It is significant that this film credits screenwriters Hugh Gray, N. Richard Nash, and John Twist with the "adaptation" of Helen's story without mentioning any single source for their interpretation. As told by numerous authors throughout the years, Helen's story is a mythic mess, one that is so unclear that, for all we know, Helen may have been a fully-grown woman who was complicit in her own "abduction," or a 10-year-old child, the victim of kidnapping and rape. Robert Wise and his screenwriters, however, pull from a variety of sources (including their own imaginations) to give us a coherent version of Helen's story that hits a number of familiar passages and lines with pleasing regularity. The crux of it all is the abduction of Helen (Rossana Podestà), a Greek princess, by Paris (Jacques Sernas), a prince of Troy, an act that unites the rulers of the Greek city-states, who set sail (in a thousand ships) to lay seige to Troy. In this version, Paris is sailing on a mission of peace to Sparta when he is tossed overboard in a storm. He is found washed ashore by Helen, who, along with her slaves (including a young, suggestively randy Brigitte Bardot), nurse him back to health. In less time than that, Paris and Helen have fallen in love. When Helen's husband, the king Menelaus (Niall MacGinnis), imprisons Paris, Helen helps him escape, and it is ostensibly to protect her from advancing soldiers that Paris takes her with him back to Troy, and inadvertently starts the Trojan War. (One major departure here from earlier stories of the war is the idea that Helen's abduction simply provides a convenient pretext for the Greeks to attack, they being more interested in Troy's gold than Helen's honor.) As historical epics go, this is not an exceptional film, but it is a solid piece of work, with good (if uninspired) acting and direction, and a well-paced story that covers a lot of ground in two hours. If some of the sets and props fail to capture the poetry of romantic myth, this is off-set by one that does: the famous Trojan horse. Perhaps the best shots in the film occur just after the departure of the Greeks, as the bacchanalian celebration of the citizens of Troy gives way to a slowly emptying courtyard where stands the giant wooden horse that will be their destruction.
"Sir Cedric Hardwicke as King Priam, Torin Thatcher as Ulysses, Niall MacGinnis as Menelaus, Stanley Baker as Achilles and many more make broad sweeps and eloquent gestures. But they are strictly two-dimensional -- like the film." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, January 27, 1956