurettes starting with a nine minute history of the series entitled Spartacus: The Legend Retold, which is basically a look back at the show from the first season to the last with some cast and crew input. The four minute The Price Of Being A Gladiator looks at the training and fitness regimen required of the actors who play the gladiators in the series while A Bloody Farewell lets the cast and crew speak for three minutes as to their thoughts on the end of the show. The five minute long segment, not surprisingly, spends a bit of time exploring what the effects team does on the show and how they do it while Adorning The Damned pays the same respect to the team responsible for the show's costumes over four minutes. Last but not least we get The Mind Behind Spartacus which is a seven minute interview with DeKnight who offers up his take on the series and how it all turned out.

Also new and exclusive to this set is a bonus disc that includes some new featurettes starting with Spartacus Fan Favorites With Liam McIntyre. This isn't really all that exciting but it's amusing enough. Basically what happens is that McIntyre spends just over ten minutes reliving the ‘top ten' moments from the series. Call it a ‘greatest hits' reel if you will. More substantial than that is Scoring A Hit: Composer Joseph LoDuca, a piece in which the composer talks about his work creating the music for the series. Unfortunately it's just over three minutes long so it doesn't go as in-depth as some might have liked, and that's a shame as LoDuca's work on the series is really impressive. An Eye Full: Roger Murray is another quick piece, running just under four minutes. Here the man in charge of the prosthetics used on the show pairs up with Charlie McClellan, the visual effects supervisor, to discuss how the ridiculously over the top violence that the series was known for was created, at least from the traditional practical effects side of things. Up next is Spartacus: Paul Grinder it's a three minute piece with the man who worked as the second unit director on the series in which he talks about various shots, setups and more. The last featurette on the bonus disc is The Last Word: John Hannah and it's an eight minute piece where the actor discusses auditioning for and winning the role he played on the series, his thoughts on the character and the show's more extreme content, his character, his co-stars and a bit more.

All of the discs come housed inside a ‘book' that features a slip for each disc and that book fits inside a box quite nicely. There's a ribbon attached to the book that allows you to get it in and out pretty easily, though the discs themselves can be a bit tough to remove without getting finger prints on them. Also packaged with the discs is a redemption code for digital HD versions of each episode.

Final Thoughts:

Those who already have the single series releases of the show may find that this new reissue of Spartacus: The Complete Series isn't quite worth the double dip for three new commentary tracks and less than half an hour of new featurettes. However, those with an interest in the series who haven't yet plunked down for those past releases should know that this is the way to go. Not only are there loads of supplements here but the audio and video quality is very solid across the board. The show itself may be a bit much for some viewers, it trades in sex and death in very healthy doses to be sure, but if you dig action and drama and intrigue and suspense all ramped up to ridiculous extremes, the show is a whole lot of fun. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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Highly Recommended

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