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Ulisse

Ulysses
Die Fahrten des Odysseus

Italy 1954
produced by
Carlo Ponti, Dino De Laurentiis for Lux Film
directed by Mario Camerini
starring Kirk Douglas, Silvana Mangano, Anthony Quinn, Rossana Podesta, Umberto Silvestri, Sylvie, Daniel Invernel, Jacques Dumesnil, Franco Interlenghi, Elena Zareschi, Evi Maltagliati, Ludmilla Dudarova, Tania Wever , Piero Lulli, Gualtiero Tumiati
written by Mario Camerini, Franco Brusati, Ennio De Concini, Hugh Gray, Ben Hecht, Ivo Perilli, Irwin Shaw, based on The Odyssey by Homer

Ulysses

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Desperately, Penelope (Silvana Mangano) waits for her husband Ulyssses (Kirk Douglas) to return, who has gone away to fight Troy some 20 years ago (successfully of course) but has failed to return yet. Meanwhile a horde of suitors have gathered in Penelope's court, not only to marry her but also to become King of Ithaka, & the fiercest & most cunning of the suitors seems to be Antinoos (Anthony Quinn), who is not at all keen on accepting no as an answer, & forces Penelope to pick her new hubby in a sporting competition (just like she decades ago picked Ulysses).

Ulysses meanwhile has been washed onto the shores of King Alcinous (Jacques Dumesnil) realm & has forgotten everything, but is welcomed as a friend & soon picked by Alcinous daughter Nausicaa (Rosanna Podesta) as her lover & husband-to-be ... it is only on the day of the marriage that Ulysses starts to remember ...

Having just won the Trojan war with the help of the Trojan horse, Ulysses & his men prepare to sail home, but are cursed by the priestess Cassandra (Elena Zareschi) ... which in ancient times didn't mean a good start ...

First off, Ulysses & company are stranded in the land of Polyphem the cyclops (Umbertop Silvestri), who takes all of them prisoner when he notices they want to steal his sheep. But Ulysses has the great idea of making enough wine to make the cyclops drunk, then poke out his eye, which ... well, it didn't make toomuch sense in the movie but that way Ulysses & his men somehow got free ...

Next they pass the island of the sirens, & Ulysses orders his men to put wax into their ears, only he, thje advenmturer, ordered his men to tie him to the main mast so he could hear the sirens singing.

Then they arrive at mystic Circe's place, who looks remarkably like Penelope (& is thus played by Silvana Mangano). At first she's a bit naughty & turns Ulysses' men into swine, but seeing how this upsets Ulysses (whom she desperately wants), she turns them back (& saves the naughtiness for somewhere else , if you catch my drift). Ulysses soon becomes obsesssed by the women & neglects his men, delaying his journey to Ithaka infinetely ... until his men decide to sail without him, but there ship is wrecke & they are all killed while still in eyesight of Circe's place.

It is only now that Ulysses realizes he has to return to Ithaka & he bids Circe farewell & builds himself a raft to return ... which is pretty much why he was washed upat the shore at the beginning of the film.

Ulysses bids Alcinous & Nausicaa farewell & heads back to Ithaka, where he enters his erstwhile palace in disguise of a beggar & sees the whole scale of desaser first hand, but also finds out his wife is still in love with him ... so he together with hs son Telemach (Franco Interlenghi) devices a plan to make all suitors unsuitable for Penelope in the competition - a plan that includes Ulysses old bow, 12 axes & some superior marksmanship.

& after Ulysses, still in the beggar's disguise, has humiliated all of Penelope's suitors he reveals his true identitiy, slaughters the men & has a happy ending in Penelope's arms ...

 


One of the very first movies of the Italian sword-&-sandal-film (or peplum) cycle (which would last for roughly the next 10 years), & also one of the most ambitious ones ... The plot stays relatively true to its (literary) source, the production values are comparatively high, the cast sounds quite illustruous, & quite some care is taken into filming a piece of ancient history rather than another muscleman movie ...

All this however does not automatically mean that this is one of the most entertaining peplums of its time, as a matter of fact the treatment of its source material is rather heavy handed, the dialogues extremely stilted & some passages of The Odyssey just do not translate into a movie (like passing the island of the Sirens, which is a major letdown here).

This all doesn't necessarily make the movie bad as such, it just makes it less fun than any number of mindless musclemen-peplums from the early 1960's (& perversely so).

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD