Spartacus, a fictionalization of a slave revolt in ancient Rome in 71 BC, is well known today because of the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier. It was originally published in 1951 by Fast himself, after being turned down by every mainstream publisher of the day because of Fast's blacklisting for his Communist Party sympathies. The story of Spartacus, born a slave, trained as a gladiator, who led a slave revolt that was eventually put down by Crassus, was immensely popular and went on to sell millions of copies.
Stanley Kubrick might have given Spartacus it’s widespread fame, but the historical novel by Howard Fast from where it originated was perhaps even more moving, when you consider the circumstances that inspired it. Through the tension and censorship of the McCarthy Era, Fast developed this passionate story of freedom and hope in the face of oppression and slavery. Accomplished actor, Julian Elfer, gives a strong and energetic performance, bringing to life all the anguish and action of Spartacus, Crassus, and their loyal legions. Though focusing on a society that has long since disappeared, Fast’s Spartacus highlights the important and timeless lesson of keeping political systems in check.
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- David I. Williams