Essentially true story of how Spartan king Leonidas led an extremely small army of Greek Soldiers (300 of them his personal body guards from Sparta) to hold off an invading Persian army now thought to have numbered 250,000. The actual heroism of those who stood (and ultimately died) with Leonidas helped shape the course of Western Civilization, allowing the Greek city states time to organize an army which repelled the Persians. Set in 480 BC.Written by
Jes Beard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This movie is listed in the annual "Screen World" for 1961 releases as "The Lion Of Sparta", but reappeared with full photo coverage for the next issue (for 1962 releases) as "The 300 Spartans". See more »
Early in the film, the Persian King threatens to cut off the head of a man. As the scenes cut back and forth, we see the chopping block in heavy shade, then in bright sunlight, then back in the shade. See more »
Opening credits prologue: In the Year 480 B.C. King Xerxes of Persia set in motion his enormous slave empire to crush the small group of independent Greek states-the only stronghold of freedom still remaining in the then known world . . . See more »
An excellent epic adventure movie, retelling the tragically heroic defence of the Strait of Thermopylae by the Spartan king Leonidas, his bodyguard of 300 men and supporting Greeks. From what I've read, Hollywood for once stays fairly true to the actual historical story, only to my mind contriving a romance between the young son of a disgraced former Spartan king and the daughter of another high-ranking Spartan officer and the subterfuge of a Greek-sympathetic queen within the camp of the Persian king Xerxes.
In the early part of the film, there's lots of exposition as different characters get to explain the then-current political situation passed off as dialogue just to make sure the audience understands the historical context. Another minor criticism I might make is that the physical location of the Strait in the movie failed to convey to me its narrowness and hence terrible danger of their defence. While the battle scenes lack the realism of what you might see in a modern-day feature and you never really get the sense of the overwhelming numbers of the Persian army, it's impossible not to get caught up in the spirit of the Spartans futile but heroic resistance and there's real pathos in the ending as death rains down literally, at last, on them.
Ralph Richardson is the big name classical actor brought in like Olivier in "Spartacus" to add gravitas to proceedings and this he does capably but Richard Egan, as the noble Leonidas, is particularly good in a performance which makes you wonder why he didn't go on to become a major leading character actor of the 60's. David Farrar, as the mood-swinging Xerxes is perhaps too pantomime-villainy in the part however.
I was first taken to this movie with my classmates by a school-teacher as a history lesson many years ago and it made a big impression on me then. Revisiting it today, I got more this time of the history as well as the adventure, but in both ways this is a sword and sandals epic of the best type. A great story, well told, in short.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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