51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
This is my favorite movie version of the story of Helen of Troy. It's more melodramatic and theatrical than the recent cable TV miniseries, but it is faster paced and has a grandeur and fascination with Greek mythology lacking in that version. At least Cassandra is Kassandra in this film - she's endowed with the gift of prophecy, yet no one believes her until it's too late. Then again, many other mythological details are sacrificed for simplicity's sake.
In the role of Helen, Rossana Podesta is radiantly beautiful. She indeed has the face that could launch a thousand ships. And the Paris of Jacques Sernas is nearly as beautiful as his beloved. Their passion is believable, if a tad overblown. The rest of cast is good too, especially the Priam of Sir Cedric Hardwick, Achilles of Stanley Baker and Odysseus of Torin Thatcher. Although the Trojan War occured during Mycenaean times, most of the set designs and costumes appear to use Classical Greece as the model, and to very good effect, for it gives the movie a nobility lacking in the more recent version. It's all pure Hollywood and many liberties have been taken. The spectacular scenery, great matte work and action sequences nevertheless make for a very entertaining movie. So where's the DVD?
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2004
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I see that this 50s spectacle, "Helen of Troy", has attracted a number of favourable reviews--although a couple of these reviews seem to be as "epic' as the story in the film ! Very loosely based on Homer's "Iliad", and released on DVD no doubt to coincide with the new version of this tale in theatres,
"Troy", "Helen of Troy" remains an enjoyable experience. It has fine production values--sets, costumes, cinematography--and an experienced director in Robert Wise.
The plot is not too complicated, at least in this "Coles Notes" adaption of Homer's work. The Trojan prince, Paris, visits Greece on a peace mission and meets Helen, the wife of the Greek king, Menelaus. Paris and Helen fall for each other, and run off back to Troy. Of course, " this means war "--besides, the Greeks wanted war anyway ! The second half of the film is taken up with the siege of Troy, and there are some spectacular battle scenes here, with real people ! No digital effects in those days ! There is also a large, wooden horse--but you knew that, didn't you ?
The supporting cast is mostly British--Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Harry Andrews, Janette Scott, Niall McGuinness, Torin Thatcher, Ronald Lewis and, as a perpetually-glowering Achilles, Stanley Baker, are all solid and professional. The two leads, however, went to unknown non-Brits, and perhaps this is what interests me the most about "Helen of Troy". This must have been an expensive production--why did the lead roles not be given to big names ? The beautiful, curvaceous Italian actress, Rossana Podesta, is Helen--while not a great actress, it is not difficult to imagine grown men fighting over her ! As Paris, we have French actor, Jacques Sernas, billed of course as "Jack". While he has a striking appearance, his acting skills--at least in this film--appear to be zero. If I had Rossana Podesta throwing herself at me ( yes--I know--sweet dreams ! ), I think I would be a little more animated than Mr. Sernas. While he continued to enjoy a long career in European productions, it's easy to see why Hollywood did not come calling again ! Speaking of France, a young French actress plays Helen's handmaiden--within a year, Brigitte Bardot would become more famous than any actor in "Helen of Troy".
The colour, wide-screen DVD is gorgeous. There is also a trailer, and some black and white promotional material released at the time, featuring actor, Gig Young.
Overall, I would give "Helen of Troy" three and a half stars--it is not as grand as say " The Ten Commandments", also released in 1956--but if you like old-fashioned historical spectacles, where entertainment takes precedent over authenticity or literary merit, you will find this DVD an enjoyable addition to your collection.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
The Robert Wise 1956 production of "Helen of Troy", despite its many great qualities in regard to production and historical recreation could never be accused of following religiously its main literary source in Homer's Iliad. That said, by no means could it be said to detract from it still being a top flight entry in the 1950's cycle of big screen epics based around historical events. Being a passionate reader of all things to do with ancient Troy I still find this film, despite its many critics, to be first class entertainment and a wonderful introduction to both the period of the Trojan wars and especially to the great historical romance between Paris, Prince of Troy and Queen Helen of Sparta, the face that launched a thousand ships. "Helen of Troy", is a epic movie lovers delight and combines all the right elements in breathtaking on location photography, vivid colour, great set pieces and with enough battles, romance and intrigue to hold the interest. Warner Bros Studios planned "Helen of Troy", as one of their biggest releases for 1956 and continuing their battle against the encroaching power of television spent a staggering 6 million dollars on the film which shows in every frame of this truly epic production. Highly romanticised it may be in parts but it still does make a serious attempt to show both sides in the famous Trojan war and what really motivated some of the involved parties to go to war.
