36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long before there was "Troy," there was "Helen of Troy"
After watching the current big budget film "Troy" and complaining bitterly about what the screenplay did to Homer, Euripides, and other ancient writers it seemed time to finally check out the 1956 Hollywood version of "Helen of Troy," which stared Rossana Podestà in the title role and Jack Sernas as Paris. Podestà was an Italian sex siren her had to learn...
Published on 24 May 2005 by Lawrance M. Bernabo
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Robert Wise's often forgotten take on The Iliad story.
Now over fifty years old, this almost epic film pales in comparison to other more notable sword and sandal movies. The scale of the film cannot be faulted, hundreds of extras & huge lavish sets are evident, while the piece is given a well regarded director in Robert Wise to chart its course.
However, the problems with it are many. First off is that the film is...
Published on 6 Mar 2011 by Spike Owen
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long before there was "Troy," there was "Helen of Troy",
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)After watching the current big budget film "Troy" and complaining bitterly about what the screenplay did to Homer, Euripides, and other ancient writers it seemed time to finally check out the 1956 Hollywood version of "Helen of Troy," which stared Rossana Podestà in the title role and Jack Sernas as Paris. Podestà was an Italian sex siren her had to learn her lines by rote in English and who was picked over established stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner and Yvonne DeCarlo for the part of Helen. Of course, it is hard to say she is the most beautiful woman in the film let alone the world since Brigitte Bardot is playing Andraste.
The script by Hugh Gray, N. Richard Nash, and John Twist, does a good job of including the goddesses Aphrodite and Athena without having them literally appear. The idea of the pact among the princes of Greece to decide who would win Helen's hand and the promise to defend anyone who violated the pact is ignored. Helen's father, the king of Sparta, just married her off to Menelaus (Niall MacGinnis), who, along with his brother, Agamemnon (Robert Douglas), is interested in attacking Troy to take its riches. The kings of Greece have gathered in Sparta to plan the attack when Paris comes along, falls in love with Helen, and steals her away to Troy.
Once there, nobody is happy to see this development. King Praimus (Cedric Hardwicke) and Hector (Harry Andrews) are upset over the fact the Greeks are going to come to attack Troy and the priestess Kassandra (Janette Scott) is crying gloom and doom, but, of course, nobody is listening to her. The people even come to throw things at Paris and his woman but he sways them with a short speech. Of course, nothing is going to stop the Greeks, because Helen is just an excuse for conquering the rich city that controls the Dardanelles (the importance of which is explained in the prologue), and we are treated to the spectacle of 30,000 men fighting it out on the plains of Troy in glorious Warnercolor.
In terms of Homer's "Iliad," the wrath of Achilles (Stanley Baker) has to do with the fact that he flat out does not like Agamemnon, which is made clear the first time we see them together in Sparta. At some point he starts pouting in his tent. The death of Patroclus (Terence Longdon) still sets into motion the chain of deaths that defined the end of the Trojan War, but the context is different and reinforces the idea that the Trojans are the good guys. The extension of that is that our young lovers deserve to live happily ever after. But will the screenplay violate the classical story that far? Wily Odysseus (Torin Thatcher) comes up with the stratagem of a rather impressive looking Trojan Horse and the end game of the ten year war is played out.
Like "Troy," this version also avoids the worst part of "The Trojan Women" by Euripides, allowing Andromache (Patricia Marmont) to flee with Aeneas (Ronald Lewis) instead of having her endure her baby boy being tossed off the walls of Troy (which reminds me: for future reference, finish looting a city before you start burning it). But once again Hollywood proves that when it comes to adapting Homer and the rest of the story of the Trojan War they always think they can improve on the original. Yet despite the spectacle there are no transcendent moments in this film, let along the dramatic highpoints of the epic poem by Homer.
The battle sequences are certainly spectacular and much better than the individual combat sequences, so it is hard not to favor the marching formations of the thousands of extras with their spears and shields over the CGI tens of thousands we saw in "Troy." Director Robert Wise gives the action a sense of classical splendor while Max Steiner's rousing score standing out a lot more than the dialogue. There is an interesting feel to that dialogue and the performance of actors, most of whom are British and classically trained. They are not doing Shakespeare, but they give the drama a certain weight. There is no real passion between Helen and Paris, but at least he has the virtue this time around of being a real prince of Troy, capable of going toe to toe with Ajax (Maxwell Reed).
The DVD contains the original trailer, with its hyperbolic titles, and a trio of black & white featurettes by Gig Young for some sort of 1950s television movie show in which he promotes "Helen of Troy." Ultimately this is a respectable version of the classical story and if it is not great at least it does not have any of those transcendantly bad moments found in so many of the European sandal-and-spear spectacles.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Helen & her T(r)oy Boy",
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)Shakespeare has a defeated Richard the Third declare he would give his kingdom for a horse. Here is the story of how the Greeks gave a horse, albeit a wooden one, & conquered a kingdom! "Helen of Troy" was made by Warner Bros. in the 1950s heyday of the epic movie & it shows in the production values. Prince Paris of Troy is on a peace mission to warlike Sparta whose King, Menelaus husband to Helen, whilst feigning friendship is actually plotting an attack on prosperous Troy. Paris is forced to flee for his life by the duplicitous King. His escape is aided by Helen, the two having experienced instant mutual attraction on first meeting. As Paris is bidding farewell to Helen they are discovered by Spartan soldiers hunting him. Helen is clearly implicated so Paris leaps to freedom via a waiting boat with Helen in his arms & takes her to Troy. This triggers the Trojan War as Menelaus now has the perfect excuse. Jacques Sernas plays the part of Prince Paris & Rossana Podesta is Helen & both look fine in their respective roles. Neither were native English speakers & although they both spoke their parts in English (Rossana Podesta by rote) their voices were later dubbed to better match them with the strong classical English accents of the British supporting players. This has the slight effect of making Jacques Sernas sound rather wooden & unemotional but does not detract from the overall movie which is visually both grand & exciting, as befits the genre. Like all such movies it loses something when viewed away from the large cinema screen but, for all that, it is an exciting story well told & visually impressive - especially the battle scenes. Classical Greek scholars will quickly spot the liberties Hollywood took with the original tale by the blind Greek poet Homer. Here Paris is portrayed as a strong, resolute & heroic figure & Helen as the unhappy wife of the brutish King Menelaus.The movie commences with the original musical overture & the s/track has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. Bonus material consists of three interesting "the making of" documentaries plus the theatrical trailer. I first saw this movie in the cinema in 1956. I loved it then & I still do.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Robert Wise's often forgotten take on The Iliad story.,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)Now over fifty years old, this almost epic film pales in comparison to other more notable sword and sandal movies. The scale of the film cannot be faulted, hundreds of extras & huge lavish sets are evident, while the piece is given a well regarded director in Robert Wise to chart its course.
However, the problems with it are many. First off is that the film is terribly pedestrian for the first hour, a tepid script fails to engage and at times is unintentionally funny. Then there are major cast issues. Taking the leads of Paris & Helen are Jacques Sernas & Rossana Podestà respectively. They look the part, both of them undeniably pretty, but neither of them can act for toffee. Filmed in Rome, Italy, it begs the question on if the casting director walked around Lazio and picked the two blondest people available for the roles! In support of the Blondie's are a host of usually fine performers, Cedric Hardwicke, Stanley Baker, Niall MacGinnis, Harry Andrews, Torin Thatcher & Robert Douglas. A mixture of actors either too old for their roles, poorly written, or in the case of Douglas, an underused important character (Agamemnon).
Shifting away from the awful back projection work, the action sequences fair much better. There's enough here in the second hour to please the sword & sandal fan. But if it's enough to make this a safe recommendation to the potential first time crowd? Well I wouldn't stake my life on it you know! It's a genre I personally love, so I wondered why I hadn't heard about it long before now? After viewing it it became evident why, it's just not any good. A generous 4/10 from me for the siege of Troy action construction, the stunt work throughout and for Baker's moody show as Achilles.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A passion for greek mythology,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)I saw this film when I was 12 years old and thought it was the best film ever made. From this distance I can see that wasn't but nevertheless it gave me a lifelong love of greek mythology.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A somehow aged version of the ancient tale, but still very watchable...,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)Long, long time ago, when I was still a child, I watched this film with my eyes wide-open and I simply adored it! It encouraged me to read the "Iliad" rather early in my life and therefore this film certainly had an influence on my destiny.
Made in 1956 this is an old film and it certainly aged, but after watching it recently I still enjoyed it and it is definitely BETTER than the disastrous "Troy" with Brad Pitt. Many of the more spectacular moments still make considerable impression, as the scene of the first assault against walls of Troy, the entry of Trojan horse to the city or the festivities in Troy following the retreat of Greek armies.
This being a Hollywood retelling of Iliad, the story is of course greatly changed, but at least the war still lasts 10 years (unlike in "Troy"). Paris (Jacques Sernas) is here shown in a light much more favourable than in the original text and both Menelaus (Niall MacGinnis) and Agamemnon (Robert Douglas) are much more despicable. Helen is played by the Italian sex-bomb Rossana Podesta and she is indeed a very pleasant sight, even if she is not exactly a very good actress. Other characters are shown very well: Achilles (Stanley Baker) is a snotty capricious primadonna, Hector (Harry Andrews) is a very noble prince, Odysseus (Torin Thatcher) is a weasely but rather charismatic scoundrel, Ajax (Maxwell Reed) is basically an ape and Cassandra (Janette Scott) is a particularly tragic character, so desperate that borderline insane. A very pleasant thing is the appearance of very young Brigitte Bardot as Andraste, Helen's slave and confidante.
The one really disappointing thing in this film is the duel of Achilles and Hector, as it is very short and anti-climactic. On another hand, the final fate of Troy is a very strong scene, although we are at least spared the killing of little Astyanax, Hector's son (but not what happened to Cassandra...).
