The 300 Spartans (1962)

This is the 300th post on this blog. A landmark for me, which I decided to celebrate with a film about 300-something.

The 300 Spartans is based on a real-life incident, the Battle of Thermopylae in about 480 BC, when a handful of Spartan warriors led by King Leonidas, faced up to the invading army of the Persian king Xerxes. The film begins just as the vast armies of Xerxes (David Farrar) are pouring into Greece.

Xerxes is seated on a canopied throne on a hill, surrounded by his advisers and bodyguards when a Spartan spy, Agathon (John Crawford) is brought before him.
Xerxes’s men report that they’re spent two days torturing Agathon in an attempt to make him speak, but he’s not broken yet.


Xerxes orders the beheading of the man, then calls aside the executioner and whispers a command to him. The axe falls lightly, nicking the side of Agathon’s neck but otherwise leaving him untouched. Xerxes wants the Spartan to return and let his people know how powerful Xerxes is.


Agathon, on his way out of the Persian camp, comes across a familiar face – a Spartan named Grellas, who’s obviously turned traitor. Grellas tries to deny it, but Agathon flings him aside and swiftly rides off to report matters to the Spartans.


Grellas isn’t the only Spartan in the Persian army. Among Xerxes’s important advisers is Demeratus (Ivan Triesault), an ex-king of Sparta. Demeratus has been trying to convince Xerxes that taking on the Spartans is a bad idea, but Xerxes isn’t listening.
He also isn’t ready to pay any attention right now to the commander of his personal bodyguard (known as the ‘Immortals’), Hydarnes (Donald Houston).


… mostly because he’s more interested in a recent ally, the Queen of Halicarnassus, Artemisia (Anne Wakefield). Artemisia has come to join Xerxes at his camp, and after having informed him of the naval fleet that she’s got ready to assist him in his conquest of Greece, she proceeds to enjoy herself at Xerxes’s camp. Ahem.


Meanwhile, the Greeks are in council at Corinth, trying to decide how to deal with the looming threat of a brutal Persian invasion. There’s much bickering and exchange of insults, with the Athenians accusing the Spartans of being as concerned about their religion (perhaps more?) as the security of Greece. Ten years ago, when Xerxes had attacked, the Spartans had been too busy celebrating a festival to join in repelling the invaders.


Some of the representatives of the Greek states feel that Xerxes is a problem each state must tackle independently, since they are, after all, independent states.
Finally, though, the representative of Athens, Themistocles (Ralph Richardson, in his last role) pronounces the decision for Athens: Athens will fight Xerxes. And Athens will welcome the help of any Greek state which agrees to fight alongside. Some of the representatives present begin to pledge their allegiance to Athens.


When the Spartan representative, Leonidas (Richard Egan) is asked whether Sparta will join the fight, he says that he cannot take the decision without the consent of the council of Sparta. But he knows his people, and he thinks he speaks for Sparta: yes. “Sparta will fight. Whether others will follow or not.”


Later, before Leonidas leaves for Sparta to inform the Spartan council, he discusses a military strategy that the Greeks can possibly adopt to fight the Persian armies. Leonidas emphasises the fact that if Xerxes and his troops are able to break through into Thessaly, it’ll be easy for them to sweep across Greece and subjugate the entire land by force of numbers. Between the two of them, Leonidas and Themistocles must fix on a location where they can stop the Persians from getting to Thessaly.


They fix on the mountain pass of Thermopylae. This is a very narrow neck of land, narrow enough to be held by a strong Greek force. If they can hold back Xerxes at Thermopylae, it is their best chance of sending the Persians back home.
So Leonidas and Themistocles come to a decision: Leonidas will bring the Spartan army to Thermopylae, while Themistocles will bring Athens’s navy into the bay beside Thermopylae. Caught between the Spartan army and the Athenian ships, the Persians will be forced to retreat.


While Leonidas is still at Corinth, Agathon, the spy who had been released by Xerxes, arrives. He reports the Persians’ strength to Leonidas, and also tells him about Grellas, the Spartan who has defected to the Persian camp. Through their conversation, it emerges that Grellas has a son, a young man named Phyllon (Barry Coe), who is still in Sparta. Perhaps they should keep a closer watch on Phyllon…


Back in Sparta, it’s a red letter day (or rather, a red cloak day) for Phyllon: he is being officially named a Spartan warrior, and is being ceremonially given a Spartan shield and a red war cloak. Since Phyllon’s own mother is dead, this important ritual is being performed by Leonidas’s wife, Queen Gorgo (Anna Synodinou), who pronounces the traditional blessing as she gives Phyllon the shield: “With this, or on this.”
Either come home victorious with this shield, or come home dead on it.
There is no room for cowards in Sparta.


