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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena'
(John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Dustin Clare, Peter Mensah, Jaime Murray, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2011 / Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Overview: The House of Batiatus has towered above the city of Capua for many years. 'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena' will explore its deadly history before the arrival of Spartacus, and the death he carried with him. Loyalties will be tested, lives shattered, and battles waged in this thrilling prequel to 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand.'

DVD Verdict: Unapologetically violent and filled with plenty of nudity and gratuitious sex, 'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena' will be an acquired taste for some action fans. That said, and from my own viewing standpoint, 'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena' beats out just about anything I've seen on premium cable when it comes to extreme action viewing!

Nevertheless, 'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena' (S:GOTA) is a fun gory ride. As most fans of S:GOTA know, it actually began life as a prequel to allow time for the late star Andy Whitfield to recover from the lymphoma cancer that, just recently tragically took his life at the age of 39. On its own merit S:GOTA isn't quite as good as 'Spartacus,' but then again, it was only meant to be a somewhat diverting of a six episode arc/series.

Focusing on Batiatus (John Hannah from 'The Mummy') and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless from 'Xena') two key characters from 'Spartacus' who own slaves that fight in the games, the prequel follows their most promising gladiator Gannicus (Dustin Clare). A man who, quite literally knocks down all opponents sometimes with just his fists! Batiatus wants to use Gannicus to expand his success. Gaia (Jaime Murray of 'Dexter'), a long time friend of Lucretia's, helps the rise of House Batiatus - but at what cost?

Now, please be aware that if you haven't seen the first season of 'Spartacus' there are some spoilers that appear from the end of that show at the beginning of this prequel.

And yes, the show looks very good with a nice, sharp transfer of the highly stylized series. I also want to mention the actual packaging. The DVDs themselves contain four episodes on the first, two episodes and special features on the second. I am happy with this because I find it so wasteful to have just two episodes of any TV show per DVD. Then again, given the state of technology, they could probably fit all of this on one disc! But, I guess it's better than four discs for just six episodes and some special features, which I've seen for other 6 episode series! These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and comes with the Special Features of:

Starz Studios: Gods of the Arena
Extended Scenes
Alternate Endings
Content Too Risqué for Cable TV
Convention Panel
Arena Bloopers
On Set With Lucy Lawless
Post Production: The Final Execution
Weapons of Mass Disruption
Battle Royale: Anatomy of a Scene
10 Easy Steps to Dismemberment
Dressed to Kill
Enter the Arena: Production Design