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Thursday, April 19, 2012

ULYSSES (1954)

Fun! This Italian production isn‘t the sword-and-sandals campfest you might expect, but a reasonably faithful, reasonably effective telling of the great warrior’s journey home to Ithaca where his wife & son have been waiting and waiting. The Hollywood ringers include Kirk Douglas, unexpectedly relaxed and even charming as Ulysses, and Anthony Quinn as his main rival for Penelope in the bookend sequences set in Ithaca. More Hollywood is on board, including vet lenser Harold Rosson (whose rich palette comes & goes in the acceptable, but unrestored print on the LionsGate DVD - beware of cheap Public Domain editions), and from scripters Irwin Shaw & Ben Hecht* who presumably wrote most of the crudely dubbed English dialogue. The effects are simply accomplished and usually effective, and the tricky flashback structure is immediately involving. It’s also a kick to see Franco Interlenghi (the older kid in SHOESHINE/’46 & fresh from playing Fellini’s alter ego in I VITTELONI/’53 as Kirk’s loyal boy and, of course, the magnificent Silvana Mangano (wife of co-producer Dino De Laurentis) as Penelope. (Is that Eleanor Parker doing her voice on the English track?) The film remains a guilty pleasure, at best, but not a joke like the latter HERCULES pics.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Kirk Douglas returned to CineCitta Studios to play the director of one of these big international productions in Vincente Minnelli’s deeply flawed, but fascinating, 2 WEEKS IN ANOTHER OWN/’62, based on a novel by ULYSSES’ co-scripter Irwin Shaw.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Ben Hecht famously rewrote the script for GONE WITH THE WIND without ever reading Margaret Mitchell’s book. You have to wonder how much Homer he had under his belt.

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