Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

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Paul Derouda
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Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:24 pm

We often watch older films with my kids (7 and 9 years), because they are less hectic - less violence, less action, more dialogue. Hitchcock (though not Psycho yet!), old French comedies, sword-and-sandal films etc. The problem (my problem, perhaps – it doesn't seem to bother my kids and wife so much) is that most of those sword-and-sandal films are totally idiotic, and not only from a historical point of view. Spartacus and Jason and the Argonauts are probably the only ones I could somehow stand.

Today we watched The 300 Spartans (1962); many people have rightly criticized Zack Snyder's 2006 film (which I won't be watching with my kids, because it's much too violent) for its xenophobia, homophobia and what not, but I must confess I actually enjoyed it in a way for is cartoonish aesthetics. The portrayal of the Persians, for example, is so over the top that you can't really take it seriously. I found the old film in its portrayal of the Persians as the "evil Other" much worse than Snyder's film. (Anyway, I don't think this is a reason not to watch that kind of film with the kids, because they are great way start a conversation, "now what do you think about the way the Persians were shown in the film?")

Anyway, my question: Are there some good old sword-and-sandal films you can recommend and that can be watched with young kids?

(Oliver Stone's Alexander was not that bad, but my kids are too young)

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Aetos » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:00 pm

The Trojan Horse with Steve Reeves (1961) looks O.K. I vaguely remember watching this as a kid, probably 13-14 yrs. old by the time it came to television. It takes a little from the Iliad and the Aeneid. It features Steve Reeves ( of Superman fame)and John Drew Barrymore, so it's a relatively serious movie, worlds apart from all that B-grade Hercules stuff. Anyway, here's a link to it on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPGKb3vOVOk
Paul, I make no promises, but it's definitely not rubbish.

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by mwh » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:28 pm

Well there’s always Troy, if you don’t mind exposing your wife and your kids to infidelity and Brad Pitt and potentially spoiling Homer for them. It portrays violence, and deplorable attitudes, but doesn’t that go along with swords? A film mentioned here recently was A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. More sandal than sword there.

These are not very serious suggestions. It’s a genre I avoid.

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:34 pm

I won't vouch for the kid suitableness of any of these, but:

Julius Caesar (1953), with Marlon Brando as Marc Antony. Ben-Hur. Quo Vadis. Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Anthony Quinn in Barabbas.

It doesn't really fit your criteria, and you'd probably like this 1957 Oedipus Rex more than your children, but it's worth watching.

"I, Claudius" was a wonderful book, and I'm told the TV series in the 1970s was wonderful, if you can stand the quality.
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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:30 pm

I think Julius Caesar and Trojan horse are definitely worth a try. There's the added difficulty that I need to find the films with Finnish subtitles. I must look into Oedipus Rex and A funny thing happened on the way to the forum as well, if not for the kids, at least for myself...

I've seen Ben Hur a long time ago. It has definitely some nice action, but I'm not sure how I'll be able to stand what I call the Christian propaganda element; same goes for Quo Vadis and a number of other films. But that's no reason to avoid showing these to the kids.

My 7-year-old daughter liked Cleopatra, because of the prominence given to the leading female character (my son not so much, I guess for the same reason :lol: ).

I actually liked Troy. It doesn't have much to do with Homer of course. I saw it for the first time just before I started learning Greek in earnest, and it didn't spoil Homer for me. I think the film has a nice rhythm – it has a lot of action, but it pauses from time to time so you can catch your breath and you're not overwhelmed (to the point of getting bored) with fighting and explosions like with the average modern action movie. I also liked the duels, you really get to see just how good each hero is at fighting – Menelaus almost eating Paris for breakfast just like in real Homer, while Hektor beats the hell out everyone except Achilles, whom nobody can match. But my children are too young, it's too violent.

