The 300 Spartans (1962)
“Thermopylae… mighty battle epic of a handful of men forming the invincible “flying wedge” – against a killer horde five million strong!”
Director: Rudolph MatÃ©
Cast: Richard Egan, Ralph Richardson, Diane Baker
Synopsis: A small army of Greeks spearheaded by 300 Spartans do battle with the whole invading Persian army.
The true story of the stand made by 300 Spartan soldiers against an entire army of invading Persians is given the Hollywood Cinemascope treatment here in a lushly mounted production featuring a solid if unspectacular cast. Second-string leading man Richard Egan stars as Leonidas, King of the Spartans, who marches his personal bodyguards to Thermopylae to repel the invading Persian hordes. He expects to be joined by the rest of the Spartan army but, when he is betrayed by a Council decision, he and his faithful soldiers decide to make a stand.
This is quite an inspirational story, and the battle scenes — if a little tame by today’s standards — are impressively staged. Unfortunately, we have to sit through an hour or so of turgid politics and a romantic sub-plot that stubbornly refuses to be even slightly involving, before we reach the main thrust of the story. Many of the characters are strictly one-dimensional, their words describing the mindset of a culture rather than the thoughts and feelings of individuals, which I guess is why they fail to engage the viewer. On the plus side, the Spartans’ final stand is poignantly handled, there is some stunning location cinematography from Geoffrey Unsworth, and the remastered DVD offers a beautifully crisp and clear picture.
This is one of those films that, if you saw it as a kid, sticks in your memory because of the climactic battle scenes and, because of that, some might have a mistakenly high opinion of the film as a whole.
(Reviewed 1st October 2005)