300 Rise of an Empire, the sequel, or perhaps “parallelquel” is more apt, to the iconic 300 (2006), opens wide this weekend, receiving mixed to disappointing reviews. Most thumbs downs relate to the diminishment of style in the stylized violence, while the thumbs ups focused on the entertainingly over-the-top performance of Eva Green as the Persian-allied, devilishly ingenious female naval commander Artemisia.
Whether this is a fortunate piece of timing with the onset of Women’s History Month or not, it nevertheless presents a unique angle (the film is based on an as-yet unreleased Frank Miller graphic novel) that, as it has been noted, may not have been exploited enough.
So looking though FilmOn’s free VOD service I found a couple of films that could work it a bit more. Colossus and the Headhunters (1963) takes the portentousness of 300 Rise to another level. In fact, it seems that portentousness is what holds it together, as otherwise, it’s hodge-podge of battling ancient Greeks, what looks like cavemen, Babylonian/Egyptians and a tribe of ‘headhunters’ who, with their teepees and buffalo-skins, more resemble Great Plains Native Americans. It is not for nothing that this film was once selected for the MST3K treatment. Nevertheless, Laura Brown (Copacabana Palace) follows her bliss so well as ‘Queen Amoha’ that you keep watching just to see what she’ll do next; the definition of an effective performance.
And for a change in pace and time, but maintaining the same general locale and also containing a riveting female performer at its center, check out the classic Greek comedy Alice In The Navy (1961).
Greek cinema icon Aliki Vougiouklaki stars as the mischievous daughter of a self-important naval commander (the always wonderful Labros Kostandaras, kind of a Mediterranean Milton Berle mixed with As Good As It Gets-era Jack Nicholson) who falls in love with one of his more roguish sailors (Dimitris Papamichael, who had just appeared in 1960’s Never On Sunday and would soon be Aliki’s partner both on-and-off stage) in this bright as officer whites ‘summer’ comedy. It veers from idyllic Saronic farce to ship-shape slapstick and Piraeus parade pandemonium, with a score and musical performances from Manos Hadjidakis (also fresh off his work on Sunday, for which he won the Oscar for best song, and just before scoring 1962’s 300 Spartans, the original). And it’s proto-Private Benjamin scenario serves to provide window-dressing for the powerhouse Aliki (definitely a cross between Goldie Hawn and Barbara Streisand, and a blond that could tan) – and despite the poor English dubbing it is still perfectly understandable that she would own most of the historical box office records for Greek actors, at least since they have been keeping track of such things. The massively talented Eva Green should take note and perhaps lighten up a bit in her next one…
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