On the surface, Spartacus is second-tier Stanley Kubrick at best. The legendary director was brought in at the behest of co-producer/star Kirk Douglas after Anthony Mann was fired a week into shooting. Kubrick got the job done, but the film features few of his signature flourishes, and remains solid Hollywood product more than the work of a celebrated auteur. Its real power, though, comes in Douglas’s insistence on giving screenwriter Dalton Trumbo onscreen credit… and effectively ending the blacklist as a result. The film opened today in 1960.
James Bond movies could continue for the next century and yet none will be quite as curious as Never Say Never Again, the only one thus far not produced under the auspices of the Broccoli family. It resulted from a dispute over the script to Thunderball that gave an independent set of producers an opportunity to remake the film. The big coup, of course, was convincing Sean Connery to return to the role that made him famous after vowing he would “never” do it again. That let the film stand on its own legs — with the Broccolis’ Octopussy opening the same year no less — and while it’s hardly the greatest Bond film out there, it’s hard not to smile just a little bit when the original 007 gets his mojo working. It opened today in 1983.
Finally, we have Oh God! Carl Reiner’s very funny examination of the Supreme Being and how He might present Himself to us in a cynical modern age. Turns out, he’d look and act a lot like George Burns… and the movie becomes funny, gentle and very wise in equal turns as a result. It opened today in 1977.