One would have thought Phyllon would be less keen to lay down his life at the moment. He is wildly in love with his childhood sweetheart Ellas (Diane Baker), who is Gorgo’s niece. Phyllon has even spoken to Ellas’s father, who has consented to their match. Both Phyllon and Ellas are now looking forward to getting married and living happily ever after.


When Leonidas arrives back home in Sparta, his reunion with his wife Gorgo is short but affectionate. He tells Gorgo about the upcoming Thermopylae campaign. She proudly tells him of the progress their little son has been making in his military training, and then she shares a prophecy the Spartan high priest has made by reading the entrails of a sacrificed lamb: “…you will be the Spartan king best remembered to man.”


Leonidas, in turn, tells Gorgo the news: the Spartan council has decided that yes, Sparta must lead the Greek armies into battle against the Persians. But only after the upcoming festival – an important one – is over. Leonidas tries to reason with the council, but they’re adamant.
After having had the Spartans’ piety jeered at in Corinth, Leonidas isn’t ready to accept this. So he takes the only way out. The one wing of Spartan soldiers exempt from the rule of the council is Leonidas’s personal bodyguard, 300 men.


Leonidas lets the council know that he will march into battle with these 300 men. They grudgingly allow that the rest of the army will join Leonidas’s forces once the festival is over.

Leonidas is ready to march – he cannot delay any longer—when Agathon speaks up against Phyllon, who has come, armoured and clad in his war cloak, ready to go into battle. Phyllon’s father, Grellas, is a traitor, says Agathon. Phyllon’s loyalty is suspect. He cannot be trusted to stay faithful in battle.
Leonidas’s decision is fair. Phyllon is a free-born man and not responsible for his father’s actions, so he shouldn’t be punished. But he cannot be allowed to be part of the Spartan forces either.


Phyllon is therefore stripped of his shield and war cloak.

Desolate and depressed, he goes off into the countryside, while Leonidas and his 300 men set out for Thermopylae.
But all is not lost for Phyllon, because he has a faithful sweetheart, who gets his shield back and brings it to him, encouraging him to go to Thermopylae. She, too, will come with him.


This, of course, is just the start. On the way to Thermopylae, Leonidas finds unexpected help: an old friend, a commander of the Thespian army, comes offering help. He has 700 men eager to fight alongside the Spartans (Leonidas wisely doesn’t mention how many Spartans he has right now).


And so they go, to Thermopylae, where Xerxes waits. The odds are ridiculous. Is there any chance that the Spartans will win? Or even be able to hold back the Persians until the rest of the Spartan army comes along? Or will it be an utter massacre?

If you know your history, you’ll probably know what happened. Actually, you don’t even need to know history. Try mathematics. 300 (and perhaps another 1,000, including Thespians, Thebans and lesser Greek armies) against Xerxes’s approximately 100,000 – 3,00,000 odd? Did Leonidas ever have a chance?

What I liked about this film:

The costumes and the landscape, which recreate the scene very well. The 300 Spartans was filmed in Greece, with a large cast drawn from Greek actors and a crew too that included Greeks , so there’s enough of an authentic feel to it all. Doesn’t this look like something out of one of those ancient Greek friezes you see in museums?


Some of the dialogue – especially in Leonidas’s exchange with Hydarnes, when Hydarnes comes as an emissary of Xerxes – is good.

Hydarnes: “…when we attack today, our arrows will blot out the sun!”
Leonidas (with a wry smile): “Then we will fight in the shade.”
Hydarnes: “But this slaughter is useless! Surrender your arms, and my king will spare you and your Spartans… what shall I tell him?”
Leonidas: “Molon labe… Come and take them!”

This was rather stirring (look at the trivia section below, and you’ll see why). On the other hand, some of the dialogue is over the top propaganda-ish (this was made during the Cold War, remember?) and made me squirm with all its chest-thumping stress on duty, honour, valour and whatnot.

What I didn’t like:

The scripting. Though it does stay fairly true to the actual course of events of the Battle of Thermopylae, after a while The 300 Spartans starts to become just a series of not-very-well-orchestrated scenes of battle. I hasten to add that that isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just that I’d have liked to see some more of what the men behind the warriors were. I’d liked to have seen their personal feelings, their reactions, their fears as they go into what will almost certainly be their last battle.

As it is, the personal lives of only two men are touched upon: Leonidas and Phyllon. Of those two, Leonidas’s is not much more than a fleeting glimpse. And Phyllon and Ellas are rather too boring to constitute an interesting couple – plus, the acting of the two is uninspired.

Two little bits of trivia:

The 300 Spartans was the film that comic book artist and writer Frank Miller saw as a child, which later inspired him to create the graphic novel 300 – on which the 2006 Gerard Butler-starrer film 300 was based.

