Friday, April 21, 2006


No one seems to like this forgotten Hollywood epic and it's certainly no DeMille film, but as a quick and dirty re-telling of the ancient myth of the Trojan War (based at least in part on Homer's Iliad), it suffices: it's fun, it has a lovely leading man, and from most accounts, it's more entertaining than the recent TROY. Priam, King of Troy (Cedric Hardwicke) is pleased that his city is now so well protected with its theoretically impenetrable wall and decides the time is right to send Paris (Jack Sernas) to Sparta for diplomatic talks. During a storm at sea, Paris's ship is destroyed and he is washed up on shore, to be found and cared for by Helen (Rossana Podesta). Though she is the Queen of Sparta, she pretends at first to be just a common slave girl and the two fall in love. When Paris presents himself at court, he learns Helen's real identity but he cannot prove his own identity because all of his credentials were lost at sea. When he kicks Ajax's ass during a staged fight, they believe him, however, Meneleus (Niall MacGinnis), husband of Helen, realizes that the two have hit it off so he imprisons Paris. Helen helps him escape to a waiting ship and winds up jumping into the sea with him. Her leaving is framed as an abduction and unites the various Greek rulers and warriors (including such familiar names as Achilles and Ulysses) against Troy, triggering a prolonged war, theoretically to get the Queen of Sparta back, but also to loot the city. After years of stalemate, the Greeks seem to retreat, leaving a giant wooden horse as a gift; as we all know, the horse is full of soldiers who bide their time while the Trojans hold a celebratory orgy. In the dark of night, the soldiers break out of the horse and whoop the Trojans but good. The sets, costumes, and use of extras are the best things about the movie, directed with a sure hand for the Cinemascope screen by Robert Wise. Podesta is attractive, but I never believed that her face would launch a thousand ships. Sernas (later in his career billed as Jacques rather than Jack) is quite beautiful, prettier than Podesta, which made the movie very watchable for me. The legendary Greeks, played by decent actors who look too old and/or out of shape, such as Stanley Baker and Torin Thatcher, were largely interchangeable (though, of course, we spend most of the movie waiting for the obligatory Achilles' heel moment). The Trojan Horse orgy reminded me of the Golden Calf sequence in TEN COMMANDMENTS, and Hardwicke's presence as a ruler with conflicting feelings about his son also provided an echo of the biblical epic. The DVD is great looking and even has a couple of short background featurettes. One of the better 50's epics, easier to sit though than others of the era (like THE ROBE). [DVD]

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