In conclusion, I think that this film still deserves four stars, even if it was made in a different world and it aged a lot. As I said above, this film was one of my important viewings when I was a little boy. Also, I watched it recently with my 11 years old daughter (there is no foul language in it and no graphic violence) and she was fascinated - she asked me a lot of questions about Trojan War and then looked for more on internet. And that in itself justifies the buying of this film and the little shelf space which I gave to it. Enjoy!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Helen For All Time,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)Forget all the knockers. This is just about the best of the Hollywood "epics" and a great film by any standards. I saw this film the last time when I was 11 when it came out in England in 1957. (It was the start of a love affair with Brigitte Bardot which I never got over.) Right there I knew it was a great film and viewing it again has confirmed I was not wrong.
Part of the appeal must be due to it being by Warner Bros. This ensures it has pace right from the beginning as Warners would never stand for the turgidity to which the genre is so often prone. It was Warner's sole venture into this territory and according to the add-in's they liked to compare it (with some justification) with their earlier pioneering of sound in movies. It was only the second of the Cinemascope era epics (after The Robe) and so for one thing was able to grab the best ancient story that was going.
Max Steiner was Warner's composer (surely the greatest film composer) and he was on board for this film. The music may not have the memorable melodies of GWTW or Now Voyager but Steiner's rapidly shifting, stirring power and weird, squeaky orchestration is all there. This can be relished in full during a rare nostalgic treat that nicely dates the film -a seven minute Overture. This is thankfully included in full on the DVD but this brings me to my one complaint about this issue. The final credits have been chopped. This is a crime as we are surely being denied more fantastic orchestration by Steiner. What a let down when The End means the end. Don't the makers know that some of us never miss a second on ANY final credit sequence, but with Max Steiner in full flow. Really! Too much!
Part of the appeal is also down to the date of the film. The fifties was a golden era in many ways. Designers then still understood the meaning of "classic" and that goes through everything in the look of the film. The colour systems of Warnercolor and Eastmancolor unaccountably got lost in the sixties but here the former can be appreciated in all its sumptuousness. (The garishness of early Technicolor tends to make us overlook the beauty of the alternative early systems.) The fifties, of course, was also high point of bra technology which admirably adorns the leading lady. (A less welcome period anachronism is her vaccination scars.)
The studio is to be congratulated for eschewing big Hollywood stars particularly going with Rosanna Podesta, a decision that must have put out a few egos at home. Once you have seen this film she will forever be YOUR Helen to which all others are mere flibbertigibbets. And we are comfortable in this context with the thespian English of Stanley Baker, Harry Andrews and others. The nasal Brooklyn of a Victor Mature is mercifully absent.
Now, a BIG point. I doubt that I am the only one who is through with computerized special effects. Mildly intrigued when they came along, just can't look at them any more. They have exactly the same effect as silicon implants, that is to say, the thing they are trying to enhance looses all its interest. Well, you are safe enough in a film from 1956 on either count. Yes, that army of thousands is real guys out there. OK, a lot of the boats are models, but it is seamlessly and artfully put together.
A great part of the pleasure of the film is certainly the aesthetic, for in costumes, buildings, hairstyles (especially Helen's), beards, weaponry, chariots and boats it is beautiful, convincing and inventive in every detail. (For an example, just look at Paris's hat when he is disguised as a merchant.) A slight niggle is that the architecture of Troy is too closely based on Sir Arthur Evans' reconstructions of ancient Minoa - a good reference point to be sure but the designers might have done a bit more with it.
Warner's "Helen of Troy" deserves to be better known and appreciated. It comfortably surpasses the 2004 "remake", "Troy", in every aspect. Rosanna Podesta's ravishing first appearance emerging from the water onto the beach preceded the copy by Ursula Andress in Dr No by five years. I know which I rate higher - the one that no one knows about.
Finally, director, Robert Wise, is a figure of such stature that often people tend not to notice him. Maybe, The Sound of Music, is held against him, but really he was just doing his job and doing it superbly well as always. In his films, every scene works - and works completely. That is why you can view them over and over again. . That is why this DVD is such a bargain.
4.0 out of 5 stars Favourite Film,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)Helen of Troy is one of my favourite epic films.
I am a fan of epic films.
This version is widescreen and with enhaced sound effects.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!!,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)I was a little wary as this was a used item but it was in great shape, I am not sure if it was every played just out of the wrapping.
3.0 out of 5 stars Helen of Troy,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)I first saw this film as a teenager and it was a reflection of the past. The film holds up reasonably well, compared to the recent film "Troy".
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnificently entertainíng,
This review is from: Helen of Troy [DVD]  (DVD)Robert Wise, at 90, is one of the grand old Hollywood directors who earned his right to produce highly personal films by turning out commercial blockbusters like this version of the story of the Greek Helen of Troy who elopes with young Trojan Prince Paris and pursued by her husband the king and his armada of thousands.
Clearly not aimed at High Art, 'Helen of Troy' is a magnificently entertaining, beautifully mounted epic, in almost every sense superior to Wolfgang Petersen's CGI obsessed and arficial-looking 'Troy', especially in the climactic battle scenes of the last half, eminently edited and colourful.
A wonderful movie.
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Helen of Troy [DVD]  by Rossana Podestà (DVD - 2004)