Ulysses (1954) – Mario Camerini

Kirk Douglas stars in this Italian sword and sandals (and sorcery) epic that also features Anthony Quinn, and is the next film in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book as I explore the chapter on Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.

Using Homer’s epic poem as its basis, the film follows Ulysses (Douglas) on his journey home to Ithaca following his sacking of Troy. But with the downfall of Troy he is cursed, and it seems the god, Neptune, is doing his best to not only keep the warrior and explorer far from his home, and his wife, Penelope (Silvana Mangano) who, even now is being pressured to declare Ulysses dead and marry another man, with Antinoos (Quinn) jockeying for the position.

The warrior encounters the sirens, a witch, Circe (also Mangano) and a giant cyclops with a drinking problem amongst other adventures, which all culminate with him washing ashore on a (not so ) distant land, devoid of his memory, and being wooed by a lovely princess.

Douglas is a lot of fun in the role, sure of himself, able to deliver a quip, and have an adventurous joie de vivre.

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The journey has a great cost for him, and he seems to change from an overtly bold character, to a more subdued, yet determined one. In fact, Douglas is a real joy to watch in this film, and he’s the only one who speaks English in this Italian film produced by a familiar name, Dino de Laurentiis.

But for all the cost, there is a bit of joyous reunion by film’s end as Ulysses returns home, and saves his family from the pestering suitors who plague Penelope.

The production value is pretty good for the film, and the creature effects for the cyclops are pretty solid, and stand up very well, but with all of the adventures, and misadventures that befall Ulysses, it’s the confrontation between Douglas and Quinn that we want to see – though it’s over quickly, and doesn’t embrace the moment the way a modern film would.

The family is reunited at film’s end with Ulysses and Penelope sharing an embrace before it cuts to the credits, and we are left with a retelling of the original myth that pays homage to what went before, but is very much a product of its time, and lacks the punch that such a film would be given today.

As mentioned, however, the effects are surprisingly good and Douglas turns in a fun performance that makes this one worth watching. I’d never even heard of this one before I dove into DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies, it makes me wonder what other titles lurk in the pages that are waiting to surprise me.

Pick up a copy tonight and find something monstrous to watch!

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