REVIEW: The 300 Spartans
We have Frank Miller to thank for reminding us of the valiant tale of the Battle at Thermopylae as 300 Spartans fought off an invading force from Persia. His 300 graphic novel is a wonderful retelling of the tale and a pretty damn fine film from Zack Snyder. With the film sequel forthcoming any second now, 20th Century Home Entertainment has wisely issued the Blu-ray debut of the film that inspired Miller when he first saw it as a kid. The 300 Spartans may lack the visual panache of Snyder’s version but it makes for compelling viewing.
Oh, the script is nowhere near interesting although it does a nice job of sticking to the historic facts as Leonidas (Richard Egan) is asked by Themistocles of Athens (Ralph Richardson) to lead the army against King Xerxes (David Farrar). Not a single soldier is as ripped as Snyder’s army nor is Gorgo (Anna Synodinou), Leonidas’ wife, given as much to do as Lena Hedley, but fills the screen nicely. There is some other soap opera elements, though, as Leonidas’ niece Ellas (Diane Baker) learns her fiancée Plylon (Barry Coe) has been dishonored and cannot marry her. And Xerxes has a gal pal of his own, Artemisia (Anne Wakefield).
An interesting historic note here is that a religious holiday kept many of the soldiers at home so Leonidas takes his person squad of 300 to defend all of Greece, a suicide mission under any circumstances.
The pacing is slower but it gives cinematographer turned director Rudolph Maté a chance to make the landscape beautiful to watch. He’s ill-served by the script and its leaden expository dialogue although we get the immortal “Then we’ll just have to fight in the shade!” Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography is gorgeous here, displaying all his skills making you long for more of the European locales to be better used.
This presentation of the cult film is sharp, which makes up for a lot. Like the 2004 DVD release, it has rich colors and excellent sound. Unfortunately, like the DVD, the bonuses are limited to a trailer and television spots.