Remember that dialogue I’ve quoted above, in which Leonidas tells Hydarnes “Come and get them”? That’s the sentence – Molon labe – engraved below the statue of Leonidas at the Leonidas Monument at Thermopylae. Have a look at the statue:

(Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; photo by Vagelis Vlahos)

Doesn’t look much like Richard Egan, I think. That bare chest and the massive pecs remind me not of Mr Egan, but of someone else, and much more recent… Mr Butler?

Comparisons, comparisons:

When I review an old film that’s been remade (or has inspired a remake), I’m tempted to do a comparison between the original and the remake. In this case, 300 was not precisely a remake of The 300 Spartans – the inspiration happened in a more roundabout sort of way. But here’s my two cents, anyway.

300 is, as I’d mentioned earlier, the result of Frank Miller having watched The 300 Spartans as a child.  Miller also went on to produce this film, and it has the ‘noir’ graphic novel feel to it, all right: very smart, stylish, bloody. The screen is tinted in brooding browns and yellows, lots of shadow and darkness to portray the grim harshness of Sparta. And when the battle starts, there’s blood and gore aplenty. Capes swish in slow motion, Leonidas and his men swirl around slowly, plunging their lances into attacking Persian soldiers, slashing with their swords, sending blood spewing and cut limbs flying in all directions (you can even hear the blood spurting). It’s very graphic.

Where all of this wins is in that it establishes the horror of war, and the hardiness of the Spartans. In fact, the first few scenes of the film – which show Leonidas grow from a newborn to a boy, and his training as a Spartan warrior – offer a good, concise explanation of the Spartan code of conduct. In comparison, The 300 Spartans is a little wishy-washy. Yes, the Spartans are brave warriors there too, but not in the ruthless, proud way that they’re shown in 300.


Somewhere, though, the darkness of 300 changes into farce. Almost everybody here who is wicked – from Xerxes and his greatest fighters, to the Spartans who turn traitor – is in some way abnormal. Xerxes is a weird giant who is inexplicably clad in chains, with face piercings and gold eyeshadow which make him look villainous but not exactly a warrior.


His elite bodyguard, the ‘Immortals’, wear silver masks, because each of them has a deformed face. Also in the Persian army is a monstrous giant with massive fangs and bubbling flesh (the bubbling, sore-riddled flesh, by the way, seems to be a popular element of makeup for anybody who’s not an honourable Spartan).


Oh, and did I mention the orgiastic lesbianism in Xerxes’s camp? Who knows why.

There are a couple of redeeming factors – for instance, the action switches between the battlefield and Sparta, where Gorgo is trying to have help sent to Leonidas – and is facing resistance. That helps relieve the unrelenting battle scenes somewhat. Also, Gorgo’s relationship with her husband is more tenderly depicted in 300 than in The 300 Spartans: their parting, as he’s leaving for the battle, is understated but poignant.


Which is the better film? It’s hard to say. 300 looks more stylish, and conveys the harshness of Spartan life better. But it goes overboard in that; at some point it becomes just too unnecessarily violent. The 300 Spartans is more old-fashioned in that way: cleaner, quieter, less of everything.

If you want a film that’s a good historic account of what happened at the Battle of Thermopylae, watch The 300 Spartans. If you want to watch fantasy (and that too with lots of violence thrown in), go for 300. Of course, you could also watch it just for the sight of all those men – Gerard Butler in particular – traipsing around in just enough to show off all those beautifully honed male bodies.

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87 thoughts on “The 300 Spartans (1962)

  1. Madhulka, you celebrate your 300th posting with a lovely film on one of the greatest battle’s ever. As is your trait you have the knack of getting it on time always! Pefrect 10/10!
    Leonidas, Xerxes, the Greeks and Spartans. I was waiting for your reference of Xerxes. Just like the way he is introduced in our English reader seated on a mountain on a caparisoned throne.
    Neel

  2. Men wanting to wage a war! Nothing has changed, what?
    300 came at the right time, what with USA wanting to attack Iran. The “monstrous giant with massive fangs and bubbling flesh” maybe symbolises Iran’s atomic arsenal.
    Hmmm…
    Maybe we just need more peace films

    • Yes, 300 came at a time when the US wanted to attack Iran (so why not show an ancient Persian king in the worst possible light?!), and The 300 Spartans came at the time of the Cold War. At least The 300 Spartans is more like a docu-drama of the entire event, rather than the OTT enactment that 300 became. When you have a bunch of men fighting monsters, it’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, not something out of history! ;-)

      Yes, peace films are needed – but sensible, well-made peace films. The last modern ‘peace’ film I saw was Avatar, and I have to admit I dozed off in that.

      • “I have to admit I dozed off in that.”

        You are so refreshingly frank!
        BTW, I loved Avatar. A friend of mine was bickering though that the people have to wait again for the saviour/messiah. her reasoning was somehow right, but I liked the eco-message.

