That "Il figlio di Spartacus" is one of the better sword'n'sandal flicks of the main period (1958-64) is basically due to two aspects: a fluent storyline and original sets in Egypt.
Writers Adriano Bolzoni, Bruno Corbucci and Giovanni Grimaldi (plus perhaps director Sergio Corbucci) have scripted a plot that continues the story of Spartacus where Stanley Kubrick left off in 1960 in his Hollywood production with Kirk Douglas. While Kubrick certainly stuck to the historical facts, the follow-up is complete fiction. Tough daredevil Douglas is replaced by smart bodybuilder Steve Reeves as his son, although this was not the worst choice. Reeves, the original Hercules performer of 1958, does quite well in the rôle of Randus, a Roman centurio (this seems to be considered as the highest military rank in "peplums"!), who is confronted with the fact that he seems to be the son of the legendary slave leader, Spartacus, who had once been smashed and crucified by the Roman consul, Crassus. Reeves' good looks distinguish him from Douglas very remarkably, but there's his Germanic combatant Verus (Franco Balducci), who is styled like Douglas two years ealier.
They needed to change history to a considerable extent (the story takes place in 48 B.C. when the real Crassus was already dead for five years) so that the fictive Randus could be 23 (Reeves was 36 by then) and Caesar could be involved. Note that the Sphinx has already lost its nose (which it did only 1850 years later) while serving as a likeable background to a talk between Caesar (Ivo Garrani), his adjutant Verulus (Renato Baldini, who has almost nothing to say), and Randus. Choosing the Egyptian landscape, including desert, oases and the pyramids of Gizeh, for the outdoor scenes adds greatly to the picture's atmosphere.
Corbucci manages to handle the camera positions and angles very well, almost experimentally for a production like this. Director of photography was Enzo Barboni, the later standard director of the Terence Hill/Bud Spencer movies. There is a foreshadowing of the spaghetti westerns not only in the techniques, but also with a surprisingly high level of brutality as depicted by Corbucci.
The story's main idea has Randus in the dilemma of being a Roman officer on the one hand and having the experience of being enslaved on the other. Only in this situation, he feels into the slaves' minds and puts himself at the head of the revolt against Crassus. The rest is a bit stealing from the "Zorro" idea, including the "S" (for Spartacus) mark. As Western European ideology would have it (we're at the climax of American-Russian confrontation) before a revolutionary attitude became fashionable in Italo westerns, Randus fights for freedom (from slavery), not for redistribution of capital.
Gianna Maria Canale, leading actress of many a peplum since the earlier days (playing the title rôle in "Teodora", among others), is fine as Crassus' love interest. But Claudio Gora can give all he can as the terrible Crassus, right down to an exaggerated paranoid Nero-like figure.
It's worth while, anyway.
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