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Five Great Old School Epics

Got a fancy new big screen UHD TV you want to break in and four or five hours (or days under current circumstances) to spare? Then you can't go wrong with any of these classic bladder busters from the days before everything was done with 1s and 0s.


Unquestionably the best of the sword and sandal films of the late 50s and early 60s. Kirk Douglas stars (and produces) as Spartacus, a gladiator who leads a slave rebellion against the Roman Republic which Laurence Olivier's Crassus plans to exploit so he can seize power for himself. Stanley Kubrick, who was brought in last minute after Douglas fired the previous director, didn't much care for the final film and often clashed with his leading man, but still managed to bring enough Kubrickian touches to help it stand out from all the other bloated epics of the time.


David Lean followed up the Oscar winning success of The Bridge of the River Kwai with this grand retelling of the life of British soldier T. E. Lawrence (a star making turn from a fresh faced Peter O'Toole) who helped the Arab tribes unite to fight the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. With its stunning desert vistas and iconic score by Maurice Jarre, this is the film everyone thinks of when they hear the word “epic”.


Lean followed Lawrence of Arabia with this adaption of Boris Pasternak's 1957 novel. Set during the fall of Imperial Russia, it stars Omar Sharif as Yuri Zhivago, a young doctor and poet who falls in love with the beautiful Lara (Julie Christie) just as their country is torn apart by revolution and civil war. Unable to shoot in Russia due to the Pasternak's novel being banned there, Lean had to build his own early 20th century Moscow in Spain.

GANDHI (1982)

Starring an Oscar winning Ben Kingsley in the title role, Richard Attenborough's film about the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is one the last examples of true epic filmmaking before the era of CGI began. The funeral scene alone featured over 300,000 extras.

RAN (1985)

Rashomon and Seven Samurai might get all the attention, but this colourful and brutal take on King Lear is without question Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

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