        • That frankness is a hallmark of being a writer! ;-)

          I liked the eco-message of Avatar too (and Tarun, by the way, LOVED the film). I just found it a little too prolonged – maybe that was why I drifted off. Also, the end battle was a bit cheesy. It had these too-strong lines of demarcation between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. That’s the same problem with 300 – there are no greys, only stark black or white.

      • @ Harvey & Dustedoff :)
        “300 came at the right time, what with USA wanting to attack Iran.” — This is a little too harsh. Technically, the year 2006 when 300 was released, the US electorate had enough of wars, and they replaced the Republicans in Congress & Senate with Democrats.
        2012 could be a different story.

          • “Fair Game” is a good film released in 2011, a true story about Valerie Plame Wilson. She used to work in the CIA, and her husband criticized the Bush admin’s alleged misuse of intelligence re: Iraq’s attempt to buy uranium from Niger. The Bush Admin retaliated by leaking her name to the press, a crime under US laws.
            It is also available as a book, but is not a good read as much of it is redacted by the CIA for security reasons. This was the first such book I read, with redactions I mean (BTW although I sort of guessed what “redact” mean, I did look it up to confirm.).
            As an author yourself, I thought you would find it interesting on many levels.

            • I guessed what ‘redact’ meant too, but yes, I had to look it up to see exactly what it meant.

              Fair Game sounds interesting – I just had a brief glimpse of it on IMDB. Will certainly look out for it, though I doubt if I’ll be able to get hold of the book… it might be interesting to be able to read the two versions, the original (impossible, I guess) and the redacted. As an exercise in comparisons…

        • Maybe a little. But you can’t deny that the threat/idea to attack Iran crops up time and again.

          I forgot to add this in my comment below.
          You know Persian! I am impressed!

          • @Harvey
            “You know Persian! I am impressed!”, and you thought I only know about 70’s songs & 70’s Dev :)
            I know very little right now, once upon a time (those 70’s again), I knew enough to go around on my own in Iran.

            “you can’t deny that the threat/idea to attack Iran crops up time and again.” — No argument about that at all.
            Just wanted to point out that 2012 is more probable than 2006. However, I would also like to point out that an attack on Iran (from the US perspective) is much less likely than an attack on Iraq.

            • We are discovering new sides to you.First we knew you as an oenophile, then as a 70s song connoisseur of 70s songs and that of 70s Dev songs and now as a Persian scholar.
              WOW! THAT IS IMPRESSIVE!!!!!!

              You are right it is less likely!

            • I am very impressed too!

              My sister had to learn Persian in order to make sense of some of the original research material she needed for her PhD, but she’s forgotten a lot of it now, I think. But she still remembers enough to get very excited when she finds a word – in another language – that makes sense in Persian. They had house guests last month; the wife is Israeli by birth and tries as much as possible to ensure that she talks to her toddler in Hebrew. My sister was telling me with great glee: “Guess what’s the Hebrew for ‘Good night’? Laila-tov” (‘laila’ being Persian for ‘night’). She also discovered that Hebrew for ‘elephant’ is ‘peel – similar to the Persian equivalent, fil.

              Ah, words… :-)

  3. Congratulations!!! DO!!
    Well done. We have much to celebrate as well – 300 pieces of interesting and enjoyable moments.

    LOL at ‘men in mini skirts’.
    My choice would fall on the old film. Hate blood and gore, and in spite of Gerard Butler it wouldn’t tempt me.

    I particularly liked this description by you;

    “300 looks more stylish, and conveys the harshness of Spartan life better. But it goes overboard in that; at some point it becomes just too unnecessarily violent. The 300 Spartans is more old-fashioned in that way: cleaner, quieter, less of everything.”

    • Thank you, pacifist! :-) I’d never have been able to sustain this blog if it hadn’t been for all my blog readers who keep it going!

      My husband was asking me today (he hasn’t read this post) how I would compare the two films, and I had to agree that those flights of fancy and the blood and gore were too much for me. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that you’re watching a depiction of the same incident – The 300 Spartans is so much cleaner. It doesn’t pull punches; we do see men getting wounded and bloodied and increasingly dirty, but the camera doesn’t dwell lingeringly on how it happens.

    • I just had a look at that page too. It seems to mean ‘King of Kings’. Sounds oddly like something to do with kshatriya, no? It just have some connection to Sanskrit, since the ancient Persians probably used a language with Indo-European roots. No idea, just wild guesses.

      Incidentally, this reminded me of someone I met a couple of years back. They were a Slovenian couple who’d come to India, and during conversation they mentioned that their language has roots in Sanskrit. So my friends and I decided to test it out: we asked them to recite the numbers from 1 to 10 in their language. It sounds crazy, but it was almost like hearing the numbers in Hindi or Sanskrit!

      • I do not know much about ancient Persian, but modern Persian is very close to Hindi/Sanskrit, much closer than say Tamil. 1-10 in Persian is
        Ek, Do, Se, Char, Paenj, Sheesh, Haft,Hasht, Nau,Dus.
        Always glad to flaunt my limited and rapidly dwindling knowledge of Persian :)

        • That’s interesting. :-)

          I love the way one comes across these occasional tidbits of information on language. I subscribe to A Word A Day (from Wordsmith) and am always very happy when I discover some familiar word which has an interesting etymology!

          • Knock !Knock! May I join the discussion.
            History and history of languages has always interested me, what set me going on this path was a book my brother once borrowed from the British Council Library. Back then I wasn’t too knowledgeable on these matters, so when I read in this book, written by some European historian, that Sanskrit is the mother of all European languages, It piqued my interest and now I have a nice compilation of words which are similar in all these languages which also includes Persian. The
            Zend – Avesta the holy scripture of the Zoroastrians, I am told, also has several Sanskrit words, which is not surprising given the fact that Indian and Iranians according to historians had common Aryan roots.
            As for the similar sounding words this is the game I love to play, I take a word in English, for instance murder- a word which obviously relates to the death of a person, maybe of unnatural causes but death nevertheless; note the major sounds or syllables here viz m r and d, now let us take Sanskrit or shudh Hindi words,you have mrityu and maran, the Urdu word is maut the German is Mort. You see all the syllables being repeated m,r and d. The d sound changes to t, the letters d and t interchange across languages, therefore we say Assam while the Assamese say Ahom because s changes to h in Assam, in fact in Persian too s changes to h, for example the river Saraswati was referred to as Harauvati in old Persian and Haraxvaiti in Avestan and it is no secret we came to be called Hindus because the Persians referred to the Sindhu as Hindu. I could go on and on but I better quit before I over stay my welcome or have I already?

            • Ah, Shilpi. :-) You’re a person after my own heart! I love discovering stuff like what you’ve just mentioned (incidentally, when I began reading about ‘murder’ and its related words, the word that immediately came to my mind was morte, the French word for ‘dead’).

              And you will never outstay your welcome here if you’re willing to share such delightful trivia with me. I’m a trivia buff, and etymology of this sort is right up my street. I find it fascinating.

              • Thank you for that ‘tree link’ stuartnz.
                It makes a lot of sense when one finds all these similarities.
                I know there are a lot of views which take sanskrit as the root, which is of course not a satisfactory explanation because there was Pali, and older language.
                Many scholars, in fact have concluded that sanskrit could not have been a spoken language, only a wriiten one.

            • The relationships between the members of the Indo-European languages are fascinating and complex. The consensus of linguists today is not that Sanskrit is the mother of all European languages, though. It is related, and clearly much older, but it was the sort of similarities that you mention which led to the realisation that the Indic languages and the European languages all share a common ancestor. There’s a nice graphic here http://labs.bio.unc.edu/Hurlbert/langtree2.htm that illustrates the relationships between the various language families that all trace back to P.I.E., the language from which Sanskrit, and all the other Indo-European languages derive. In addition to the examples you supply, here are two of my favourites, one illustrating the way a word can survive through millennia and the other a fascinating coincidence:
              Mead, the fermented honey drink, derives its name ultimately from the P.I.E. word for honey, which is very similiar to the Skt word. From etymonline.com: “fermented honey drink,” O.E. medu, from P.Gmc. *meduz (cf. O.N. mjöðr, Dan. mjød, O.Fris., M.Du. mede, Ger. Met “mead”), from PIE root *medhu- “honey, sweet drink” (cf. Skt. madhu “sweet, sweet drink, wine, honey,” Gk. methy “wine,” O.C.S. medu, Lith. medus “honey,” O.Ir. mid, Welsh medd, Breton mez “mead”)”

              Then, a fascinating coincidence of unrelated words having the same “spelling” and meaning, “bad”, which has a similar meaning in Persian (and thence into Hindi) as in English, but the words are historically unconnected. Hence, we have the linguistic curiosity that “badnaam” can be translated “bad name” without a link between the two “bad”s. :)
              Similarly with “path” – English is the only Germanic language to have this word, so although most linguists think it MAY have been a loanword from an old Persian language such as Avestan, the problem this causes is explaining why such a borrowing would only crop up in English, not in any of the Germanic languages more nearly contemporaneous with the putative source language.
              For anyone who loves digging into etymology and the relationships between language families, I’d advise checking to see if your public library has an OED subscription. Mine does, and being able to access the detailed etymological notes on words is a real delight. And for good blogs on the subject of language and linguistics (a real passion of mine), I’d recommend starting with http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/ my own list of language links includes many excellent resources on P.I.E. and etymology, among other linguitic subjects.

  4. I do enjoy watching 300 when it plays on TV. My son and I watch out for the iconic dialogue – This is Sparta – Kick!

    As you say, Xerxes looks weird, so do his emissaries. But 300 has a comic book feel to it, which you explained so well.

    Many congratulations on 300 posts. May you post 300 more and soon!

    • Heh. “This is Sparta!” – Kick! is iconic. So much so that I was illustrating it last evening for the benefit of my husband (who, while he’s seen 300, had forgotten it). We have a very nasty neighbour, terribly unfriendly and whiny – and I was telling Tarun that I felt like thrashing her. When Tarun suggested I kick her down the stairs, I went “Hah! This is Madhulikaaa!

      That cracked us up. :-)

  5. Congratulations on your 300th post, I always look forward to them. I have seen bits & pieces of both 300 movies, but I could never finish them. Something was missing in both of them, and like most here, I would prefer the older version.
    Also, I thought men-in-mini-skirts was better in Ben-Hur & Cleopatra :), at least these two I was able to complete, but they still dragged on.

    • Thank you, Samir!

      Yes, I agree there are flaws in both versions of the 300 films. I don’t think I’d been too keen on rewatching either of them. I did watch both right through the end – I have never willingly given up on a film till The End – but I wouldn’t repeat it.

      As for men in mini-skirts, I don’t think Charleton Heston’s legs are that great in Ben Hur. ;-) But Stephen Boyd looks good in a tunic (and even better in The Fall of the Roman Empire). Oh, and Stewart Granger in that bit part in Caesar and Cleopatra is delicious!

  6. Congratulations on achieving 300 landmark! On Spartans, I remeber I was terribly impressed when a friend of mine, who has a way with words, once said while maing a point, ‘And we must not forget not all Spartans were heroes!’

    • Thank you, AK!

      Your friend made a good point – most of us do tend to forget that only a certain section of the Spartans were the warriors. The rest had to live relatively mundane (safe?) lives.

  7. Madhu, congratulations! And let there be another three hundred, and then another, and then another…

    Have seen this film, oh, so long ago, I’m beginning to feel old. :) Liked all the swashbuckling then, but I’m somehow not very enthused to watching it again. I wonder why… I like period movies, and historicals. The new 300 was a joke, though it had some pretty men. :)

    • Thank you, Anu!

      I like swashubuckling films – when I was a kid, and even now – but I do feel there has to be a good script, not just a whole bunch of men going “Hoo-haaa!!!” all the time. Scaramouche is my favourite example of a good swashbuckler that had the duelling and all, but also a good story.

      Oh, yes – the pretty men was the best thing about 300! :-D

  8. Congrats on the landmark. It is a BIG achievement, especially because all your posts are well thought-out quality ones. I am really fortunate to have discovered this blog. Hoping to discover many more old gems through your posts. Have ordered Prem Patra after reading your post on it.

  9. Congratulations on your 300th post!

    I would definitely like to see this older version, for the later version did not evoke my interest. Thanks to better technology and post production facilities I find this modern day tendency of film makers to give a certain look to a film very irritating. Be it an ad film or a feature film you will find a certain look, it could be a sepia tone or the dark look as in the case of 300. In case of ad films the colours of the product advertised usually finds its way into the look of the film. From the look of the screen shots I can tell this is a better narration of the history of the battle. Incidentally the Parsi community here in Bombay was quite upset at the depiction of Persians in the later version 300.

    • In case of ad films the colours of the product advertised usually finds its way into the look of the film.

      That’s a very insightful observation, Shilpi! I’d never thought about it, but will certainly pay more attention from now on.

      Yes, I’d heard about the Parsis being very upset about the depiction of the Persians in 300. I believe Iran was, too. I don’t blame them – this film went so terribly overboard in depicting Xerxes and his minions as monstrous, evil creatures. One reason why I liked The 300 Spartans was that while it did side with the Spartans, it never made Xerxes out to be anything worse than another ambitious king with dreams of being a world-conqueror. Certainly much more believable.

      • Well my brother and I are both connected to advertising, to be more precise in my case I was connected while my brother still is, so naturally this is something which we both find irritating, we have seen ad film makers decide on the film’s look based on the pack’s colours. Long ago we happened to be present at the shoot of a lotion and we noticed the model wearing a saree which was the same colour as the lotion’s bottle.

  10. Congratulations on 300 posts! Your blog has been a real treasure trove for me, and I look forward to continuing to be educated and informed by your richly written posts, and the wide range of responses. And this choice of film makes it VERY obvious which film you will have to review exactly 120 posts from now.

    • Thank you, Stuart!

      And yes, I think by the time the 420th post comes around, I will have become more amenable to RK’s films. ;-) (Though I must admit Shree 420 is one of the few RK films I do like). The only problem with a cult film like that is: how do you find something to say that hasn’t been said before? No wonder I’ve not tried to review Pyaasa – I’d simply be saying, even if unconsciously, something which someone somewhere had already said.

