DVD REVIEW: Ulysses (1954)

Ulysses (1954)
(Lions Gate)

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From the Golden Age of American Film, this classic story is brought to the screen in a distinctly cinematic fashion. Ulysses is the precursor to the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s, produced by Dino De Laurentis the man who later made Conan, and has a majority of Italian actors in it, including all the Female leads. The majority of the film taking place during flash backs, the story and craft of the film hold up.

The cast all speak Italian and are dubbed, save for Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn. Speaking his native English, the elder Douglas showcases haunted eyes, strong face, small but cut frame exhibited in Greco Roman wrestling match scene the actor performs in. Douglas gives an all around stand out performance, especially during the Sirens scene and the Wine Dance montage when facing the Cyclops.

Anthony Quinn as Antinous is amazing in each scene as well, showing the power of this actor in his younger days. The seduction of Penelope (Silvana Magano) by Antinous is an amazingly powerful and passionate scene though nary a kiss is planted. Indeed, Magano does an admirable job and has a great monologue near the end of the film.

The sea is the constant thread throughout the film, its main trope if you will. Opening on the sea, which begins to stand for the God that is keeping Ulysses from home, we then see Ulysses being washed up onto a beach. Rescued but struck with amnesia, the hero heads to the sea to remember his past. The sea plays a prominent role in his violent return to Ithaca as well.

Called a ‘Lush Adaptation’ in the back cover copy, this DVD gives us a film with amazingly intricate studio backgrounds, hoards of supporting characters, and bewildering costumes. In short, a lavish film that resembles a play in acting and set design and was top shelf for its time. Standing out, the Siren scene brings all the elements of great acting on Douglas’ part, great use of sound to enhance the tension of the scene, and the old school production values that still impress.

Kenneth Joachim

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