Spartacus: Blood & Sand Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)

I really can’t think of a better way to start my weekend off than to come home and find a Blu-ray review copy of Spartacus: Blood and Sand The Complete First Season sitting in my mailbox, can you?  I must admit that I was quite smitten earlier this year by the Starz original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand and once again this summer at Comic-Con 2010 (see my exclusive coverage here).  So smitten was I that I actually took time from my obligatory family schedule on Easter Sunday this year to reach out to the PR people at Starz and express how much my wife and I have enjoyed the Friday night programming this past winter/spring. You see, for me to take the time to do something as daunting as writing an email means that I really like something.  As my wife will attest to, when I “like something,” I put all my passion, fever and energy into it and nothing else truly matters.  Quite simply, I just couldn’t let another day go by without telling Starz how kick a$$ Spartacus: Blood and Sand is.  Why’s that?  Well, it’s really quite simple.  So why don’t you take a few minutes out of your busy schedule, after all you are already here, and read about the monumental 2010 original television series and one of Blu-ray’s most anticipated titles this year.  Like Kiss once said back in the 70’s, “You Got Nothing to Lose.”


Spartacus: Blood and Sand is like walking into Wal-Mart for me.  The show offers a little bit of something for everyone out there.  For all the male adrenaline junkies that could not get enough of the over-the-top testosterone action in Frank Miller’s big screen adaptation of 300, then worry no more.  Your prayers were heard and answered this year.  I’m here to give all you aspiring gladiators out there one thing, hope for a better way of life.  In Spartacus I trust.  The producers of Spartacus have given you all a reason to live yet again.  I honestly could not imagine any fan of 300 not loving this television show.  It just can’t be possible.  It just can’t.

And second, there are the women!  If you partake in viewing Spartacus, then you are going to see some of the hottest women ever to grace the soapbox.  And that’s no lie.  My HDTV picture has never looked so good (big a$$ smile).  I don’t even think the debating mastermind Gregg Senko could dispute that claim.  Go ahead and try Gregg!  Speaking of Gregg, check out his interview he did with the show’s stars Andy Whitfield and Lucy Lawless back in January (here).  Damn, if I could have been a fly in the wall during that one.  Anyway, let’s get back to the purpose of this paragraph.  Oh yeah, the women!  Nowhere else can you find women looking this fine in a primetime television series, neither in the premium nor broadcast programming worlds.  Just when you thought they couldn’t make them any hotter than Spartacus’ wife Sura, played by Erin Cummings, the producers bring us a new squeeze named Mira (the lovely Katrina Law).  OMG!  And don’t worry women; there are just enough male frontal scenes for you to counter balance the strong attraction many males flock to the show for.  I think that may be a big reason my wife enjoys it so much, but I haven’t called her out on it yet.

Anyway, that brings me to my third and final point.  This show flat out rules!  There’s no other way to phrase it.  Not only is it action packed and everything a guy could ever ask for, but it also has a real moving story too that’s both interesting and captivating.  That’s right!  They actually have real writers working on the show developing characters we really care about.  Can you believe that?  I never thought in a million years I would ever dig the storyline once I heard about this show (I thought it just sounded like it has been done many times before), but I was dead wrong.  I am really into it.  So much in fact, that I am completely lost without it on the air right now.  Thank God for this Blu-ray set in my possession now!  The show’s off-the-wall vocabulary managed to fill me with bits of wisdom and new one-liners every week during its run.  Oh where oh where will I ever get an education like this again?

