Posted by: pop-break | April 9, 2010

Own, Rent, Avoid: Sword & Sandal Flicks

bill bodkin looks at three movies within the “sword and sandal” genre

My cinematic tastes were inspired by my dad, whom you’ve read this blog before: viewing 50s Movies and his top movies from that decade. I’ve always looked up to him and when I was a kid I watched any movie he did (that was age appropriate of course). Being a baby boomer, my dad’s favorites include the great World War II pictures, the sprawling Westerns and of course those epic sword and sandal flicks. And that’s why today I will always watch any WWII, Western and Sword & Sandal Epic and usually enjoy it.

So I figured after watching the new Clash of the Titans, I would dig up this column and bring to you three Sword and Sandal flicks that you should own, rent or avoid. Now these films won’t be obvious choices. I could easily recommend 300 or Gladiator as movies to own, but that’ just too easy. No, I’m going to do, as many a deejay does, “dig in the crates” and pull out some films you might’ve forgotten about or never even heard of…enjoy!

Remember this one? Most don’t and it’s sad because this actually a very enjoyable and high energy sword flick. There was a ton of hype behind the film. It was billed as the next Gladiator, it got a 4th of July release, it had Kiera Knightley who was red hot after Pirates of the Caribbean and it was directed by Antoine Fuqua who had received tons of praise for his work on Training Day. Alas, this film didn’t appeal to audiences and it was a massive bomb.

However, it’s an amazing film to watch. First off, the amount of now name actors in this film is incredible. Outside of Knightley, the film’s lead Clive Owen and veteran character actor Stellan Skarsgard, the film features: Ioan Gruffudd (Mr. Fantastic of The Fantastic Four), Ray Winstone (Mr. French of The Departed), Hugh Dancy (Confessions of a Shopaholic), Ray Stevenson (Punisher: Warzone), Joel Edgerton (Uncle Owen from the Star Wars prequels) and Til Schweiger (Hugo Stiglitz from Inglorious Basterds).

The plot of the film is also outstanding. Arthur, before he becomes king, is a half British, half Roman soldier who is a devout believer in God and a devout defender of the Roman Empire. He leads a group of Sarmatian knights, indentured warriors from a long standing treaty. The knights’ contracts are running out but, as movies do, there’s one final mission and there’s complications. There’s an invading Saxon army and the Romans want nothing to do with it, so they’re pulling out, leaving the indigenous people to fend for themselves. So Arthur must choose — does he defend his mother country or does he stay true to the crown.

Clive Owen simply rules in his role as Arthur. He gives an emotional, engaging and brusque performance. He’s a leader of men and one bad mother. Totally believable. His cast of soon-to-be-in-demand knights are all enjoyable especially Gruffudd as the cocky Lancelot and Winstone as the oft-drunk Bors.

The battle sequences are epic and bloody, just the way they should be. And watch for Keira Knightley she really holds her in own in there.

King Arthur is an excellent escapist flick.

Get some crackers out, because you’re in for a total cheesefest with this one. From 1963, this camptastic film stars a whole bunch of people you won’t recognize except for Honor Blackman who starred as Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger.

The only reason you should rent this film is to see the legendary the stop motion effects created by the grand daddy of effects, Ray Harryhausen. Sure, it’ll look dated, but I really can’t get enough the battle between the Argonauts and the skeleton warriors — something we’d see decades later in Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness.

So get this, a sword and sandal epic about a group of Roman soliders lead by Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley must lead the a you boy (the next Caesar) to Britannia where they along with the “last legion” of Roman soliders left on the island, must fight the murderous traitors lead (lead by John Hannah and Kevin McKidd). Oh and the kid is actually King Arthur’s father. So to recap, Mr. Darcy and Ghandi have to battle the wimpy guy from the Mummy movies and Dr. Owen Hunt from Grey’s Anatomy (I was going to make a Journeyman reference, but it would’ve been lost). Oh and Ben Kingsley’s character is Merlin.


This movie was abysmally terrible. The dialogue clunks harder than the swords in a battle sequence and the special effects are on par with made-for-tv movies. You’d think with a 60 million dollar budget the effects would be better.

Colin Firth tries his hardest to be believable and almost succeeds, but that look of “why am I doing this?” is so apparent in his eyes. It pays the bills Darcy, it pays the bills.



  1. Avoid; Troy with Brad Pitt but get The Gladiator (AQ Happy Roman) with Russell Crowe and 300 Spartans the new version is heads and shoulders over the older version which I also have. I liked a lot more but I think I would need to see them again to see if I still would recommend them.
    Thank you for the mention.

  2. […] Own, Rent, Avoid: Sword & Sandal Flicks Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Guest Blog: The Decade and Reality TVWelcome!How […]

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