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Colosseum: A Gladiator’s Story

Forget big-budget Hollywood fare like Gladiator. This here’s the real story about life as a gladiator.

This particular story follows Verus, a typical Roman family man who became a slave, then a star. He was sold to a gladiator school and trained as a fighter, only to prove himself in the ring and eventually win his freedom. His final fight was the only one in the Colosseum’s history that was ever recorded in detail.

Colosseum uses state-of-the-art CGI and high production values in the tradition of Walking With Dinosaurs and other great BBC documentaries. It doesn’t look as good as a big-budget Hollywood movie, but then it’s not a big-budget Hollywood movie. These are made more to educate than entertain, and educate they do.

We learn a great deal about what life as a gladiator/slave was probably like back in the olden days, and they don’t have to Hollywood-ize the story. You’d probably be surprised to know that, despite what we’ve learned in movies, very few gladiator battles ever actually resulted in the death of a fighter.

In all honesty, this is not the best documentary to come from the BBC. But in all fairness, it’s not the most interesting subject matter as far as we’re concerned. To those who swoon over the whole ancient Rome thing, it probably is the best documentary to come from the BBC. If it’s your cup of tea, it’s well worth picking up.

In typical BBC documentary tradition, the DVD is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with picture that looks better than a lot of higher profile DVDs. The colors and detail are excellent, and although it looks a little soft, it’s still very good overall. The audio is Dolby Digital Surround, and they do what they can with it. The cheers of the crowd and the clanging of swords fill the room surprisingly well from using only three speakers, but at times it does sound a bit muffled.

Extras include a bonus documentary, “Pompeii: The Last Day,” which focuses on the final day of the ancient city that was completely destroyed by an angry volcano. It features the same high production values and CGI as Colosseum, and we actually found it even more enjoyable than the prominent doc on the disc. Other extras include some interviews with the filmmakers, a featurette on the music, and some fact files.

Colosseum: A Gladiator’s Story, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
100 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital Surround
Written by Chris Ould
Produced and directed by Tilman Remme
Narrated by Michael Pennington


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