Sunday, May 06, 2007

No, I'm Spartacus

I watched the fully restored 3 hours plus Spartacus film last night. All in one go. It was exhausting. I felt like I had been the Roman slave by the end. And what a kinky film! In an early scene, two over-made up rich bitches slaver and drool over a line-up of gladiators and pick out their favourites for a death-match, insisting that they fight only in their underwear, as it must be "so hot for them". Later on Laurence Olivier turns Tony Curtis into his "body-servant", which means they get to take baths together and Tony Curtis has to lather him up and wash him out. Then Olivier makes a fancy speech about how he likes oysters AND shellfish (which is Roman gay code for "I'm bisexual!), and that Tony Curtis has to abase himself to Rome and "love her" (which is Roman gay code for "bite the pillow, you're my bitch!")

Tony Curtis escapes while Olivier is lost in his own silly speech, but then ends up befriending Spartacus, who spends the remainder of the film giving him longing looks and ignoring his girlfriend (another case of someone who likes all kinds of seafood). And if this isn't enough, then Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton play a pair of tired old queens who spend the who film being catty about everyone behind their backs.

And finally, the marvellously wooden John Gavin (one of my favorites) plays a very young Julius Caesar. He doesn't do very much except stand around and look pretty in a towel during a very long and gratuitous bath-house scene. It's not wonder that in the film Clueless, Cher's would-be boyfriend Christian is coded as gay because all he wants to do on their date is watch Spartacus. I guess these days it would be 300. But I'm all for the oldies.

1 comment:

Jay Hepburn said...

I find the whole issue of gay characters in classic Hollywood films fascinating. Looking back it's amazing at what they got away with by just relying on certain coding, and the apparent ignorance of the censors.

I have a particular affection for the sissy roles of the 30's and 40's, despite the obvious homophobia they are based on. I suppose it's just interesting to see how gay people were acknowledged back then, even if it was in a offensive and stereotypical way.

You might be interested in a paper I read about gay representation in Hollywood films.