Ulysses (1954)

ULYSSES (1954)
Article #659 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-3-2003
Posting Date: 6-2-2003

An amnesiac man washed up on the shores of a kingdom across the waters from Ithaca turns out to be the great hero of the Trojan War, Ulysses.

This adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey was made before the Hercules cycle of movies featuring Steve Reeves kicked off the whole Sword and Sandal craze, so it doesn’t quite belong to that trend, despite its having been made in Italy. It features two English-speaking stars, Kirk Douglas in the title role, and Anthony Quinn as one of Penelope’s suitors. It’s more thoughtful and overtly poetic than the later S&S movies, though there is still quite a bit of romance in the mix; however, that was all in the original story. It also retains the story’s awkward but somewhat necessary structure of telling most of the adventures in the form of a flashback (this is a good two-thirds of the movie), but this is necessary in order to establish the situation with Penelope’s suitors early enough in the story so that out interest is piqued by the urgency of the situation. Interestingly, the actress playing Penelope and the actress playing Circe are the same woman. The scenes with Polyphemus the cyclops are pretty memorable, as well as Ulysses’s encounter with the sirens. It’s not a personal favorite of mine (actually, among the books of Homer, I prefer The Iliad myself), but it’s a pretty solid and fun affair.


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