Ty Burr
May 28, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

What becomes a legend most? Not this motley collection of DVD releases hoping to ride Brad Pitt’s tunic into the spotlight. The problem is that viewers hoping to get their Brad or Orlando freak on probably aren’t interested in Bronze Age history, and vice versa. In Search of the Trojan War (Unrated, 345 mins., 1985, BBC) is an acceptable but dated trawl through what little is known of the conflict, with comments from scholar/star Michael Wood along the lines of ”What we really need to know is the internal political geography of mainland Greece.” Troy: Unearthing the Legend (Unrated, 319 mins., 2004, History Channel) is a loss-leader set that packages an ”Ancient Mysteries” episode narrated by Leonard Nimoy, an A&E ”Treasure!” on Trojan gold, and a three-hour doc on the rise and fall of Sparta — which is like tacking a show about the Depression onto a DVD about the American Revolution. The 300 Spartans (Unrated, 108 mins., 1962, Fox) turns the 480 B.C. Battle of Thermopylae into a Cold War allegory, with freedom-loving Spartans (who, uh, owned slaves) sacrificing themselves to halt the hordes of Persian dictator Xerxes. It has hilariously anachronistic dialogue (”The Spartans fight like machines!”), but those helmet plumes do look kick-ass, and director Rudy Mate gets points for casting Sir Ralph Richardson as voice of democracy Themistocles — and gets them taken away when the slave girls dance the frug.

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