      • Ah, that’s your fatal flaw then – too grounded in reality, lacking the ignorant hubris that enabled an owlish male child to do exactly that! I’m sure that the sort of personal connnections to the 50s filmi era you have would enable you to do justice to Shree 420. The personal stories you’ve shared from musicians and others have certainly added something to many of your posts, no matter how often the films in question have been reviewed. A nice challenge, one you have 119 posts to prepare for. :)

        • Owlish male children are certainly endowed with more cinema-appreciation skills than I am! :-)

          …which does bring to mind the question of whether such skills can be acquired over time, without anybody telling you what to look out for, and how to analyse something. Or is it a skill that you must be taught? Does analysing a film so deeply detract in some way from enjoying the film itself?

          Forgive me. I was attending a conference – on crime fiction – yesterday, and one of the speakers over-analysed the works of some of the earliest writers (like Wilkie Collins) to such an extent that I developed a headache.

          • I think we have very similar views on over-analysis. Sometimes, a cigar really IS just a cigar, and I lack the profundity or patience to do a frame-by-frame analysis of the subtextual metaphor behind every shot. Which is why I love your blog – intelligent, thoughtful and aware of the art, but above all celebrating cinema as entertainment. As Goldilocks would say, just right! Thanks again, and keep it up.

            • I am reminded of a recent comment Anu posted on one of my other posts regarding over-analysis: she mentioned Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, in particular the last line, “and miles to go before I sleep. It seems Frost admitted that that was all he meant: ‘and miles to go before I sleep’. Literally that, no more.

              Thank you for the appreciation! Now I have such a bloated ego, it’s going to take some effort to get it back in control. :-)

  11. My number may be 300th in congratulating DustedOff 300 times for next 300 . . . till infinity…
    The statements – Enjoying your reviews and relishing your selections – could be clssic underplay very adroitly used by the directors for some the actors … but relut here is as good as on the screen.
    Great Job, DustedOff. We are proud to have been regualr peeping toms on your site.

  12. OK friends since you enjoyed my word game, here is another one; the English word is Door, Hindi – Dwar, Urdu- Darwaza, German – Tür. I did mention T and D are interchangeable and Madhu can add the French word, since I have all but forgotten French barring a few phrases I learnt in school and college. I think I have to save this post as well thanks to all the links provided by your readers.

    • … and the Persian word for ‘door’ is dar, which of course is used in Urdu as well.

      The French word is very different – porte, but then, as our French lecturer told us in our very first class in college, French was ‘street Latin’. That accounts for this, since the Latin for ‘door’ is porta.

      …and so we come to portal. :-)

        • Yes you could be right, and I guess since Urdu, that supposedly had its origins in the soldiers’ a camp, is a mix of Arabic, Persian and our own Hindi, I guess Darwaza could have its origin in Arabic.

            • True! Did you know, by the way, that there’s an Urdu Bazaar is Delhi? It’s the stretch between the Red Fort and Chandni Chowk/Jama Masjid. During the Mughal era, Urdu Bazaar used to specialise in the materials that soldiers – who occupied the camps around – would need, such as weaponry, clothing, and so on.

    • The rules that govern the way consonants shift are very well-defined, and are one of the ways that linguists establish relationships between languages in the same family and work backwards to reconstruct the proto-parent language, in this case P.I.E. I was delighted when I learned many years ago that the famous Grimm brothers were linguists, not story tellers, and that the reason they had travelled around collecting folk tales was for linguistic research. The d > t connection mentioned by Shilpi is part of what’s called Grimm’s Law:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grimm%27s_law

      • I am a little mentally fatigued right now to go through that page on Grimm’s law, but that bit of trivia about how the Grimm brothers happened to collect folk tales is delightful! Thank you, Stuart. :-)

          • Oh, Stuart. You have just made my day! I loved that – and, oddly, I realised that a fair number of words and phrases are actually part of my vocabulary (‘bugger, ninee, almirah, jhaaran, kanni, morha, dekchi, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”‘) and lots more. There were others that I may not use, but have heard people use, or am otherwise familiar with.

            Then I realised that I acquired those words through my mum – who, although not Anglo-Indian, was brought up in Calcutta at a time when there were a lot of Anglo-Indians in Calcutta. Possibly, because our family was Christian and many of their friends were Anglo-Indians – plus my mum studied in educational institutions with a high percentage of Anglo-Indian classmates, some of their vocabulary and way of speaking may have rubbed off.

          • I am loving it! Where did you here this tagline? Of course the McDonald ad but I am not publicizing junk food here, I love this discussion I will take some time off to see this video. Incidentally the word bugger is used a great deal in Bandra a suburb in Bombay, I used it as a matter of routine, giving it up only as I got older. It was and is not uncommon hear someone say,” He is a Bandra bugger men”.

