The 300 Spartans (Blu-ray)

The type of sword-and-sandals epic that Hollywood has always appreciated, The 300 Spartans is a fairly factual account of the Battle of Thermopylae. The 300 Spartans, the film that inspired Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300, and the subsequent film of the same name, has a much simpler look, as you might expect from a film of that era. However, despite some serious issues with the script, and some weak casting choices, The 300 Spartans still shows the tremendous bravery and sacrifice of the men involved.

In 480 BC, Persian King Xerxes (David Farrar), vowing to avenge his father Darius I defeat, leads his army of roughly 250,000 soldiers to Greece in order to create “one world, one master.” He expects little resistance, as the Greek people are involved in a series of civil disputes among the various city states, making getting together to fight a common enemy unthinkable. Sparta’s King Leonidas (Richard Egan) and Athens’ commander Themistocles (Sir Ralph Richardson) agree that the attack will provide the perfect opportunity to unite the country in defense against an enemy that will turn them all into slaves if successful. However, the citizens of Sparta are in the midst of a celebration of the gods, and the city father’s won’t allow for their participation until the event is over. Fearing that the Persians may already be well on their way to conquering Greece, Leonidas decides to march north with his honor guard of three hundred men to defend the only path to Greece at Thermopylae. His hope is, with Themistocles guarding his flank at the sea, and with the help of troops due to arrive later, Leonidas can hold off a force that will vastly outnumber him.

Directed by Rudolph Maté, he was a camera stylist who filmed such classics as Foreign Correspondent, To Be or Not to Be, and Gilda before becoming a director. Unfortunately, for him, despite being shot on location in Greece, The 300 Spartans is weighted down by a bad script by credited to five different writers. Incredibly dry, each character is introduced with monotonous self-explanation, and a sappy love story, seemingly added for the ladies in the audience, simply distracts from the main narrative.

Barry Coe is handsome as Pylon, the soldier fighting to regain his pride, but if he were anymore wooden, he might be mistaken for a tree. The talented Diane Baker is wasted as in the rather ridiculous part of the faithful Ellas. While she does to contribute an interesting sidelight on the emancipation of Sparta woman—something the rigid culture wouldn’t allow. Despite these issues, The 300 Spartans is beautifully photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth, and explains an interesting event in history.

The film’s 2.35:1 Cinemascope theatrical aspect ratio has been faithfully reproduced in 1080p. Free of any age related artifacts, the image looks quite sharp. Colors are solid throughout, reds are notably vivid. Flesh tones look lifelike. Black levels and contrast are both consistent.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix serves the film well, and is fairly standard for films of the era. While certainly not enveloping, sound effects have a certain boldness, as does Manos Hadjidakis’ score. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.

English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • TV Spot Ads (SD, 1:38) three separate TV ads can be watched individually or together.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD, 2:37) the original theatrical trailer in both English and Spanish is offered.
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