This very expensive Italian-made adaptation of Homer’s “The Odyssey” stars Kirk Douglas as seafaring hero Ulysses. The story begins, as ever, with Ulysses leaving his faithful wife Penelope (Silvano Magnano) behind as he goes off to fight in the Trojan Wars. Having the poor taste to set himself above the gods after a stunning military victory, Ulysses is doomed to journey aimlessly across the sea until he can make amends. Along the way, our hero battles a cyclops, resists the fatal singing of the Sirens, and enjoys a brief interlude with pig-fancying enchantress Circe (also played by Silvano Magnano). Years and years later, Ulysses returns to Penelope, where he must meet and master a final challenge.


Well, I have a new project on the horizon, so get ready for lots of films about mythology. To start off, we have the 1955 Italian sword and sandal flick, Ulysses.

What is this about?

Ulysses is the valiant hero doomed to a perilous journey home following his triumph in the Trojan War. Antinous is the suitor who takes advantage of Ulysses’s absence and sets out to win the hand of the general’s faithful wife, Penelope.

What did I like?

Faithful. It is so rare to find a film that keeps close to the source material. Studios seem to believe that they need to change things to make a better movie, which isn’t the case. I guess Italian filmmakers and studios actually have brains, unlike their American counterparts, who only care about money. Watching this made me want to go read The Odyssey again.

Ulysses. Kirk Douglas was the perfect choice to play Ulysses. Then again, he seems to have made a career of playing characters from this era, such as Spartacus and Moses. From what I recall, Ulysses was the kind of guy that was quite intense. Douglas brings that intensity that inspires his men and allows the audience to get behind him as he makes the odyssey back to his homeland.

What didn’t I like?

Cyclops. Par for the course with a film like this, you can expect to see some kind of mythological beast. In this case, we get a Cyclops. Now, perhaps I have been spoiled by the stop-motion genius of Ray Harryhausen, but this guy looked like some cheap creation that someone threw together a few minutes before shooting was to begin.

Dub. It appears that Italian doesn’t line up with English translation very well. As we saw in the Jayne Mansfield picture, The Loves of Hercules, and now with the characters of Circe and Penelope, who are both played by Silvana Mangano, the dubbing is almost as bad as watching an old Godzilla or martial arts film where the actors are speaking Japanese, but it is translated to English and their mouths keep going long after their lines have been said.

Fantasy. Someone on-line called this “a different kind of spaghetti western”. Obviously, this is not a western, but I see where they were going with it. Spaghetti westerns tend to be more dark, gritty, and grounded than others, and this film seemed to lack that fantastical element that you expect from a film dealing in Greek mythology. As such, I wasn’t as invested in it as I possibly could have been, which is a shame, really.

So, how does this 1955 version of Ulysses rate? Well, it has plenty going for it, but in the end this is a film that I had trouble deciding on whether it was truly a great film, or just above average. It is worth seeing, and perhaps could very well be something you should see before you die, but for me, I needed more of the fantasy angle to be brought to the forefront, as in Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, or the Sinbad films. That being said, I will not dissuade you from seeing this, as it is a very well crafted film. Check it out sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars


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