Skip to content

Helen of Troy (1956)

Arguably the biggest release on the Warner Brothers schedule for the calendar year and in Warner Color no less, Helen hit the screens minus one notable thing, a definite lack of star power. On the flip side it does have a solid group of character players like Sir Cedric Hardwicke and one actor who’s career was clearly on the rise in Stanley Baker.

It’s the classic story of the Trojan Horse and “the face that launched a thousand ships.” starring Rossana Podesta in the title role. An unlikely choice for a big budget Hollywood production, Rossana didn’t turn out to be a Sophia for world wide audiences before Alan Ladd and the rest of the planet knew exactly what a Sophia really was. Rossana would pretty much return to Italy for the remainder of her on screen career following this Robert Wise directed extravaganza.

With music by Max Steiner and second unit directing duties assigned to famed stuntman Yakima Canutt, Wise filmed the tale of the Trojan horse with Jack Sernas in the other lead role of Paris, the young Trojan prince sent to make peace with the Greeks and Stanley Baker’s Achilles. While enroute by sea from Troy to Greece, Paris and his fellow Trojans are lost at sea but the Gods spare the young prince. Unbeknownst to him he is saved by Greek Queen Podesta, posing as a slave girl along the shores of Greece. To Paris she’s an Aphrodite and the pair in just a matter of screen minutes become lovers. When Paris enters the Greek palace hoping to secure a peace treaty between the two nations, Podesta’s hubby and King, Niall McGinnis sees treachery and adultery in the air. There will be no peace and when Podesta flees to Troy with Paris, Greece launches those thousand ships in pursuit.

When Podesta is brought before Cedric and the rest of Troy, Sir Cedric isn’t exactly overjoyed and nearly banishes his son Paris from the kingdom. Too late though as McGinnis, Baker, Torin Thatcher and Robert Douglas ( a nice quartet of screen nasty’s) have arrived on the shores outside the city and walls of Troy.

   

A battle ensues that will last years if I understand the plot correctly. It’s the battle scenes that are the film’s highlights. Swordplay, catapults, arrows and spears are prominently in use as the Greek army attacks the walls of Troy to no avail. Perhaps a duel might settle things. Sure handed Stanley Baker will meet the gentle Harry Andrews on the battlefield via chariots, man to man. Star power will dictate the outcome of the clash.

I’m sure most of you will have heard of the Trojan Horse so I won’t go any further with the plot details. The film was made at Cinecitta Studios over in Rome and though I may be slipping, Brigitte Bardot and her pouty lips are barely noticeable in support of Podesta as her very own servant girl. It would be in the same year of ’56 that Roger Vadim would put the sultry Bardot’s name on the lips of men world wide. I wouldn’t be surprised either if footage or perhaps deleted scenes of carnage and destruction filmed for this title wound up in plenty of the peplum films to come from Italy once the early 1960’s arrived.

The real star of the film is “spectacle”. Something Hollywood and the major studios were heavily marketing during this period thanks to the ever increasing popularity of the TV set. For that reason, our leads are beautiful and the sets dazzling and while there is barely a hint of blood, the battle scenes stirring and packed full of action and fire. One can never help but be reminded that in these early days of history, when an army works hard, it parties hard. That alone may have been the biggest downfall of all in the inner sanctum of the city of Troy.

Should you happen to have, or pick up a copy of the DVD release of this Jack Warner production, check out the fun bonus materials for a nostalgic look at Gig Young doing some infomercials on the film in black and white that were put out on TV, yes those same television sets that films like these were meant to combat.

3 Comments »

  1. Being the informative site that this is, this is the first I’d heard that Robert Wise, a favorite of mine, was the director of this one. I’ve seen a lot of his smaller films, but none of his spectacles (unless the first Star Trek movie counts). And interesting that such a big studio picture featured such an unknown cast. And that Trojan horse looks pretty cool…but why does it remind me of a rabbit? 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

CINESPIRIA

Shining a light on the deep recesses of film history

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"For me, cinema is a vice. I love it intimately." Fritz Lang

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

CINESPIRIA

Shining a light on the deep recesses of film history

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"For me, cinema is a vice. I love it intimately." Fritz Lang

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

%d bloggers like this: