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HELEN OF TROY (director: Robert Wise; screenwriters: John Twist/Hugh Gray/N. Richard Nash/based on the Homer epic poem “The Iliad”; cinematographer: Harry Stradling; editor: Thomas Reilly; music: Max Steiner; cast: Rossana Podest (Helen), Jack Sernas (Paris), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Priam), Stanley Baker (Achilles), Niall MacGinnis (Menelaus), Nora Swinburne (Hecuba), Robert Douglas (Agamemnon), Torin Thatcher (Ulysses), Harry Andrews (Hector), Janette Scott (Cassandra), Brigitte Bardot (Andraste), Maxwell Reed (Ajax), Marc Lawrence (Diomedes), (Adelphous), Eduardo Ciannelli (Andros), Robert Brown (Polydorus); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: ; Warner Brothers; 1956)

“Tedious historical costume drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The epic film shot in Italy with an international cast did a poor box office, and received mixed reviews. Robert Wise (“The Haunting”/”West Side Story”/”The Set-Up”)shoots this tedious historical costume drama as his first film in CinemaScope, and even though the film tanked his career skyrocketed afterwards. It’s loosely based on the Homer epic poem “The Iliad.” Though entertaining in a pedestrian way and that the battle scenes were excellently shot, the spectacle never recovers from appearing awkward due to the stiff acting, the stilted script and the flat presentation. Brigitte Bardot has a small part as a slave girl; a year later she became a star in the French film God Created Woman.

It’s set in 1100 B.C., some three thousand years ago in ancient Greece.

The idealistic Prince Paris of Troy (Jacques Sernas) sails to the warrior nation of Sparta to secure a peace treaty between the two powerful Greek city-states. Paris gets permission for this risky mission from his pacifist father King Priam (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) despite the doomed prophecies of his seer sister Cassandra (Janette Scott)– hysterically haunted by visions of misfortune.

On his journey to Sparta, Paris is washed ashore alone in Sparta during a violent sea storm and is rescued by ‘theface that would launch a thousand ships,’ Helen (Rossana Podest), the queen of Sparta, who is married to the ruthless King Menelaus (Niall MacGinnis). When Paris’ peace efforts fail before a meeting of Greek kings that include Menelaus, Achilles (Stanley Baker), the scheming brother of Menelaus, Agamemnon (Robert Douglas), and Ulysses (Torin Thatcher), these Greek kings are now set to put into action their plan to launch an attack on the wealthy Troy’s treasures even if the walls surrounding the city, which were built after Sparta’s previous invasion, are impregnable. When Paris is jailed by King Menelaus, Helen helps him escape and is willingly “abducted” by Paris and taken to Troy. This abduction gives the Greek kings the excuse that sparks a long and bitter war, that leads to use of the legendary Trojan Horse to enter Troy.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”