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4.1 out of 5 stars
The 300 Spartans [DVD]
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
The narrow pass of Thermopalyae is long gone, with centuries of sendiment building a large plain. The location of the statue of King Leonidas of Sparta set up along the highway does provide a sense of how narrow the geography was in 480 B.C. when a small force of Spartans and other Greek warriors held up the advance of King Xerxes and his Persian army (the parallels to the Alamo are palatable). When I visited Greece last week I was glad we were able to stop at the monument for a few minutes, not so much because of what I had read in the history books about the Battle of Thermopalyae but because of the 1962 film "The 300 Spartans."
Granted the acting in this film from director Rudolph Maté is wooden, on a par with the Trojan Horse and the ships that turned out to the wooden walls of Athens that defeated Xerxes at Salamis. But there is still something substantial to the battle sequences, as when Xerxes sends his Immortals against the Spartans and when the Spartans make a final valiant charge to kill the Persian monarch. The basic political history of the times is covered in the film; Greece was debating whether or not to send soldiers that far north to stop the invaders and the Spartans decided not to send troops until a religious festival was over. Consequently, King Leonidas (Richard Eagan) left with his personal bodyguard of 300 soldiers. There is a trivial romantic subplot involving a young Spartan soldier and the girl he tried to leave behind, as well as an exiled Spartan King, Demaratus (Ivan Triesault) who tries to educate Xerxes (David Farrar) about the worth of these 300 soldiers. In the end, the Spartans are betrayed by a Greek traitor who tells the Persians of a pass through the mountains where they can attack from the rear. Leonidas learns of the treachery in time to evacuate the rest of the Greek army, but the Spartans will never retreat.
This was one of the last films directed by Maté, a respected cinematographer ("Pride of the Yankees," "Lady From Shanghai") who directed movies as different as "D.O.A." and "When Worlds Collide." The battle sequences are the best part of "The 300 Spartans," making excellent cinematic use of the contrast between the Spartans in their gold armor and red cloaks versus the black draped Persians with their wicker armor. Eagan does not do much with the role of Leonidas, but he certainly gives the character the requisite sense of honor and nobility. But perhaps the most memorable part of this film, which is one of the most cherished from my youth, is the marching music of the Spartans written by Manos Hadjidakis. Clearly I am not alone in that regard. "The 300 Spartans" is not a great film, but it has its moments and the tale is worth the telling. Recently Frank Miller ("Batman: The Dark Night") did his own graphic novel version of this story, which has inspired Hollywood to tell this story on film again. About time.
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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2005
At last, I watched a Hollywood film that tells the story the way it happened. The theme of the movie is the battle of Thermopylae, maybe the most important battle in the history of Europe. The Persian troups were delayed for 3 days by 300 Spartan warriors, led by Leonidas, at the narrow passage of Thermopylay (Gates of Fire). This gave time for the Athenians, Ionians, Corinthians, Macedonians and the rest of the Greeks to assemble the fleet and give the advancing Asian barbarians the final blow at Salamis.
The movie takes place on lacation, at a very scenic area, with many extras, performing excellent in man to man combat and chariot combat, too.
The classic phrases "Molon Lave", told by Leonidas to Xerxes and "I tan i epi tas", told by the Spartan mothers to their sons, are told, and explained in the movie.
The armor of the Spartan warriors is the historically accurate one, with the big Greek "L" on the front (standing for "Lacedemoniis" (Spartans in ancient Greek), they wear the red cloaks, (so no Spartan blood would be visible to the enemy). The daggers are of the correct size and not mistaken by the Sariza, and the battle cries are the appropriate ones.
The musical score is by Manos Hadjidakis, capturing the epic history in a bewildering way.
After all the "historical" epic - junk i watched lately, i was pleasantly surprised to watch this marvel that was filmed more than 40 years ago. Well done!
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Hampered by a somewhat lame script and perhaps not enough high wattage star power to head the cast, this epic is nevertheless quite watchable; based on actual events in the 480 B.C. Battle of Thermopylae, where a King Leonides of Sparta held the vast Persian army of Xerxes I at bay for three days defending a narrow pass.
The battles are brilliantly staged with its 1001 extras, in massive mano a mano fights, as well as on horseback and in chariots.
A secondary plot consists of a young couple (Diane Baker and Barry Coe) in love against all odds, and are the diversion to an otherwise rather one-note story of Spartans/Greeks vs. Persians.
Richard Egan ably leads his men as Leonides the Lion King of Sparta, but somehow does not have the stature as an actor to really captivate our attention, and other actors include Ralph Richardson as Themistocles of Athens, and David Farrar as Xerxes I.
The cinematography by Geoffrey Unger ("2001: A Space Odyssey") is spectacular, and the transfer to DVD excellent with rich reds in the costumes and the deepest of blue seas, and the score by Manos Hadjidakis ("Never on Sunday") is marvelous and adds a lot to the film.
Director Rudolph Mate had a long career as a brilliant cinematographer going back to the silent film era with the 1928 masterpiece "Passion de Jeanne d'Arc" to later films like "Pride of the Yankees", and this was to be his next to last film as a director.
One can learn history even from a Hollywood epic, as I never knew of the existence of Artemisia the Warrior Queen of Halicarnassus, here played by Anne Wakefield. When I first watched the film, I assumed she had been included to add some female pulchritude to the action, but on some reading on the subject after viewing the film, learned she had ruled after her husband's death and was an ally to Xerxes I in 480 B.C., taking part in the Battle of Salamis, and cleverly maneuvering to safety when the battle was lost. Herodotus even gave her the rare praise of having "the virtue of courage", normally only bestowed on men, as it also meant "manliness".
Well worth watching for its historical accuracy, battle scenes, terrific costuming, beautiful scenery and score, so that though the film is not particularly involving, it has quite a lot to offer. .
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2014
There are currently four options for this film: the 2014 Blu-ray for Regions A and B; a 2004 Region 1 NTSC release; and a 2007 Region 2 PAL release. The Blu-ray and the Region 1 NTSC release have a run time of 114 minutes. The Region 2 PAL release has a run time of 109 minutes (because PAL runs 4% faster than NTSC). All four are described as having an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 resembling the film’s original CinemaScope format.

