Quiz Call: The 300 Spartans

An answer to ‘Films with numbers in the title‘, I’d remarkably heard of The 300 Spartans already as it started popping up on supermarket DVD shelves in ambiguous packaging around the time 300 was popular. So that’s two frauds it’s been used in.

In ancient Greece, a huge Persian army, under the command of Xerxes (David Farrar ) threatens invasion. With the city states reluctant to unite for the battle, the Spartans step up, and under the command of Leonidas (Richard Egan) their 300 soldiers set out to sweep the Persians under the rug.

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As a feat of ancient Greek military prowess, the sort-of  true story of the 300 Spartans is second only to Alexander‘s conquest of Asia, and is still inspiring people 2,500 years later. Unlike Zack Snyder’s dumb-but-stylish 2006 effort this covers more of the political context before getting to the battle, and develops the story better than Snyder’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bloodbath.1079436-44529-clp-950

There’s a lot more from the Persian point-of-view as the least competent military commander in history, Xerxes, portrayed as a comedy villain, sits around scheming and flaps about how to out-smarten the Spartans. Presented as a freedom vs tyranny tale, it also manages slightly more emotion than that orgy of CGI-enhanced abs.

The dialogue is badly written with clumsy lines to explain backstory, and unnecessary misogynistic remarks (“Who can understand the way of the gods? They create lovely girls and then turn them into wives”). While there are a few decent performances, some of the supporting actors are rather iffy, and can’t seem to agree on how to pronounce Leonidas.

The battles are well handled, with excellent choreography, even if it doesn’t reach modern impalement-per-minute rates. The action looks good for the 60s, but the enormity of Xerxes’ army is never really captured, resulting in a film which doesn’t have the Leonidas touch.

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