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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 ...
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 ...
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
& 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
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).