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:16 pm

As bad as the B level sword and sandals movies were, and I'm thinking specifically of the Hercules movies, they were my introduction to the ancient world, and planted a seed in my elementary school mind that led to reading mythology, which contributed to taking Latin in high school... One of the activities my classics club likes to do is watch "a bad old movie" and then critique it. I take it as an opportunity to point out even in ancient times the stories were fluid and were told different ways to suit the context and purpose of the author retelling the story, and that we continue doing the same thing up to this day.
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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Bart » Thu Jul 11, 2019 12:25 pm

I would forget about movies; just let them read the first 24 volumes of Asterix and Obelix (the less said about the later volumes by Uderzo alone the better) and when they're done with them, they can start again with volume 1. A perfect introduction into a classical education!

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by jeidsath » Sun Jul 14, 2019 12:32 am

After "researching" this, Amazon has begun recommending me movies, including "The Fall of the Roman Empire", which presents, according to the trailer "Not Just 3 or 4 - But ALL the Known Emotions!" Regardless of that, it seems like quite a cast together with some decent reviews.
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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by ariphron » Sun Jul 28, 2019 12:27 pm

How about the Samurai Trilogy, about the dueling career of Musashi Miyamoto, the author of the Book of Five Rings?

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Paul Derouda » Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:02 pm

We watched The Fall of the Roman Empire yesterday. It was better than I remembered, having seen it as a kid. It was more intelligent than most films I’ve seen in the genre. The action -actual stunts, no computers!- was still quite impressive, as were the sets, especially the huge reconstructed Roman Forum. But why are the battles always depicted as an undisciplined mess? Don’t they know that they fought in well-ordered formations, and that only when one side panicked and had essentially lost the lines were broken. It would be really impressive to see on the screen how organized the ancient armies were.

I thought about those samurai films, but I wonder if the tempo is too slow for the kids. That’s at least how I remember Kurosawa’s Seven Samurais.

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by almound » Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:01 pm

Don't forget the stop-action films by Ray Harryhausen:

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)
Greek and artificial intelligence ... who knew?
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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:41 pm

I think the Disney Hercules came up earlier in this thread:

https://tinyurl.com/y2xc2yc8

One of the favorite activities of my Classics Club (officially titled Res Classicae) at Barrack is to watch the movie and deconstruct it according to "proper" mythology. Fun activity, and also a segue into a discussion of the nature of classical mythology, particularly that the stories were often retold and rewritten to suit the purposes of the storyteller or writer.
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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by BrianB » Wed Aug 28, 2019 12:13 am

Sword-and-sandal is not, on the whole, a genre I have taken much of an interest in, apart from the specifically Biblical movies, such as Quo Vadis and Ben Hur. Two outstanding pictures, though, which I’m sure you must already be fully familiar with, are Spartacus and Cleopatra. I don’t think there’s anything in either of them that would be unsuitable for kids. Early on in Cleopatra there’s the scene where a delegation of top Egyptian officials give proof of their loyalty to Caesar’s cause by ceremonially handing him a basket with Pompey’s head in it, but these days no doubt kids will take that kind of violence in their stride and, in any case, I don’t think the severed head is actually shown on the screen.

There was Gladiator a few years ago, but I don’t suppose it's old enough yet to qualify as “old” in the sense you mean it here. Gladiator bears a certain resemblance to a sixties movie, The Fall of the Roman Empire, inasmuch as Commodus is the central character, played in this case by Christopher Plummer.

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good old sword-and-sandal movie?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:38 pm

BrianB wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 12:13 am

There was Gladiator a few years ago, but I don’t suppose it's old enough yet to qualify as “old” in the sense you mean it here. Gladiator bears a certain resemblance to a sixties movie, The Fall of the Roman Empire, inasmuch as Commodus is the central character, played in this case by Christopher Plummer.
Entertaining, but about as historically inaccurate as a movie can be, even down to the representation of the gladiator fights. Cleopatora and Spartacus were faithful at least to the broad outlines of the recorded events.
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