Cast & Crew
In the ancient Greek city of Ithaca, Penelope, devoted wife of Ulysses, Ithaca's ruler, laments the hordes of rowdy suitors who have taken up residence in her home since her husband's disappearance from Troy ten years earlier. Although most in Ithaca presume Ulysses dead and are pressuring Penelope to re-marry, Penelope clings to her belief that Ulysses will soon return and listens as an old storyteller relates the tale of Ulysses' Trojan Horse: In Troy, after ten years of battle, Ulysses concedes defeat and presents the Trojans with an enormous wooden horse. When the Trojans open the gates of their walled city to accept the gift, they discover that the horse is filled with Ulysses' soldiers. Caught unaware, the Trojans are easily defeated by Ulysses, who, in his zeal, destroys the Trojans' temple to Neptune, god of the sea. Witnessing the destruction, soothsayer Cassandra utters a curse against Ulysses, condemning him to suffer the wrath of Neptune. Back in Ithaca, Penelope stops the storyteller and rails against her suitors, who are nonplussed, even when her grown son Telemachus demands they vacate the house. Fed up, Telemachus tells his mother he is leaving to search for Ulysses, but she begs him to stay. Penelope, who made a deal with her suitors that she would re-marry as soon as she finishes a tapestry depicting Ulysses' deeds, points out that her suitors will eventually figure out that, at night, she secretly unravels the day's weaving, delaying the tapestry's completion. On a Phaeacian island beach near Ithaca, meanwhile, Ulysses is found unconscious by the beautiful princess Nausicaa. Although the ragged Ulysses has lost his memory, Nausicaa and her father, King Alcinous, sense he is of noble birth and welcome him into their palace. Soon after, during a public wrestling match, Ulysses challenges the ferocious champion and stuns the crowd when he wins. Later, Nausicaa dubs Ulysses "Stamos," or the strong one, and the two kiss. In Ithaca, Penelope's fears about the tapestry are realized after a servant exposes her secret to the suitors. At the same time, the manly Antinous arrives in Ithaca, insisting that it is his destiny to marry Penelope. Pressured by Antinous, Penelope agrees to choose her new husband at the start of the upcoming games honoring the god Apollo. Ulysses, meanwhile, prepares to wed Nausicaa but, tormented by his blank past, returns to the beach where he was found and tries to remember. Staring at the sea, he finally recalls being on a storm-rocked ship, yelling orders to his men to toss Trojan booty overboard: The ship survives the storm, and the men disembark on a seemingly deserted island. While searching for food, the men stumble upon a giant footprint and follow the sound of bleating sheep into a large cave. There, they find penned-in sheep, huge rounds of cheese and enormous tools, and soon are confronted by the cave's resident, the one-eyed Polyphemus, the giant son of Neptune. After devouring one of Ulysses' men, Polyphemus drinks the humans' wine and roars for more. Ulysses schemes to make wine from the local grapes and gets Polyphemus drunk. After the cyclops passes out, Ulysses and his men poke his eye out with a burning stick, then trick him into moving the big boulder that serves as the cave's door. The men flee to the beach and set sail, one step ahead of the enraged Polyphemus. Sometime later, the ship passes near an island haunted by Sirens, female spirits known for seducing sailors with their beautiful voices and cajoling them to crash their ships on the island's deadly rocks. Although Ulysses instructs his men to plug up their ears, he also insists on being tied to the ship's mast so that he can listen to the Sirens' song without danger. The Sirens tease and torment Ulysses by imitating Penelope's and Telemachus' voices, but despite Ulysses' cries, the crew steers the ship safely past the island. Later, however, the wind dies and the ship stalls near the shore of another island. Ulysses directs his men to explore the island and soon encounters the lovely but treacherous enchantress, Circe. Desperately lonely, Circe, who looks and sounds like Penelope, seduces Ulysses and turns his men into pigs, hoping he will not mind staying if he has no crew. After Ulysses threatens her with a knife, however, Circe turns the pigs back into men and extends them her hospitality. Spellbound, Ulysses stays with Circe for six more months, until his now restless crew finally mutiny. Although Circe warns them of an approaching storm, the men sail off without Ulysses. The storm hits and, as Ulysses watches, the ship is destroyed. Hoping to keep him forever, Circe offers the grief-stricken Ulysses the gift of immortality, but he declines. Circe tries to change his mind by calling forth the tormented ghosts of various warriors, but the ghost of Ulysses' mother convinces him to return to Penelope. Back in the present, Ulysses comes out of his reverie, with his memory restored, and after revealing his identity to Nausicaa, declares he must go back to Ithaca. Although heartbroken, Nausicaa gives Ulysses her blessing, and Ulysses arrives in Ithaca on the eve of the games. Disguised as a beggar, Ulysses seeks an audience with Penelope and declares he is an old friend of Ulysses. Aware of Penelope's impending nuptials, Ulysses reminds her of the bow and arrow that only Ulysses, aided by the goddess Athena, had the strength to bend at their wedding. Although Penelope fails to recognize Ulysses, the now-frail family dog does, and Telemachus also realizes the beggar is his father. Ulysses convinces Telemachus to keep his secret, as he wants to make sure that Penelope still loves him. The next day, Penelope announces to her suitors that the games will commence with a bow-and-arrow contest, using Ulysses' old bow. Several men, including Antinous, try to bend the bow and fail, and when Ulysses easily loads his arrow and shoots it into the target, everyone deduces who he is. Ulysses throws off his disguise and slays the suitors, but later bemoans the bloodbath and orders the room be purged with fire. Convinced of Penelope's love, Ulysses then vows to spend the rest of his life quietly by her side.
