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VIDEO WHY KUBRICK FLED HOLLYWOOD.

Byline: Rob Lowman Entertainment Editor

It wasn't the cry of ``I am Spartacus'' over and over at the end of the movie that drove Stanley Kubrick from Hollywood.

It was interference from the studio during the making of the 1960 epic that caused the eccentric director to disavow the film and move to England where he continued his often brilliant career until his death in 1999.

Kubrick, who was a 31-year-old director at the time, was bitter about his experience and did not really consider it one of his films. But ``Spartacus'' - despite Kubrick's misgivings - has greatness in it even if it's not ultimately a great film. A recently released special edition of the 1991 restored version of the film on DVD is testament to this.

The film, starring Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, Jean Simmons and Peter Ustinov, tells the story of the slave Spartacus (Douglas) who leads a freedom revolt against the Roman Empire around 71 B.C.

The two-disc set includes commentary by Douglas (who was also the producer), Ustinov, novelist Howard Fast (whose best seller was the basis for the film) and restoration expert Robert A. Harris. Disc one also includes screenwriter Dalton Trumbo's scene-by-scene analysis. Trumbo was one of the ``Hollywood Ten,'' one of those in the film community who had defied Congress during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in 1947. He served 10 months in prison for refusing to testify at the hearing and was essentially blacklisted in Hollywood.

During the next decade, Hollywood and Trumbo found a way around the blacklist. Trumbo moved to Mexico and sold cut-rate scripts under pseudonyms, even winning an Oscar for the 1956 script ``The Brave One'' as Robert Rich.

Douglas' insistence that Trumbo's name be on ``Spartacus'' and, later, Otto Preminger's on ``Exodus,'' ended the blacklist publicly. Disc two includes the 1960 documentary ``The Hollywood Ten,'' plus archival documents about the blacklist. It's important to note the visions of Trumbo, Douglas and Fast for ``Spartacus.'' The film is filled with interesting political and social subtexts. It being 1960, the film was referencing both the repressiveness of the '50s, and the social unrest and changes to come. Some of this - like certain styles in the film - now seem dated. But the film has enough intelligence, plus a number of memorable performances - particularly those by Olivier and Laughton - to hold up today, even if it irked Kubrick at the time.

GLORIOUS EDDIE: When Eddie Izzard won two Emmys last year for his HBO special ``Dressed to Kill,'' no one on stage seemed to have a clue about him. Everyone pronounced his name ``iz-ARD,'' as though he were some hoity-toity French aristocrat. Izzard wasn't there to pick up the statuettes (nor did he send anybody), so they didn't know it's pronounced like ``lizard.''

If you're clueless about Izzard, a stand-up comedian who wears makeup, high heels and flashy outfits, and references everything from the Bible to medieval times to Sean Connery, then you're in luck. ``Glorious,'' which is a stand-up concert he recorded prior to ``Dressed to Kill'' (which isn't available yet), is out on video.

In it, Izzard flits from Prince Philip slandering a billion Chinese on an official visit, to being the Grim Reaper, trading his scythe in favor of a power mower in the name of progress. His leaps of comic genius can be dizzying at times, but you have to admire his inventiveness. And you have to admire his willingness to assume his audience is as intelligent as his humor. While ``Glorious'' doesn't quite match ``Dressed to Kill,'' it's still gloriously funny.

Izzard also has a film career. ``Shadow of the Vampire,'' which comes out on video and DVD on May 29, is a fictionalized version of director F.W. Murnau's making of the 1922 vampire classic ``Nosferatu.'' We'll talk more about the film in a later column, but suffice it to say, fans of Izzard will recognized his impishness in his portrayal of the lead actor in ``Nosferatu.''

``Spartacus - the Criterion Collection'' is $49.99 on DVD for a two- disc set that includes commentary, interviews and documentaries. ``Glorious'' (Universal) is $14.95 on VHS only.

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Kirk Douglas stars in the title role of the epic film ``Spartacus,'' now out in a restored DVD version.
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Video Recording Review
Date:May 18, 2001
Words:718
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