With such a gigantic tale as the fall of the legendary city of Troy to relate the film makers essentially had to simplify the story but the overall facts as most people know them are kept largely intact. The action begins with the handsome young Prince of Troy Paris, (Jacques "Jack" Sernas), travelling to Sparta to offer a treaty of peace with the main Greek states headed by king Menelaus ( Niall MacGinnis), and his brother Agamemnon (Robert Douglas). However on the journey his boat is wrecked in a storm and when he is washed ashore he is nursed back to health by an unknown young girl who in fact is Helen , Queen of Sparta (Rossana Podesta). At the Spartan Court Paris is amazed to be introduced to his earlier nurse who is the Queen and the pair promptly fall in love. However they come into conflict with Menelaus and when Paris is forced to flee for his life he impulsively takes Helen with him and returns to a disapproving Trojan court headed by his father King Priam (Cedric Hardwicke). Helen's abduction is an open declaration of war, but the Greek Kings joining forces to march against Troy have their own selfish motives for doing so and are largely driven by the chance to share in Troy's rich treasures. Combining with Odysseus (Torin Thatcher) and the legendary Achilles (Stanley Baker), the Greek fleet sails and lays seige to Troy. The assaults on the city are firstly repulsed however as the years of siege wear the people of Troy start to demand that Helen leave with the invaders so that they can return to their earlier prosperous life. After an abortive attempt by Helen to offer herself back to the Greeks and an unsuccessful fight to the death between Achilles and Paris' brother Hector (Harry Andrews) the Greeks hatch a scheme to fool the Trojans into believing that they have retreated . Constructing a huge hollow wooden horse and leaving it on the plain in front of Troy after they withdraw their ships the unsuspecting Trojans drag it into the city unaware that it is full of Greek soldiers who under cover of darkness climb out and open the city gates to the returning Greek army. The sack of Troy then occurs causing tragedy for the city and young lovers Paris and Helen. Helen is taken back to Sparta but the great love she has for Paris endures even after his death.
Obviously dealing with one of the greatest romances of the ancient world a film like "Helen of Troy", will undoubtedly have a high romantic content never once however does that detract from the overall action of the piece. The cast for this film contains some of the acting giants of British cinema in Sir Cedric Hardwicke excellent as King Priam, Nora Swinburne as the loving Queen Hecuba, Stanley Baker as the arrogant strong man Achilles who has only one minor weakness and especially Torin Thatcher as the wily Odysseus who is responsible for the idea of building the wooden horse which proves to be Troy's undoing. The two lead roles are played by unknowns at the time in Italian actress Rossana Podesta as Helen and french actor Jacques Sernas as Paris. Both of these young performers with their blonde good looks certainly fit the part of the young lovers however the dubbing of their voices does at times create a bit of a jarring effect. Even after the release of the recent blockbuster "Troy", Rossana Podesta and Jacques Sernas still for me are the immediate visual images that come to mind when Paris and Helen are mentioned. Production values on this epic are first rate and the recreation of the city of Troy with its Minoan style architecture and high defensive walls is one of the greatest set pieces constructed for an epic film during the 1950's. The battle sequences involving hundreds of extras and the actual sack of Troy done with no computer assistance are also first rate and the historical costumes created by Roger Furse for both the lead actors and the general military scenes are the result of a huge amount of historical research into clothing of that time. The superb production values of "Helen of Troy", are topped off with a sublime musical score courtesy of Max Steiner which I feel is one of his best for this type of film and lingers in your mind long after viewing the film.
Being an epic film lover from way back "Helen of Troy", is fairly high on my list of big budget efforts (for those times of course), that still entertain nearly 50 years after they were produced. While not totally adhering to its source material in the Iliad I view it now as an exciting action adventure romance filled with visually stunning set pieces and played with an appealing earnest quality by all that was typical of this era of filmmaking. "Helen of Troy", is old style movie making from the closing days of Hollywood's golden age and still makes memorable viewing for movie buffs and action adventure lovers alike. Enjoy.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
First of all, anyone who depends upon films to understand history (especially ancient history) is on a fool's errand. Moreover, both of Homer's epic poems possess a scope and depth which simply cannot be accommodated within a film with a running time of less than 15-20 hours. That said, this is a generally entertaining presentation of the basic plot: Prince Paris of Troy (Jacques Sernas) visits Sparta, falls in love with Queen Helen (Rosanna Podesta) and she with him, they return together to Troy, her outraged husband Menelaus (Nial MacGinnis) organizes an army and follows them, lays siege to the city, and eventually Troy is occupied and then obliterated.
Most of the film's tension (such as it is) involves Achilles (Stanley Baker) and his adversarial relationships with Menelaus and Agamemnon (Robert Douglas) and then with Prince Hector (Harry Andrews) whom he slays in hand-to-hand combat. This is an above average spectacle, comparable with predecessors Samson and Delilah (1949) and Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954). By no means a great film, nonetheless Helen of Troy (as directed by Robert Wise) offers generally solid acting throughout its cast and several memorable battle scenes without benefit of digital technologies when filmed in 1955. Yes, that's Brigitte Bardot as Andraste and Eduardo Ciannelli as Andros. And yes, I enjoyed seeing this film again, motivated to do so after seeing Wolfgang Petersen's Troy. The inclusion of various gods and goddesses in the earlier film now seems silly but the absence of a "superstar" such as Brad Pitt in one of its lead roles is (at least for me) refreshing.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
After watching the current big budget film "Troy" and complaining bitterly about what the screenplay did to Homer, Euripides, and other ancient writers it seemed time to finally check out the 1956 Hollywood version of "Helen of Troy," which stared Rossana Podestà in the title role and Jack Sernas as Paris. Podestà was an Italian sex siren her had to learn her lines by rote in English and who was picked over established stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner and Yvonne DeCarlo for the part of Helen. Of course, it is hard to say she is the most beautiful woman in the film let alone the world since Brigitte Bardot is playing Andraste.
The script by Hugh Gray, N. Richard Nash, and John Twist, does a good job of including the goddesses Aphrodite and Athena without having them literally appear. The idea of the pact among the princes of Greece to decide who would win Helen's hand and the promise to defend anyone who violated the pact is ignored. Helen's father, the king of Sparta, just married her off to Menelaus (Niall MacGinnis), who, along with his brother, Agamemnon (Robert Douglas), is interested in attacking Troy to take its riches. The kings of Greece have gathered in Sparta to plan the attack when Paris comes along, falls in love with Helen, and steals her away to Troy.
Once there, nobody is happy to see this development. King Praimus (Cedric Hardwicke) and Hector (Harry Andrews) are upset over the fact the Greeks are going to come to attack Troy and the priestess Kassandra (Janette Scott) is crying gloom and doom, but, of course, nobody is listening to her. The people even come to throw things at Paris and his woman but he sways them with a short speech. Of course, nothing is going to stop the Greeks, because Helen is just an excuse for conquering the rich city that controls the Dardanelles (the importance of which is explained in the prologue), and we are treated to the spectacle of 30,000 men fighting it out on the plains of Troy in glorious Warnercolor.
In terms of Homer's "Iliad," the wrath of Achilles (Stanley Baker) has to do with the fact that he flat out does not like Agamemnon, which is made clear the first time we see them together in Sparta. At some point he starts pouting in his tent. The death of Patroclus (Terence Longdon) still sets into motion the chain of deaths that defined the end of the Trojan War, but the context is different and reinforces the idea that the Trojans are the good guys. The extension of that is that our young lovers deserve to live happily ever after. But will the screenplay violate the classical story that far? Wily Odysseus (Torin Thatcher) comes up with the stratagem of a rather impressive looking Trojan Horse and the end game of the ten year war is played out.
Like "Troy," this version also avoids the worst part of "The Trojan Women" by Euripides, allowing Andromache (Patricia Marmont) to flee with Aeneas (Ronald Lewis) instead of having her endure her baby boy being tossed off the walls of Troy (which reminds me: for future reference, finish looting a city before you start burning it). But once again Hollywood proves that when it comes to adapting Homer and the rest of the story of the Trojan War they always think they can improve on the original. Yet despite the spectacle there are no transcendent moments in this film, let along the dramatic highpoints of the epic poem by Homer.
The battle sequences are certainly spectacular and much better than the individual combat sequences, so it is hard not to favor the marching formations of the thousands of extras with their spears and shields over the CGI tens of thousands we saw in "Troy." Director Robert Wise gives the action a sense of classical splendor while Max Steiner's rousing score standing out a lot more than the dialogue. There is an interesting feel to that dialogue and the performance of actors, most of whom are British and classically trained. They are not doing Shakespeare, but they give the drama a certain weight. There is no real passion between Helen and Paris, but at least he has the virtue this time around of being a real prince of Troy, capable of going toe to toe with Ajax (Maxwell Reed).
