Director: Newt Arnold
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Forest Whitaker
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 92 minutes

A historically accurate look at the gladiators of ancient Rome is presented in this documentary filmed mostly in Rome and at the famed ruins of Pompei. The roots of gladiatorial combat is traced to the harshness of Roman culture, and how fighting between slaves went from casual attractions in town squares to enormous spectacles in specially built arenas throughout the Roman empire is explained by historians. Much of what we know about gladiators emerged from clues found when the buried Roman city of Pompei was excavated and carefully examined, and drawings of gladiators found on walls in the ancient city are shown. The Roman gladiators became wildly popular cult figures, managed by businessmen and chased by what today we'd call groupies. The "sport" of combat became increasingly violent, with each successive emperor raising the stakes until there were literally hundreds of people in bloody spectacles staged for the entertainment of a screaming crowd. Using films of scholars who faithfully reenact the roles of gladiators, as well as stock footage from Hollywood productions, this documentary provides a fairly comprehensive introduction to how gladiators lived, fought, and died. --Robert J. McNamara

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