I purchased the Region 2 PAL version from Amazon UK and I’ve compared its screen image on a 16x9 HDTV with the Blu-ray screen images reproduced at blu-ray dot com. There are differences: (1) the Blu-ray images are wider (i.e. showing more of the original CinemaScope image) and consequently with deeper letterbox mattes than the DVD; and (2) the Blu-ray images appear to have some greater colour saturation and a fair dose of digital noise reduction (since skin tones are blander than in the DVD).

The Blu-ray, according to Amazon, is available for Region A with English and Spanish soundtracks and for Region B with just English. These Blu-rays may not be interchangeable since Twentieth Century Fox is well known for releasing most of its titles region-coded.

The Region 2 PAL release has English, German, Italian and Spanish audio, and subtitles in 12 languages.

# 38
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White propaganda expressed in expository dialogue of exceeding banality. Even though there are some fine actors here, the characters remain resolutely two-dimensional despite the best efforts of the performers.

The political simplifications of endlessly-stating that the Ancient Greek city states were endlessly disunited are designed to mask the attempt to make this film palatable to modern audiences by making the Asiatic Persians substitutes for the Asiatic Soviets; while offering no real insight into life in either circa 480 BC or 1961 AD.

The Battle of Thermopylae is handsomely-mounted (the only real reason this entertainment was ever produced) with large numbers of butch, hairy-legged Caucasian males dressed in battle skirts and ready to die for Sparta - along with the political delusion of a united Greece.

Diane BAKER is very fetching (with winning ways) and Ralph RICHARDSON does reasonably-well at making the indigestible dialogue sound convincing. But what makes this movie less than it could have been is the White belief that the Personal is Political; explaining why none of the characters possess a private life that is considered as important as their duties to the state.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2007
Although watching this film is a pleasant way to waste a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I cannot in all honesty give it more than three stars. Some of the action sequences are admirable, and the spectacle of 300 Spartans standing against an army of thousands is inspirational, but some of the acting is pretty dire.

I will be charitable and say that most of the fault lies with some fairly awful dialogue that even Olivier would have had problems with, but even having said that, David Farrar as Xerxes gives one of the most artificial and theatrical performances I have ever witnessed on screen. Only the battle scenes and the performances of Richard Egan and Ralph Richardson redeem the movie and make it worth watching.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2010
I sincerely prefer this original movie to the modern one of recent years. It may not have the same special effects and some of the acting may come across as rather wooden at times but there's just something about this film!
I love the fantastic scenery, great uniforms/helmets and realistic battle scenes - the actual fighting is quality and exciting to watch - EXCELLENT!!
Dated it may well be but still a decent movie from an era that produced some great films based around/on famous battles of the ancient world - some big names are also to be found in the international cast...
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on 14 July 2015
Great classic film the 300 spartans who stood theyer ground over theyer enemy the film is in colour starring richard egan and Sir Ralph richardson this film gives you the effect of how it would have been like as one of the spartans. The spartans stand for the last time to protect theyer country but are betrayed by a farmers son who showed the enemy a old goat path over the mountains that the spartans had no nowledge off so the spartans loose theyer vantage point and are surrounded completely and slaughtered till no man stands. Great story line great scenery a real joy to watch a classic to any collection highly recommend.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Based around the events of the battle of Thermopylae during the Persian invasion of Greece in 480BC. During the battle 300 Spartan Hoplites commanded by King Leonidas against far superior numbers of Persians. Filmed during the early sixties the film has little in the way of historic accuracy beyond a few real quotes from the period but this does little to detract from the film, which is a good watch nonetheless. There are a few good performances by the main character and the battles are generally quite well choreographed, although there is nothing on the scale of those in Spartacus. Although there are many better films than this, watching the 300 Spartans is a good way of spending a couple of hours.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2009
Its interesting to compare the story, its rendition and cinematography of this film with the much more recent 300; it of course cannot match the technical wizardry but nonetheless provides an entertaining and dramatic watch, albeit with only one inevitable outcome; well worth having in the cupboard!
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