Blu-ray Review “Spartacus: The Complete Series (Limited Edition)”

spartacusActors: Liam McIntyre, Andy Whitfield, Manu Bennett, Lucy Lawless, Peter Mensah
Directors: Joshua Donen, Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Steven S. DeKnight
Number of discs: 13
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Run Time: 2136 minutes

Series: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

“Spartacus” is a show that I never got to watch during its original run since I was not a subscriber to Starz. I caught the show after it was completed. The entire series can be easily summed up in three words: stylish, sexy, and brutal. The series started off strong with “Blood and Sand”, then had a hard turn with the loss of it’s star Andy Whitfield due to cancer but bounced back with its prequel series “Gods of the Arena” and then got back on track with the official second season “Vengeance” and finished off strongest with “War of the Damned”. I love a show that can see its potential and then end while it is on top. This was a strong show and Anchor Bay has re-released every season of the hit Starz TV show into a very impressive collectible bundle.

Official Premise: Spartacus tells the classic tale of the Republic’s most infamous rebel, who comes alive in the series’ first season, Blood and Sand. Then comes Gods of the Arena, a prequel that explores a deadly history before the arrival of Spartacus, and the death he now carries with him. The second season, Vengeance, continues to follow Spartacus as he is faced with a choice to either satisfy his personal need for vengeance, or make the sacrifices necessary to keep his growing army from breaking apart at the seams. Finally, in War of the Damned, Spartacus carves his name into history as he plots to avenge his wife’s death and leads Batiatus’ slaves in a bloody uprising that will not be forgotten or equaled. All four seasons are currently available on Blu-ray.

The series features an all-star cast with Andy Whitfield getting his star-making title role for first season. Liam McIntyre ended up taking over as Spartacus for Seasons two and three after his passing. Other notable cast in the series includes John Hannah (“The Mummy”, “Four Weddings and A Funeral”), Peter Mensah (“300”, “The Incredible Hulk”), Manu Bennett (“30 Days of Night”), Nick E. Tarabay (TV’s “Crash”), Dustin Clare (“Underbelly”), Dan Feuerriegel (“Home and Away”), Simon Merrells (“The Wolfman”), Todd Lasance (“Cloudstreet”), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (“FlashForward”) and the scene-stealer and still smoking hot Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”, “Parks and Recreation”).

This Limited Edition release includes the 13 discs within a very detailed (and quite graphic) statue inside of its base. Anchor Bay is known for their stunning “Limited Edition” releases like the outstanding sets from “The Walking Dead” series. It is great to see a series like this get this kind of attention and respect. The set itself besides the pretty collectible comes with some new extras including three commentaries tracks from season one and an exclusive bonus disc with several featurettes as well as including all the old special features as well. Along with the Blu-ray discs, Anchor Bay really sweetened the deal including the entire series with UltraViolet Digital HD copies.

“Spartacus: The Complete Series” includes each episode with stunning 1080p transfers backed with even better Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround tracks. They look and sound outstanding throughout the entire series and get with each season. The new special features include Audio Commentaries on episode “Legends” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight, Executive Producer Rob Tapert, and Actors Viva Bianca and Lucy Lawless. “Great and Unfortunate Things” features with Executive Producer Rob Tapert and Actors John Hannah and Lucy Lawless. Last one is on “Mark of the Brotherhood” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Manu Bennett, Viva Bianca, and Lucy Lawless.

“Spartacus Fan Favorites with Liam McIntyre” features the actor giving out his top ten fan-favorite moments from the series. “Scoring a Hit: Composer Joseph LoDuca” has the composer discussing his work on the show, briefly. “An Eye Full: Roger Murray” is a chat with the series’ prosthetic & prop supervisor, Roger Murray, and its executive visual effects supervisor, Charlie McClellan. “Spartacus: Paul Grinder” features the series’ 2nd unit director discussing the show. Lastly, “The Last Word: John Hannah” features the actor talking about the show. So even though these aren’t outstanding new extras, Anchor Bay could have just packaged this seasons together and resold them with nothing new, so I give them an A for effort here.

No on to the rest of the special features for each of the seasons. First up is “Spartacus: Blood and Sand – The Complete First Season”, which comes with a ton of extras. There are extended versions of “The Red Serpent” and “Sacramentum Gladiatorium” and commentary tracks for “The Red Serpent” with Director Rick Jacobson, Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight, and Executive Producers Rob Tapert and Joshua Donen, “Sacramentum Gladiatorium” with Director Rick Jacobson, Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight, and Executive Producer Rob Tapert and “The Thing in the Pit” with Director Jesse Warn and Actor Andy Whitfield.

There is an enhanced version of Shadow Games, as well as an extended versions of “Delicate Things and Mark of the Brotherhood”. There are also Audio commentaries with Director Michael Hurst and Actors Andy Whitfield and Lucy Lawless discussing Shadow Games and Director Rick Jacobson, Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight, and Actor Erin Cummings for the episode “Delicate Things”. “Whore” and “Party Favors” also hae tracks with Actors Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless, and Viva Bianca; and Revelations with Writer Brent Fletcher, Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight, and Actor Nick E. Taraby. There is a commentary track along with the enhanced episode” Kill Them All” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Peter Mensah and Katrina Law. There is a collection of nine featurettes going behind-the-scenes into season.

