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.


Anonymous said...

Watched some of the '50s version of ALEXANDER THE GREAT on TCM the other day. The big battle scene was pretty anemic. Looked like the director had told the actors, "Allright, lads, get out there and swing away with your swords. Just be careful not to hit anyone, huh?" While the recent Oliver Stone version had its problems, it had some cool battle scenes and Angelina Jolie and Rosario Dawson to boot. On the other hand, BEN-HUR still stands the test of time. I don't think any amount of CGI could improve over the chariot race.

Unknown said...

If they ever remake that one, they'll need Keanu Reeves to play Ben Hur.

Anonymous said...

QUO VADIS? is actually pretty watchable, despite the fact that it sounds like the ultimate Dull Classic. Hey, it's got Buddy Baer in a major role, a very young Peter Ustinov as Nero, and an upside-down crucifixion. Robert Taylor had mastered the art of playing the plodding epic hero by this phase in his career -- you know, the boring guy they have to cut to every so often while the kids get popcorn.

THE ROBE, on the other hand, is a snoozer, with Burton Of The Dead Eyes declaiming pointlessly while clearly wishing that The Crucifixion took place in some part of the Holy Land that had a pub.

Unknown said...

And then there's THE SILVER CHALICE.

Cap'n Bob said...

At least THE ROBE had Victor Mature, whose face could outact most people's entire bodies.

I remember seeing THE 300 SPARTANS way back when and liking it a lot. As a kid of 12 or so, and it had all the elements I needed--action and more action.