Lionsgate // 1954 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // August 6th, 2009
"The immortality that Ulysses refused of a goddess was later given to him by a poet..."
Immortality was also given to Ulysses in the movies, thanks to a sword-and-sandal epic with Kirk Douglas. The movie starts in Ithaca, as wife Penelope waits for Ulysses to come home, while dealing with suitors who taunt her and her son, even throwing spears at the young man. She has promised to marry someone as soon as her tapestry is done, and she rips apart the tapestry every night to put off the sad event. Meanwhile, Ulysses has landed on a nearby island, suffering from amnesia. He quickly wins the wrestling tournament and the heart of the princess, but then he starts to remember...
While Ulysses is slow as it sets up its story, the pace picks up when Ulysses starts remembering his journey in flashbacks. His first encounter -- in which his crew heads into a cave, despite the giant footprints seen outside, to steal sheep and food -- tends toward the humorous, with the one-eyed giant complaining, "These Greeks are tough, with stringy meat." Later encounters have emotional heft as the sirens seduce Ulysses with dreams of Ithaca and Penelope, while the goddess Circe tempts him by donning Penelope's face. Kirk Douglas plays Ulysses as a bold trickster, with tongue often in cheek, and makes the more emotional aspects of the story credible, despite the typical so-so dub job (the movie was made in Italy). You might laugh about the ending, though: Ulysses regrets bringing death home with him, just after going berserk on a roomful of suitors, when he could have let the cowards flee.
Where Lionsgate's release of Ulysses falls down is in picture quality: the print is old and faded, making night scenes difficult to read; the film jumps in a couple of places; scratches and odd marks on the print abound; and it's a full-frame TV print, cropping the original 1.66:1 ratio. It might have been nice to have features on the making of the movie, but a decent picture would have been enough.
If you like sword-and-sandal pictures, Kirk Douglas' performance makes Ulysses worth a look. I'd look for a sale if you buy, because the transfer isn't so hot.
Not quite immortal, but Ulysses is not guilty. Lionsgate is guilty of
falling prey to the siren song of easy money and not taking care with this
Review content copyright © 2009 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated