"The 300 Spartans" has been a bit of a Holy Grail among a collection of films frequently screened on TV for decades, but never available on any home video format.
Arguably among the movie's most lasting assets are Manos Hadjidakis' lyrical orchestral score (a bit repetitive, but effective in depicting stubborn heroism and young love), and the Spartans' final act of defiance when all seems lost. That final sequence similarly inspired Frank Miller's more narratively broad graphic novel, "300," which no doubt elevated an otherwise generic mini-epic up to wanna-see status for another generation.
The film's cult status was given an additional boost when the original DVD release in 2003 was delayed, and copies from an aborted Canadian pressing flooded Internet auction sites for ridiculous prices. This final 2004 release contains a standard collection of trailers (including black & white TV spots of varying length and very cheap titles), and an alternate pseudo-stereo mix - pretty standard among Fox's classic releases - alongside the film's original mono mix. [Note: both 2003 and 2004 pressings are identical in extras and transfers.]
The anamorphic transfer shows off Geoffrey Unsworth's stellar cinematography, including the usual multitude of army extras that sprawl across Greek mountains and across the film's pivotal waterside battlefield. The film's cast is an unsurprising collection of established international actors; a few token Greek thespians, mostly reduced to bits parts; stars Richard Egan (prominently featured on the DVD's cover art as the stalwart hero), scene-devouring David Farrar as Xerxes; and pretty Diane Baker, trapped in a wafer-thin, forbidden love subplot.
Frank Miller fans can finally see writer/co-producer George St. George's comic book epic in an otherwise well-produced DVD, and film buffs can enjoy one of Maté's final films (his last, "Aliki My Love," was also written and co-produced by George St. George in Greece) before the director's death, in 1964.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan