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Location: Prague, Bohemia
Member Since: Tue Apr 06, 2010
Posts: 1,966
Subj: peplum review #46: the 300 Spartans (1962)
Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2022 at 02:22:29 pm EDT (Viewed 97 times)

Considering this is ne of the more popular peplums, Im surprised this was my first time seeing it. Apparently, it was gonna be a standard Italian production but then got bought by a Hollywood studio which doubled the budget, which is why it looks better than most. Than and being shot in Greece on location, which was standard for peplums but unusual for Hollywood.

It covers the famous battle of Thermopolye in 480 BC. It really was one of the crucial battles of world history where 300 Spartans and a few thousand Greeks held off a Persian army possibly 300,000 strong. If Persia had won the Second Persian war, they would have overrun Greece replacing Athenian democracy with Persian depotism and who knows where we would be now.

The film is almost 2 hours, so it covers a lot of story. It has a love story between a commanders girl and a Spartan who is disgraced as his father is believed to have joined the Persians. It also has a number of famous Spartan quotes, such as the mother who gifts her son a shield and tells him to return "with the shield on on it (dead)". While these tales seem wild to us, I recently read an ancient history study that backs up all of the military tropes about Sparta. They really were the first and greatest warrior cult.

The acting is excellent with Richard Egan as Leonidas and David Farrar as a very neauanced Xerses. Apparently this was the film that inspired Frank Millar to write his 300 comic book. Which was turned into the god-awful "300" in 2006.

It is easy to compare the two and the 1962 version wins out in almost every catergory. The spartans in 1962 version are dressed correctly, with spears and shield and bronze breastplates, unlike the 2006 version where they wear no armor in order to show off their 3.000 abs. The combat scenes in 1962 are on a massive scale with costumed extras, with the Spartans fighting IN FORMATION rather than just running forward an killing enemies like in a video game. And the greek non-spartan warriors are shown to make great contributions to the fight with arrows, spears and chariots, whereas in 300 I think they ae mentioned but never shown. (I have blocked out 300 from my memory so I could be wrong.) And the original has no battle rhinos or men with swordblade hands fortunately.

It even has Leoniadas's most famous line, when the Persian ambassador says they will blot out the sun with Persian arrows and Leo replies "Then we will fight in the shade." (Moronically, the 2006 version took this LITERALLY. Man I hate that film).

Anyway, the 300 Spartans (1962) is a great film, although it could have been trimmed down a bit. According to wikipedia, it contains a cold war anti-commie message, which if true, went completely over my head. It must have gone over the USSR's head as well as the film was a huge success there.

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