Sunday, 10 May 2015


“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: You find the present tense, but the past perfect!” - Owens Lee Pomeroy

When I was a young boy, I remember every Saturday afternoon on TV there was a program called “Epic Theatre”. I used to love watching it as it featured films from the 50s and 60s that were invariably bad, but sensational and full of adventure and were mostly of the spaghetti epic kind. You know the ones I mean, a pastiche of mythology and history, adventure, lots of fighting, liberally sprinkled with cheesy romance, and an ending where the good and the brave triumphed. Steve Reeves (Mr Universe 1950) often starred in these and he created the role of Hercules in the “epic matinee film” of 1958 The Labours of Hercules. Many dreadful sequels followed.

But I mean what kid can resist publicity like: “See the seductive Amazons lure men to voluptuous revels and violent deaths! SEE the heroic Hercules rip down the Age of Orgy’s lavish palace of lustful pleasure! SEE the Mightiest of Men fight the Mightiest of Beasts, the killer Cretan Bull! SEE Hercules fight off the savage love-starved Amazon women! SEE the seductive Amazons lure men to voluptuous revels and violent deaths! SEE the powerful Hercules crush the savage ape-men who guard the shrine of the Golden Fleece!” This is great stuff, boys’ own adventures, glop dished out in huge servings, with that soupçon of sexual innuendo to make it attractive…

Many films of the same ilk were around that time, including “Hercules and the Queen of Sheba”; “The Trojan Horse”; “Jason and the Argonauts”, “The Last Days of Pompeii”; “The Son of Spartacus”; “Operation Atlantis”; “Atlantis the Lost Continent”; “Samson and Delilah”, etc, etc… Occasionally some films of a slightly higher calibre were shown, the USA-produced epics of biblical kind: “The Egyptian”; “Quo Vadis”; “The Ten Commandments”; “Ben Hur”; “The Bible”, etc.

There seems to be a revival of the sword and sandal genre in the last few years with releases of Alexander, Troy, Gladiator, The Passion of the Christ, The Lost Legion and the controversial 300, and its sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. These last two film reminded me of the film I had seen as a child in Epic Theatre. It is Rudolph Maté’s The 300Spartans and starred Richard Egan as King Leonidas of Sparta. Well I found it and we watched it yesterday.

I must say it brought back a few nostalgic memories. Sure, it was a little cheesy and painted  with the “epic” brush, but also I found myself examining it critically and seeing that it was firstly quite accurate historically speaking. It is largely the story of Leonidas, the Spartan king and general who led his army in the battle of Thermopylae against the Persian king Xerxes I, in 480 B.C. Leonidas managed to delay the Persian hordes for two days with only 300 men. Ephialtes, a Thessalian man, betrayed the Greeks and showed the Persians another way to invade in order to attack Leonidas’ men from the rear of the narrow pass of Thermopylae that the Greeks were guarding. Leonidas sent some of his army to safety, and died fighting the Persians together with 700 volunteers.

The film has some good acting (for the time and genre, and remember after all, this was a B-grade movie), a delightful score by Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis and appearances by some well-known Greek actors of the time (Anna Synodinou, Michalis Nikolinakos, Yorgos Moutsios, Dimos Starenios, Anna Raftopoulou). The scenery is magnificent and the battle scenes quite convincing. David Farrar makes for a good Xerxes and Sir Ralph Richardson a believable Themistocles.

For a good review of the film, see:

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