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There Were Giants in the Land: Stanley Kubrick
1928 - 1999

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Tony Sloman Issue 57 - June 1999
Stanley Kubrick by Christiane Kubrick.

If David Lean's three 70mm epics are but flawed masterpieces, there is no doubt that two of the finest 70mm movies, indeed two of the finest works in all cinema, are "Spartacus" and
"2OO1: A Space Odyssey", both directed by Stanley Kubrick, who passed away in his sleep March 7, 1999 at the relatively early age of 70, having just delivered his last, and inevitably long-gestating and ultra controversial movie, the highly erotic "Eyes Wide Shot".

Kubrick expressed dissatisfaction with
"Spartacus", but that seems more to do with being a hired hand at the behest of producer-star Kirk Douglas, and, indeed henceforth control was always to be Stanley's. "Spartacus" was an allegory about the birth of the State of Israel, in the guise of the bloody tale of the liberator of the Roman slaves, about whom little is known. Kubrick had directed Douglas in the superb "Paths of Glory" and when Kirk knew Stanley was available, swiftly replaced director Anthony Mann (The salt mines sequence is all that is left of Mann in the movie, Peter Ustinov told me). Kubrick's vision was well-matched by its subject. "Spartacus" is a film that richly repays multiple viewings, especially in its Super Technirama 70 original format, recently lovingly restored and re-issued in the wake of similar success with "Lawrence of Arabia". Whatever Stanley Kubrick's own feelings - and no artist is ever best judge of his own work - "Spartacus" is truly one of the finest films ever made. Kubrick and his masterly cameraman Russell Metty embrace the large format - not just the battle scenes but the delicate use of light and shade (Spartacus´ dungeon meeting with Varinia), and those marvellous close-ups of Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton and Jean Simmons. Stanley Kubrick had underrated himself.
Further in 70mm reading:

Sir Sydney Samuelson: Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick's "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in Super Panavision 70

There Were Giants in the Land: Freddie Young

Restoration of "Spartacus"

The Original Reserved Seat Engagements Of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

Picture by Thomas Hauerslev

With "2001: A Space Odyssey", filmed for MGM as part of their continuing love affair with Cinerama, and photographed in Super Panavision 70, Stanley Kubrick surpassed himself. This was the wide screen movie par excellence, a film that gained nothing from a 35mm scope viewing, and lost absolutely everything when relegated to television. Kubrick always understood the effect of his technique on audiences, but even he must have been surprised at the number of returnees for the trip to Jupiter "psychedelic" sequence in "2001: A Space Odyssey" - front row regulars becoming well-known to Cinerama theater managements! There is one particular edit in "2001: A Space Odyssey": it's obvious, well-documented, and well-recognized. It is a great moment in cinema, using cinema in a manner utterly unlike any other medium, confirming its true status as the greatest and certainly most accessible of all arts. I was awestruck when first I saw this edit, at London's Casino Cinerama Theatre, and knew then that editing was the most sublime of all cinemas departments, as the bone thrown by prehistoric man leaps across the barriers of time - on one cut - and emerges as a futuristic space vehicle, the blue sky transformed into black void in one twenty-fourth of a Cinerama second. Thank you forever, Stanley Kubrick: - Rest in peace.
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Updated 07-01-23