The 300 Spartans Blu-ray Review
“This is the story of a turning point in history, of a blazing day when 300 Greek warriors fought here to hold with their lives their freedom and ours.” So goes the opening narration to THE 300 SPARTANS, which is not one for subtlety when it comes to letting the audience know just how important the story is.
It’s 450 B.C. and King Xerxes (David Farrar, in one of his last roles in a career that included BLACK NARCISSUS and THE SMALL BACK ROOM), determined to redeem his father’s name, is prepping his Persian army to invade Greece. Word travels to Corinth, where Themistocles (Ralph Richardson, who would later earn an Academy Award nomination for GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES) and Leonidas (Richard Egan, 1953’s THE GLORY BRIGADE), leaning over a conveniently placed map of the surrounding area, agree that Xerxes must be stopped.
“Is it true that the Spartans are the greatest warriors in all of Greece?” Xerxes asks his followers. Well, they better be; the whole movie is riding on their victory.
The majority of those seeing Rudolph Maté’s THE 300 SPARTANS for the first time now, over 50 years after its release, know the story. The reason they might come across this Blu-ray—which is only out to ride the coattails of 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, itself a sequel to Zack Snyder’s 300—is probably to see how the story was approached back when Frank Miller was still eating glue.
They will be immensely bored. While he was more known for his cinematography (having lensed for directors such as Carl Th. Dreyer, Alfred Hitchcock and Ernst Lubitsch), Maté would also have a lengthy career as a director—but that doesn’t mean he belonged in the role. Some of THE 300 SPARTANS’ faults can be attributed to the era it was made—there is the sort of stiff acting that feels like every actor reading off of cue cards and a romance subplot (between Phyllon and Ellas, two characters they tend to leave out of middle school history books) that serves no purpose except to keep the female viewers conscious—but the biggest here is that there’s too much talking and not enough action. Of course, the battle is featured, but just about every man on the field seems like they would rather just stand around and not let their shields get dirty.
A positive is that many of the technical aspects are quite good: the CinemaScope photography by Geoffrey Unsworth (who would go on to win Oscars for his work on CABARET and TESS) adds to the intended epic feel, the costumes by Ginette Devaud are detailed (if not standard) and the score by Greek native Manos Hadjidakis is as effective as most others in the sword-and-sandal genre.
THE 300 SPARTANS may look and sound good, but it’s devoid of thrills and is incredibly stale. It’s the sort of movie your least favorite social studies teacher would put in the VCR when he gave up trying to pronounce Thermopylae.
THE 300 SPARTANS BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Fox has done some incredible work on their catalogue titles, but THE 300 SPARTANS isn’t one of them. While the picture has certainly been cleaned up, there are still a number of faults found in the overall ugly picture, including a lack of depth and rich colors.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0; Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. The audio transfer is a bit better, as it highlights Manos Hadjidakis’ excellent score.
Original Theatrical Trailer