Rating: Not Rated
Richard Egan as Leonidas, Spartan King
Ralph Richardson as Themistocles of Athens
Diane Baker as Ellas, Leonidas’ Niece
Barry Coe as Plylon son of Grellas
David Farrar as Xerxes, Persian King
Donald Houston as Hydarnes, Commander of the Immortals
Anna Synodinou as Gorgo, Leonidas’ Wife
Kieron Moore as Ephialtes, Greek Traitor
John Crawford as Agathon the Spartan Spy
Robert Brown as Pentheus, Leonidas’ Second in Command
Laurence Naismith as First Delegate
Anne Wakefield as Artemisa, Queen of the Halicarnassians
Ivan Triesault as Demaratus, Exiled Spartan King
Charles Fawcett as Megistias the Seer
Michalis Nikolinakos as Myron, Spartan Sub Commander
Spanish Mono Sound
Running Time: 108 Minutes
This film was released in 1962 and is based on a true story.
In 480 B.C., King Xerxes of Persia is leading an army to invade Greece. The cities of Greece have formed a shaky alliance between each other, but politics, regionalism, and fear of the overwhelming invading Persians threatens to shatter their fragile government. Until the other cities can reach an agreement and form an army, King Leonidas of Sparta steps up to hold off the Persians.
Known for their bravery and strict warrior culture, the Spartans are the finest fighters in all of Greece. Unfortunately due to politics in Sparta, King Leonidas is able to only rally 300 soldiers from his personal guard to face the Persians. He intends to hold the Persians at a narrow pass called Thermopylae until more warriors arrive. Thus begins the battle in which the 300 Spartans and 700 Greek volunteers held off 100,000 Persians for one week until every one of the Spartans was killed.
The 300 Spartans is not rated.
I was pretty excited to see The 300 Spartans. I was very familiar with the story of the Battle of Thermopylae and I had no idea anyone had made a movie out of it. After watching it, I was very disappointed that one of the greatest military battles in history had been turned into a long, boring, dialogue heavy movie with bad acting, bad music, and historical errors everywhere. What could have been one of the best war movies ever made was totally botched.
This story has been told better elsewhere. A good example is the book “Gates Of Fire” by Steven Pressfield. That story goes into great detail about the warrior culture of the Spartans and their training. Their equipment and military techniques are discussed in great detail. The battle scenes make you hold your breath and you truly begin to appreciate the feat these 300 men accomplished. (In fact, you could argue that their sacrifice saved Greece, preserved their democracy, and ended up laying down the foundation for the U.S. Government.) None of these details are emphasized in the movie.
I will say that The 300 Spartans does hit on the key points of the battle. For example, it shows the small group of Spartans infiltrating the Persian camp to try and assassinate Xerxes. The politics leading up to the battle is also well established. The major points of the battles are also shown. But it’s the details where the movie fails. Thermopylae was supposed to be a narrow pass with cliffs on either side, but in the movie it’s a wide field next to a calm lake. (I’ve never been to that area, so I can’t say how accurate it is, but I believe they did film in Greece, so it might be the real location. Who knows.) The Spartans were supposed to have used heavy wood shields while in the movie they use light metal ones. I’m sure history buffs can address other issues better than I, but you get the idea.
The acting in the movie is atrocious across the board. About the only one that’s any good is Ralph Richardson as Themistocles of Athens. (You may remember him from Dragonslayer and Greystoke, The Legend Of Tarzan.) The rest of the cast is not worth mentioning. The music is also awful as it is a mix of bad 60’s orchestra music and modern sounding Greek music. The fight scenes are also poorly choreographed. You never get the sense that the Spartans are mighty warriors who have no problem being outnumbered 100 to 1. Instead you have them run up to the Persian actors, cling swords and shields in a large mass, then the Persians inexplicably retreat. It doesn’t do the battle justice.
There are no real extras to speak of on this DVD besides the trailers.
The Bottom Line:
In the end, I’m not sure who to recommend The 300 Spartans to. History buffs will have problems with the details while general audiences will probably be bored by it. You may be better off waiting until they turn Gates Of Fire into a movie.