So now that I have given you three big reasons to love the show without even touching the plot I thought I would give you a little history about how I got involved with the series, talk about the plot a little bit and then get into the nitty gritty of why you are all here, the Blu-ray disc vitals.  I first learned about Spartacus: Blood and Sand from a PR marketing email I received from Starz.  Of course, the writing was on the wall at Comic-Con 2009, but for some reason I chose not to pay attention to it, but believe me, my mistake was short lived.  The PR rep was nice enough to give us access to the first four episodes of Season 1 online and an interview opportunity with the cast.  I delegated the assignment to writer Gregg Senko who was more than happy to conquer the world of Spartacus.  He ended up sending me a text message about how much he liked the first episode and of course, how incredibly gorgeous the women were.  I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a watch despite my distaste for anything that’s not Blu-ray quality.  Ladies and gentlemen, I was instantly hooked!  I watched all four episodes and then thought, now what?  There’s no way I am going to be able to hold out until the series comes out on Blu-ray.  And so I did what I never thought I would ever do in my lifetime.  Let me make the following disclaimer. Starz is the premium cable network that is responsible for making this frugal guy (me) purchase premium cable to watch a television show.  And that’s how you know, no lies, the show has to be good.  For me to spend money on premium cable, the stars, sun and moon have to align just right.  And that’s exactly what happened with my first viewing experience of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  The rest is history…

The Starz Originals series was inspired by the actual slave of the Roman Republic, who in 73 BC led a slave revolt against the tyranny of Rome that grew to more than 120,000 fighters aiding his cause.  The show premiered on January 22nd this year and it was an instant hit with critics and fans alike, many for the same reasons I listed above.   The series focuses on Spartacus (Andy Whitfield), a Thracian warrior who is betrayed and captured by the Romans, torn from his homeland and taken from the woman he loves, his wife Sura (Erin Cummings).  He finds himself enslaved in a gladiator training school owned by Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless).  Against all odds he is forced to fight daily under the brutal whip of his trainer, Doctore (Peter Mensah from 300), and to survive the savage world of the arena where blood and death are considered primetime entertainment, much like football is here in the United States.  But it’s pretty safe to say, not all battles are fought and won in the arena.  What would a television show be without the daily drama of politics, the allure of sensual pleasures and the corruption that goes along with it all?  This is the world that Spartacus must thrive and survive in if he is going to make a difference at all.  He’s not a born leader, but by the last episode of the season he may have you thinking otherwise.  And this ladies and gentlemen is all I’m going to say about the show.  I want you to experience all the pain, trials and tribulations and joy for yourself.  And now the part you have all patiently been waiting for…the Blu-ray disc vitals…


Anchor Bay Entertainment and Starz Originals brings Spartacus: Blood and Sand – The Complete First Season to the Blu-ray format with an assailing AVC MPEG-4 1080p video transfer and a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation the gladiator in all of us can cheer for.  The video transfer may not be perfect, but it brilliantly captures the monumental series better than what I remember it looking during its 1080i cable run on my Time Warner DVR.  Just one look at the 1080p goose bumps running down the divine back of Katrina Law, had me covering up my eyes in fear they would pop out of their sockets at the sight.  The series utilizes a very dark tone and much CGI that can blur the background at times, but that does not stop the eye-popping clarity from supervening during close-ups and the harshest of sundrenched moments in the outside scenes.  The flesh tones are all appropriately balanced and look natural throughout while the black levels, while not the deepest I ever seen, hold their own with no obtrusive grain levels.  Make no mistake, every grain of sand, texture in the fabrics, drip of sweat, drop of blood and imperfection in a character’s skin (freckles, moles and whatnot) is unambiguously captured in this High Definition presentation.  The colors are look normal with no intentional tweaking or high contrast problems.  I really couldn’t be happier with my favorite show on the Blu-ray format.  Although for minor reasons I cannot warrant a perfect score in the video department, it’s truly the shots in the daylight and under the vehement sun (I so badly wanted to say Tuscan Sun…LOL), where the gladiators duel, that are what make Spartacus shine in all its HD glory.  Get ready to visually relive every lash, stab and punch by feeling the pain all over again like never before, in 1080p.


