Monday, October 22, 2007
The 300 Spartans
I saw The 300 Spartans when it first came out, back in 1962. I didn't remember much about it other than who the stars were and that it was one of those big international sword-and-sandal epics that showed up at the local theaters a lot more frequently then than they do now. And of course I remembered the story and how impressed I was by the courage of men willing to fight a battle they knew they couldn't win. After seeing 300 a while ago, I thought I'd like to see this one again, so I put it in the Netflix queue.
And it's not bad, if you don't count the truly awful love story that features Diane Baker and Barry Coe. You can just see the Big Cigars sitting around in the script conference. "Hey, what's up with everybody dying? The kids ain't gonna want to see this. We gotta have a couple of young lovers, get the kids asses outa the hot rod seats and into the theater seats." It probably didn't work, and it almost kills the movie. The acting is, well, awful, but when you consider the dialog they had to work with, Baker and Coe didn't stand a chance.
Some of the other actors fare better. Leonidas (Richard Egan) dimples and smiles way too much for a Spartan, but he manages to be almost convincing. Sir Ralph Richardson is Themistocles, and he's very good. The best roles always go to the villains, though, and David Farrar almost steals the movie with his outrageous hamminess. You have to see some of his scenes to believe them. Great work.
Some of the scenes found their way almost directly into 300, and I don't mean just the ones from Herodotus. Frank Miller saw this movie when he was a kid, and he must have incorporated them into his graphic novel.
It was fun to watch an all-out Cinemascope Technicolor movie, with thousands of real actors instead of CGI ones. The battle scenes aren't going to impress anybody these days, as they're mostly just pushing, shoving, slashing, and hacking, but they impressed the heck out of me back in the day. I'm glad I watched this. Maybe I'll put The Robe or Quo Vadis? in the old Netflix queue.