Ennio De Concini
Dino De Laurentiis
William W. Schorr
The working titles of this film were Odyssey and Odyssey of Ulysses. It was released in Italy as Ulisse. The film opens with the following written foreword: "This is the story of a man, who left his home, his wife and his son to go away to war...He destroyed the city of his enemies and started back home...But Neptune, Protector God of the conquered people, pursued him with his anger and kept him wandering for ten years...It is the story of Ulysses, who dared defy the god and continued his journey to Ithaca, his home, where his wife, Penelope, was waiting...and waiting..." A lengthy written epilogue ends the picture. The film recounts only some of the tales from Homer's Odyssey and does not include the adventures of "Telemachus." In the epic poem, Telemachus leaves home to search for his father. In addition, the film mixes Greek and Roman names; in the Greek poem, for example, Ulysses is the Roman name for Odysseus and Neptune is the Roman name for the Greek god Poseiden.
Ulysses was a joint Italian, French and U.S. production. Zenith Films was a French company, and Lux Films and Produzione Ponti-De Laurentiis were Italian companies. According to a November 1955 Variety item, Paramount advanced $500,000 to the Italian producers, in exchange for Western Hemisphere distribution rights and a fifty-fifty split of profits after the $500,000 had been recouped. According to a February 1953 Variety news item, the film was originally to be shot using a new "3-4" process developed by the Richardson Camera Co., which allowed simultaneous filming of 3-D and "flat" versions. The picture was not presented in 3-D, however. G. W. Pabst was announced as the film's director in the February Variety item.
Opening credits note that "exteriors of this motion picture were filmed on the Mediterranean coasts and islands, described in Homer's Odyssey." In his autobiography, star Kirk Douglas states that location filming started on May 18, 1953 in Porto Ercole, a fishing village on the Adriatic coast. According to a June 1953 Motion Picture Herald item, the picture was filmed in Italy, North Africa and other Mediterranean areas. An August 1953 Daily Variety item reported that filming was to take place on the Greek island of Ithaca, but was cancelled because of an earthquake. Interiors were shot at the Ponti-De Laurentiis Studios in Rome. As noted in a September 1953 Life magazine article, limbs for a 35-foot mechanical man were built for the cyclops scenes and were moved by wires and bellows. According to studio pubicity material, museums in Rome, Naples and Athens loaned the production armor and weapons.
Ulysses was released in both Italian and English language versions. The Italian language version, which opened in November 1954, ran 130 minutes, 26 minutes longer than the American release. According to Douglas' autobiography, during filming, the international cast spoke their lines in different languages, as all of the film's dialogue was to be recorded during post-production. Douglas and Anthony Quinn dubbed their own voices for the English language version. According to a late October 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Maxwell Weinberg wrote dialogue for the picture but did not receive an onscreen credit. Star Silvana Mangano, with whom Paramount also made Mambo , was married to Dino De Laurentiis. Anne Buydens, who later married Douglas, served as unit publicist on the picture, according to Douglas' autobiography.
In November 1955, the National Education Association proclaimed Ulysses an "excellent teaching aid," according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, and Paramount offered special ticket prices to students. Seven Arts Pictures re-issued the film on March 30, 1966. Other versions of Homer's Odyssey include a 1911 Italian release, titled Homer's Odyssey, and an NBC network mini-series, The Odyssey, broadcast 18-19 May 1997, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and starring Armand Assante and Greta Scacchi. The 2000 Buena Vista release Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and starring George Clooney, was loosely based on the poem. Many films have featured Ulysses as a character, including the 1905 French release L'île de Calypso: Ulysse et le géant Polyphème, directed by Georges Méliès; La guerra di Troia, a 1962 Italian release, directed by Giorgio Ferroni and starring John Drew Barrymore; and the 1965 M-G-M release Hercules, Samson & Ulysses, directed by Pietro Francisci and starring Enzo Cerusico (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).
Released in United States Fall September 1955
Released in United States on Video April 20, 1999
Rleased in USA on video April 20, 1999.
Released in United States on Video April 20, 1999
Released in United States Fall September 1955