Spartacus and the rest of the other gladiators battle the first season Blu-ray out with a forceful, heart-pounding and vengeful Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track.  I really don’t have many complaints here.  When you are in the arena, the crowd goes wild all around you, not to mention the clashing of steel and the breaking of bones.  And when you are in the Ludus, well the producers of the show even found a way to sneak in ambient noises and nuisances to satisfy your hard to please rear intellect.  It’s not your high octane action track like a King Kong or a Dark Knight Blu-ray release would be, but it’s the best representation of the high stake action, blood, gluts and glory that’s found within the hearts of all combatants in Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  Your subwoofer will get a work out from the low end drums used in battle and I’m pretty sure you will never have to strain to hear what someone had just said (minus any accents).  The dialogue was crystal clear and intelligible throughout my viewings this weekend so I’m pretty confident in my conclusion.  Like the video presentation above, there’s little room to complain about anything else here so let’s move onto all the goodies that are in store for you should you choose to go above and beyond.  After all, that’s what the Blu-ray format is for, right?

Special Features  

For the first time in a long time it gives me great pleasure to report on the fact that every Special Feature contained on disc #4 of the Spartacus: Blood and Sand The Completer First Season Blu-ray set is presented in glorious High Definition.  I can’t tell you how long I have been waiting to say that about a Blu-ray supplemental package.  Is it really that hard studios?  I’m being facetious of course.  It really all depends on the age of the production and whatnot, but rest assured the Special Features here are all in HD.  Although one can generally make it through the majority of Special Features listed below in an hour or so, it’s quality over quantity here.  The four Blu-ray exclusive episodes really made a difference between me awarding this a score of 3.5 compared to the 4 I gave it.  In addition to the optional episode audio commentaries you would expect to find on a television set, I have listed and dissected the other special features below as they appear in order on the back of the Blu-ray case’s cover art.  Have at it!

  • Spartacus Historicus: Pop-Up History – This feature allows you to watch the episodes with pop-up history facts for historical information about gladiators and the Roman Empire.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand – Behind The Scenes (14:50, HD) – Here’s a quick look at behind the scenes of the television show with onset cast comments and interviews from the cast and crew.  It kind of introduces us to the premise of the show; you know…what’s it all about, how the show evolved, the casting search and the technology behind Spartacus.  Obviously, this is a must-see for all fans of the show alike.
  • Spartacus: Battle Royale (7:26, HD) – Simply put, this featurette is basically a 7-minute montage of all the spectacular fight sequences from the first season, and nothing else.  In other words, this is a Godsend for all fans of gladiator action.  Bring it on!
  • Gladiator Boot Camp (4:21, HD) – This is a behind the scenes look at the 6-week boot camp training all actors (gladiators) had to undergo before the show’s production began.
  • Grime and Punishment: The Hole (4:54, HD) – Remember when Spartacus and his best friend Varro were ordered to “The Hole?”  Well re-live the behind the scenes of what it took to create the hellhole they were in, insects and all.  It’s actually pretty hilarious!

  • Andy Gets Plastered (2:44, HD) – What did you think this was about, a night out with Andy Whitfield at the bar?  Ha ha, no.  Here’s a quick look at Andy getting a plaster made of himself.  Enjoy women!
  • Legend Re-Imagined (4:00, HD) – Steven S. DeKnight talks about how although the show is rooted in history, they don’t care about it.  The show is meant for entertainment.  They took the best fragments from the legend of Spartacus and built the show upon them.
  • Oh, Those Randy Romans (6:14, HD) – Here’s is one feature that may interest just about everyone out there, the sexual acts relationships on display for all to see.  The cast talks about how the show will appeal to both sexes out there.  You won’t hear any argument from me.
  • Shooting Green: The Shadow of Death (4:48, HD) – This one is what you would expect from the title, i.e. the shooting of the show against the magical green screen.  In my opinion, it’s always interesting to see how things are filmed.
  • Exposing Your Ludus (5:21, HD) – This is pretty much the equivalent of your standard blooper reel, but it’s a little longer than most, and of course better too, because it’s Spartacus.
  • Spartacus “Vengeance” Trailer (1:31, HD)- This is your basic promo video for the Starz Original series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  However, I still love it for what it is…one word…entertaining.
  • Director’s Cut Extended Episodes (HD) – Four episodes have been personally selected by Executive Producer Rob Tapert as “Director’s Cuts Extended Episodes” featuring content too risqué, even for cable TV.  And you can bet your pajama bottoms that “Kill Them All” is one of those episodes.