“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” is jam-packed as well with great extras. There are Audio Commentaries track with Executive Producer Robert Tapert, Director Jesse Warn, Production Designer Iain Aitken, and Costume Designer Barbara Darragh for “Past Transgressions, which is also an Extended Version; Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Dustin Clare, Peter Mensah, and Maime Murray for “Missio;” Robert Tapert, Director Michael Hurst, and Actor Lucy Lawless chat about the Extended Version of “Paterfamilias;” Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Dustin Clare, Lucy Lawless, and Kaime Murray chat about the Extended Version of “Beneath the Mask”;” Steven S. DeKnight, Writer Brent Fletcher, and Actors John Hannah and Lucy Lawless focus on the Extended Version of “Reckoning” and lastly, Steven S. DeKnight, Director Rick Jacobson, and Actor Peter Mensah commentate on the Extended Version of “The Bitter End”Spartacus-Collectible-and-Box-1140x777

“3D “Ring of Fire” Battle Sequence” is a collection of the seasons key scenes presented in 3D, which is totally rad! “Starz Studios: Gods of the Arena” features the cast/crew discussing the series. “Weapons of Mass Disruption” is a quick chat with Property Master Rob Bavin chatting about the seasons weapons. “Battle Royale: Anatomy of a Scene” looks into the boot camp the actors underwent. “On Set with Lucy Lawless” takes us around with the actress. “10 Easy Steps to Dismemberment” is a collection of the seasons best kills. “Post Production: The Final Execution” shows the work done to the show after shooting. “Enter the Arena: Production Design” looks at set design and CG work. “Dressed to Kill” is an interview with Costume Designer Barbara Darragh and cast. Lastly there is a Convention Panel highlight with Stephen S. DeKnight, Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, and Vivia Bianca from a Comic-Con and a collection of Arena Bloopers.

“Spartacus: Vengeance – The Complete Second Season” includes audio commentaries on all but two of the season’s episodes. “Fugitivus” features Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless, and Liam McIntyre on the Extended Version. “A Place in This World” features Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Lucy Lawless, Liam McIntyre and Peter Mensah on the Extended Version. “The Greater Good” features Robert Tapert and Actors Lucy Lawless and Craig Parker. “Empty Hands” has Robert Tapert, Director Mark Beesley, VFX Art Director Peter Baustaedter and Actor Viva Bianca talking about the Extended Version.

The Extended Version of “Libertus” features Rick Jacobson and Actor Liam McIntyre. “Chosen Path” has Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless, and Nick Tarabay talking about the Extended Version. “Sacramentum”, also the Extended Version features Robert Tapert, Jesse Warn, and Actor Dustin Clare. The last commentary track is on the Extended Version of “Wrath of the Gods” with Steven S. DeKnight and Actors Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless, and Liam McIntyre. This collection of commentary tracks are outstanding if you are a fan of this series.

“Starz Studios – Spartacus: Vengeance” is an extended look into the season. “The Making of Spartacus: Vengeance” takes a quick look into the shows production. “Behind the Camera: Directing the Rebellion” gives a glimpse into the show behind-the-scenes from direction to digital effects. “On Set with Liam McIntyre” folllows around the actor while getting into character. “Burning Down the House: The VFX of Episode 205” is a chat with VFX Supervisor Charlie McClellan on the season’s critical scenes. “The Legend of Spartacus” talks with Historians Aaron Irvin and Jeffrey Stevens discussing the real history behind the series. “Famous Last Words” gets some final word from characters that were killed off. Lastly there are Bloopers and a teaser included.

The last season of the show “Spartacus: War of the Damned – The Complete Third Season” includes sex featurettes, ten commentary tracks, and extended versions of each episode. There audio Commentaries include Robert Tapert, Mark Beesley, and Chloe Smith for “Enemies of Rome;” Stephen S. DeKnight and Actors Manu Bennett, Liam McIntyre, and Simon Merrells for “Wolves at the Gate;” Stephen S. DeKnight and Actors Dustin Clare, Anna Hutchinson, and Todd Lasance for “Men of Honor;” Stephen S. DeKnight, Rick Jacobson, and Actors Christian Antidormi and Simon Merrells for “Decimation;” Stephen S. DeKnight, Director TJ Scott, and Actors Manu Bennett and Dan Feuerriegel for “Blood Brothers”…

…(deep breath)…Robert Tapert, Director Mark Beesley, and Visual Effects Art Director Peter Baustaedter for “Spoils of War;” Robert Tapert, Director Jesse Warn, and Executive Visual Effects Supervisor Charlie McClellan for “Mors Indecepta;” Stephen S. DeKnight, Rick Jacobson, and Actors Manu Bennett and Liam Mcintyre for “Separate Paths;” Stephen S. DeKnight and Actors Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Anna Hutchinson and Todd Lasance for “The Dead and the Dying;” and Stephen S. DeKnight, Rober Tapert, Rick Jacobson, and Actor Liam McIntyre for “Victory.”

“Spartcus: The Legend Retold” is a overview of the series as a whole. “The Price of Being a Gladiator” goes into the workout that the actors have to endure for the show. “A Bloody Farewell” features cast and crew reflecting on the series. “The Spoils of War Revealed: Visual Effects” looks into the show’s effects and visuals. “Adorning the Damned” looks into the show’s costumes. Lastly “The Mind Behind Spartacus” is an interview with Series Creator Stephen S. DeKnight, who if you don’t recognize him is the guy on virutally ever commentary track for this series.

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