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Ulysses

Director: Mario Camerini
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Silvana Mangano

(US theatrical: 4 Aug 2009)

This laughably cheesy adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey was made in Italy in 1953 with all but two of its principle actors reading their lines in Italian. The film was, like the Spaghetti Westerns to come, then dubbed into English. The weirdest part about this is that the two Hollywood stars (a hammy Kirk Douglas and a bored Anthony Quinn) are also dubbed in. By themselves! Any hope of surrendering to the epic sweep of Homer’s grand narrative of homecoming and redemption is sundered before the end of scene one.


Featuring a variety of amazing costumes – this was an Italian cinema specialty in the period – and what were for its time some fairly nifty special effects, this little B-movie surely entertained its fair share of Sunday afternoon filmgoers upon its release. Today, however, one wonders who might be the expected market. Resembling nothing so much as a 100-minute episode of Star Trek, what with the weird lighting and the fake otherworldliness of the sets, one imagines that the new crowd for this journey will be the late night stoners, shooting for their best Mystery Science Theater impressions.


I was all alone when I watched it (sigh) and I found myself chirping at the screen. I wanted to stop doing it, but it was like trying to stop a train. The movie simply begs for a commentary track beamed down from the Satellite of Love.


Not that I’m quibbling, or even complaining about this stuff, mind you. I love me some cheesy ‘50s movies. But, it helps to be forewarned, no?


Things worth knowing about this particular stinker include: Lionsgate didn’t remaster it at all, so it looks for all the world like someone dipped the print in some cloudy bong water; the dubbing is unrelentingly distracting [and never so much as when Douglas is clearly speaking some form of Italian (!) under the dub]; the Cyclops looks unmistakably like a guy with a mask on shot from below to make him look huge (which he doesn’t); and there is a disappointing lack of nudity (besides the raft of sweaty male pec/torso and beefy thigh throughout) which, let’s face it, we all kind of like in our guilty pleasures. Also, the DVD comes with exactly no extras. We’ve got MOVIE SIGN!!!!!!


Rating:

Stuart Henderson is a culture critic and historian. He is the author of Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s (University of Toronto Press, 2011). All of this is fun, but he'd rather be camping. Twitter: @henderstu


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