Final Thoughts  

As you can probably tell, I did nothing all weekend except sit here and re-live the unforgettable and colossal first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  Did I mind wasting my entire weekend on the Blu-ray set?  Not one bit!  Who knows, maybe I will do it again next weekend, but I would hardly call it “wasting” a weekend, it was more like the “zenith” of my year so far.  To say this series boldly goes where no series has ever gone before would be an understatement.  All one has to do is flip disc #4 of this Blu-ray set into their player to realize the raw and brutal truth that Spartacus: Blood and Sand, is one of the most powerful, daring and brave series to ever hit the television medium.  If the episode title “Kill Them All” doesn’t literally say it all, then I don’t know what does.  If it were not for the young viewing audience, this is definitely the way George Lucas should have went out in Revenge of the SithPre-order Spartacus: Blood and Sand – The Complete First Season today and prepare yourself for a television experience like none other on the 21st.


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

16 Responses to “Spartacus: Blood & Sand Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I’ve said this before, but this show truly turned out to be fantastic. I wasn’t initially taken in by the first episode, but my dad and I stuck with it, and it really became a great series. The story and characters become incredibly compelling and the show finds a way to handle how stylized it portrays itself in an effective manner without going as overboard as the first episode does. I would go as far to say that I started to enjoy this series as much as the fabulous HBO show – ROME.

  2. Dan Marshman

    Nice review of this truly epic series. BUT there is one big question that us Spartacus fans in the UK have – are these Blu-Ray discs region coded? If not that the Blu-Ray will be on it’s way to me soon, otherwise sadly us Brits will have to wait until May next year – that’s EIGHT MONTHS until the UK release.

  3. Matt Sweitzer

    Go Team Varro!

  4. Gerard Iribe

    @Dan Marshman

    It looks like it’s a Region A (according to the back of the box). Region B and C remain untested.


  5. Randy Myers

    So how are the Director’s Cut episodes? Do they really add a lot of new material to them?

    Grear review…can’t wait for this to come out!

  6. rostam

    plz help me sesan 2 when coming?

  7. Aaron Neuwirth

    There is first going to be a prequel season focusing more on John Hannah and Lucy Lawless’ characters and their house, before Spartacus, which should start in January 2011.

    The second season will follow eventually, but no date has been given as of yet.

    The reason for this was due to Spartacus star, Andy Whitfield, being diagnosed with cancer, but he has since gotten better and is ready to film the next season.

    Both Brian and I can attest to his well being, as we saw him at the panel at Comic Con, roaring to get back into action.

  8. Gregg

    A grand article on a grand series! Brilliant job, lad!

  9. Jiminy Critic

    Caught some of these and WOW! action-packed, violent, and bloody… Everything a family series needs! Good call, Brian!

  10. Brian White

    Thanks Jiminy!

    My thoughts go out to Andy Whitfield today as I wish him nothing but the best and a healthy, but speedy recovery from his ongoing battle with cancer 🙁

    News of his diagnosis this morning was a very tragic way to start off the day.

    Become a real-life “Spartacus” Andy and beat this again! You can do it!

  11. DH

    Wow! What a great review!

  12. maryam

    I wish be him the best and healthy, i am unhappy for him,he is good player in this film.

    his play is very excellent.

  13. Robert Wilson

    thanks for this great review!

  14. Lucien

    Well, I cannot wait to see the second season. Does anybody know when it start?

  15. Aaron Neuwirth

    Sometime early next year. Long wait, it sucks.

  16. Brian White

    @Lucien…it starts next January