The DVD contains the original trailer, with its hyperbolic titles, and a trio of black & white featurettes by Gig Young for some sort of 1950s television movie show in which he promotes "Helen of Troy." Ultimately this is a respectable version of the classical story and if it is not great at least it does not have any of those transcendantly bad moments found in so many of the European sandal-and-spear spectacles.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2004
Shakespeare has a defeated Richard the Third declare he would give his kingdom for a horse. Here is the story of how the Greeks gave a horse, albeit a wooden one, and conquered a kingdom. "Helen of Troy" was made by Warner Bros. in the 1950s heyday of the screen epic movie,and it shows in the production values. The story tells of how Prince Paris of Troy undertakes a peace mission to warlike Sparta whose King Menelaus, husband to Helen, whilst feigning friendship is actually plotting, with his Greek allies, an attack on prosperous Troy. Paris is forced to flee for his life by the duplicitous King. His escape is aided by Helen, the two having experienced instant mutual attraction on first meeting (Paris being unware of who she really is). As Paris is bidding a cliff-top farewell to Helen they are discovered by Spartan soldiers hunting him. Helen is clearly implicated so Paris leaps to freedom with her in his arms. They flee to Troy on a friendly vessel waiting off the shore of Sparta. This triggers the Trojan War as Menelaus now has the perfect excuse.
Jacques Sernas plays Paris and the, then, little known Rossana Podesta plays Helen and both are physically fine in their roles. Although not native speakers both spoke their parts in English. Sernas did speak English but Rosssana Podesta did not and learned her lines by rote. However, it was decided to dub the voice of Jacques Sernas. His accented English did not fit well with the strong classical voices of the British supporting players. This has the effect of making him sound rather wooden and unemotional, but does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie. Like all movies of this type it loses something when seen away from the large screen but, for all that, it is an exciting story well told and visually impressive, especially the battle scenes.
Classical Greek scholars will notice the liberties that Hollywood took with the original tale by the blind Greek poet Homer. In this version Paris is portrayed as a strong, resolute and heroic figure and Helen as the unfortunate, unhappy, wife of the brutish King Menelaus. The movie commences with the original musical overture and the soundtrack has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. The bonus material consists of three interesting "the making of" documentaries shown by Warner Bros. on the TV show they had at the time. In addition there is the original theatrical trailer. I first saw this movie in 1956 and liked it then and I still like it now. I have adjusted my star rating of this movie to reflect this.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
The Greek heroes of Homer's Iliad are gloriously portrayed in this great classic epic. The impossibly beautiful lovers Helen and Paris find themselves trapped in the Greek siege of Troy and eventually victimized by their cunning ruse to destroy the city. Authentic sets, period costumes, an intelligent script and a great cast. Don't miss this one, the best of epics!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2004
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I loved "Helen of Troy" when I was a young girl in the 50's. Paris, Jacques Sernas, was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen. I wondered how I would feel about it after seeing "Troy" with Orlando Bloom playing a rather whimpy version of Paris. I felt no chemistry between Paris and Helen in this new version. I ordered the original and it still stands out as a classic and cannot be replaced with expensive special effects. "Helen of Troy" has a heart and the audience is compelled to hope that Helen and Paris can have a life together. In the new version, it didn't matter to me if they stayed together or not. I highly recommend "Helen of Troy" for the discerning movie viewer.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2004
ROSANNA PODESTA ~ an example of perfect casting, perfect face, perfect body and just the required acting chops - brings quite a dimension - just the required dimension to the Beauty - as for that 'entrance' - WOW!
JACK SERNAS - also picture perfect - not to brawny, not too boyish - classic!
The story? well, that we know - boy meets girl - boy loves girl steals her away from the abusive husband - then the rest falls into place - kind of the original Romeo & Juliet.
GREAT DVD - widescreen, stereo or is it dolby - nicely reconstructed, so's the color control and the EXTRAS on the DVD - good stuff!
THE GREEKS? Also splendid casting! Showing the cunning and crafty side - almost not too honorable - but then the Gods were also involved in this fracas.....
Worthy of mention? Stanley Baker as the vain and arrogant ACHILLES [with one or two secrets only the Greeks 'refer' to] Harry Andrews as the domestic and peaceful Hector - thrust into the fray to defend honor - and B.B. or Brigitte Bardot in a very nice 'turn' as Helen's handmaiden - we see the glint of the future career here!
MAX STEINER's score is Grand and very apt.
Lots of Grand Spectacle - before CGI!
Quite a must for the collector.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
A very exciting and convincingly acted version of the Trojan War. An impossibly beautiful Paris and Helen are the epitome of romance as the doomed lovers trapped in the fall of Troy. Authentic period costumes and sets, and a rousing music score make this one of the best epics ever made, shouldn't be missed by history buffs. Homer would doubtless approve.