ENTERTAINMENT

'Spartacus': 'War Of The Damned' Out On DVD - Here's Our Beginner's Guide To All Things Spartacus...

29/04/2013 16:32 BST | Updated 29/04/2013 16:32 BST

John Hannah - one of the stars of Spartacus, whose fourth series is released on DVD today, along with the entire box set of all four series - has admitted that filming the remainder of the series was a bittersweet experience after the loss of actor Andy Whitfield, who died in 2011, after playing Spartacus for the first season.

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John Hannah with co-star Lucy Lawless in 'Spartacus'

Four Weddings star Hannah tells Metro: I’m very proud of it but all of us involved have a bittersweet connection due to what happened with Andy.

Our Beginner's Guide to Spartacus below...

And he adds to The Daily Record: "Watching how it has gone has been somewhat bittersweet. It's sad to think of Andy and what might have been, although Liam (who replaced Andy as Spartacus) has been great, too.

On a lighter note, Hannah confides to The Daily Record that the amount of sex, blood and violence in the Starz series didn't phase his elderly father, who had trouble recognising his own son in the Roman get-up.

"After about 15 minutes he turned to me and said: 'That fella looks awfully like you'. I just went to my bed and didn't bother pursuing it."

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Liam McIntyre took over from Andy Whitfield in the lead role of Spartacus

Not up to speed on Spartacus? Don’t know your Gannicus from your Batiatus? Here's a quick Beginner's Guide to coincide with the DVD and Blu-Ray release of both the final series War of the Damned, and the complete four-series boxset, both out today....

I’ve seen the ads… Isn’t it just a bit like Xena: Warrior Princess but with beards?

It is set in ancient times and Lucy Lawless does star in the first two series but other than that it’s about as far removed from Xena’s family-friendly fantasy as you can get. Cleverly plotted, well-acted, extremely bloody, sweary and filled with enough nudity to make even Hugh Heffner blush – Spartacus is swords and sandals for grown-ups.

So what is it about?

Without giving too much away, it’s about a slave called Spartacus who, in the first series, 'Blood and Sand' becomes the most popular and fearsome gladiator in ancient Rome. By the end of the series though he’s started a rebellion against his Roman masters along with his fellow gladiators who are all a bit sick of being mistreated. In Gods of the Arena – the prequel series – we flashback to see what makes Spartacus’ master, Batiatus tick, and meet another rebel slave, Gannicus, who’ll become very important later on. This is followed then, by Vengeance where we see the gladiator rebellion take hold which brings us up to 'War of the Damned' where a full-on war between Rome and the gladiators is taking place.

How did the death of lead actor Andy Whitfield affect the show?

Andy Whitfield starred as Spartacus in 'Blood and Sand' but after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Starz produced the prequel series Gods of the Arena while waiting for his recovery. Sadly, Whitfield didn’t recover and gave up the role to Liam McIntyre before he died in September 2011. McIntyre bears an uncanny resemblance to Whitfield and Whitfield himself gave McIntyre his blessing to take on the role.

Who are the other co-stars over the course of the series?

As mentioned, Lucy Lawless stars in the first two series alongside John Hannah as the main antagonists Lucretia and Batiatus. Then you have Manu Bennett ('The Hobbit') as Crixus, the bad boy of the gladiators who is in all of the series, and most recently there’s Todd Lasance ('Home & Away') as Caeser – we all know what happened to him! – and Simon Merrells ('The Wolfman') as Crassus, Spartacus’ sworn enemy.

That’s a lot of names to remember!

It is, but the storytelling is great so you never find yourself getting confused by the big cast of characters. It’s just like sinking into a really good book. Just with a lot more violence!

Er, yeah, about that… How bloody is the violence?

It’s pretty darned bloody. If you’re the kind of person who faints at the site of the red stuff, this isn’t one for you. But for everyone else there are decapitations and disembowelments galore. Not one to watch with the whole family, though. Especially when you factor in all the swearing and sex – which are often happening at the same time!

Spartacus: The Complete Collection is out today on DVD and Blu-ray. Spartacus: War of the Damned also arrives as a standalone volume on DVD and Blu-ray today as well.