            • Which tagline, Shilpi? The ‘eyes are bigger than your stomach’ one? If that’s the one you’re referring to, my mum used to constantly be telling me that when I was a kid – I’d invariably end up filling my plate because my mum cooks so well – and I’d eventually not be able to eat all of it.

              I never even realised that jhaaran, dekchi, kanni and morha were not Hindustani words. I always thought they were! (In fact, I’ve often told my husband about other people “speaking with a kanni“. Initially, Tarun was very puzzled – I had to explain what I meant, and put it down to his Punjabi-ised upbringing!!) Now I’ll have to apologise to him. :-D

  13. @Stuart, regarding that amazing comment on the linguistic tree, on ‘mead and ‘madhu‘ (yay!!), and more… I loved that, devoured it with much enjoyment. Thank you. I had a very quick look at the site you recommended too, and just may decide to visit it more frequently.

    If only I had more time on my hands!

  14. Hey Madhu, many congratulations on your 300th!!! I really enjoy reading your blog – love your narrative style. And of course the comments section is always a lot of fun to read. :-)

    I haven’t seen this film. Or 300 for that matter. I did see a documentary on BBC on Sparta and its war though. Was pretty good.

    Since there has been a bit of talk here about “peace” films (or rather anti-war films), I thought I’d mention “All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)”. I saw it many years ago – and it has stayed with me ever since as one of my favourites. I’m pretty sure you must have seen it too (it’s a classic!) – would be wonderful if you could review it. Some of the scenes in that movie, and some of the dialogues, go straight to your heart.

    Also, talking of anti-war, I quite liked Saving Private Ryan (1998). Ok, so the opening scene is really bloody (and therefore actually quite realistic because that’s what war is about, it’s not pretty) but overall the film takes a very human look at war and the toll it takes on those involved in it. Much like AQOTWF. That’s what I like about these movies – they don’t glamourise war.

    Ok, since your 300th was about 300, just wanted to remind you there’s a Randhir Kapoor movie of the mid-70s called Dafaa 302. ;-)
    It tanked. Well, when I say Randhir Kapoor in the mid-70s, I don’t need to say more about the film. Just a pleonasm, right? :-)

    • Thank you, Raja, for the appreciation! The comments, I must admit, are among the main reasons I love blogging – I learn so many interesting things (and not always about films) that way. :-)

      Unfortunately, I haven’t seen (or read) All Quiet on the Western Front, though of course it’s an acknowledged classic in the anti-war ‘genre’ (if it can be called that – or just a theme?) Will certainly keep an eye out for it now.

      I have seen Saving Private Ryan, but the blood and gore there really put me off. I suppose that’s one reason I like these old films so much – they’re (even if unrealistically) sanitised. Yes, you know people are getting wounded and are dying, but it’s never in such graphic detail.

      Eww. Randhir Kapoor in the mid-70s? Just the thought makes me shudder.

  15. I love how a post on Spartans and war devolved (or evolved) into a discussion on language and the etymology of words. It was very stimulating and thanks, stuart, for the links. When I have time, *if* I have time, I shall visit there more often. :) (I did take a quick look.)

    As for analyses, as long as it expands my enjoyment of a film or a book, or gives me different perspective than the one I held, I’m all for it.

    When it becomes a pretentious exercise in showing me what I should have seen, but was of course too dumb to do so, then it takes away from the whole raison d’être of a film (especially) or a book. Sometimes, (as stuart quoted) ‘A cigar is just a cigar.’

    A big ‘thank you’ to all of you who made some very interesting observations.

    • “When it becomes a pretentious exercise in showing me what I should have seen, but was of course too dumb to do so.

      Anu, how I agree with you! I was at a crime fiction conference-cum-festival at Delhi’s St Stephen’s College, and the panel discussion at the end was one of the most relaxing I’ve ever been part of – simply because people didn’t try to analyse and dissect every little aspect of the books I (or the other authors) write. We just had a nice friendly chat.

      For me, at least, that was perfect. I’ve been to too many discussions and book readings where people attempt to read into my writing meanings that I’d never intended at all.

  16. Congratulations on your triple century. This blog really deserves nothing less than 300 comments :-)

    A wonderful post as usual. I have added this movie to my watchlist.

  17. Congratulations on your 300th post!

    Now I must admit to like Gerard Butler’s Leonidas very much and not only because he looked rather manly and dashing in the film but also he consulted his queen on important matters and furthermore even acts upon her words of advice.

    • Yes, he’s a good character – his love and respect for his wife, and his affection for his son, show the human side of him very well. It’s similar to Richard Egan’s Leonidas in that way: he too is a caring man who loves his wife and respects her wisdom.

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