Italy’s sword-and-sandal (or “peplum“) genre was more or less launched by the success of Ulysses (’54), a piece-of-shit Kirk Douglas actioner that went on to make a handsome profit. (It cost $500K to produce, earned $2.2 million in the U.S. alone.) This action-climax scene, in which Douglas basically kills everyone, is a standout; ditto the one in which Douglas and his shipmates are captured by a one-eyed cyclops, whom they eventually manage to defeat by stabbing him in the eye as he sleeps.
Ulysses is based in part, of course, on Homer‘s Odyssey. The moral of the story is “if you stay away from home too long, guys will eventually move in and your wife or longtime girlfriend will wind up submitting to one of them…it’s only natural so don’t go on years-long voyages or else…if you do, you’ll most likely have to deal with some degree of disloyalty and perhaps infidelity…law of the jungle.”
I never knew that respected Austrian helmer G.W. Pabst almost directed Ulysses — he bailed at the last minute.
“Hector and Achilles,” posted on 3.20.18: “The once formidable ancient spectacle genre (Quo Vadis, Samson and Delilah, Land of the Pharoahs, Alexander The Great, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, King of Kings) was a Hollywood thing, but when the Italians got involved matters took a sudden downward turn. The Italian knockoffs, known mostly as “sword and sandal” pics, really lowered the real-estate values. Sets and visual effects were cheaper, the crowd scenes smaller, the cinematography less awesome, the lead actors second- or third-tier.
“Before you knew it a genre that had once been known for ‘cast of thousands’ and ‘years in the making’ and was suddenly about wooden swords, cardboard shields and English-dubbed dialogue in the realm of ‘This is your last chance, Demosthanes…withdraw your legions or die!’
“1962 was the year that sword-and-sandal flicks really showed their diminished worth. Richard Fleischer‘s Barabbas (shot in Verona and Rome under Dino de Laurentiis), Rudolph Mate‘s The 300 Spartans (shot for roughly twice what most Italian s & s cheapies were being made for at the time) and Robert Aldrich‘s Sodom and Gomorrah (shot in Marrakech with Italian money) — all ’62 releases, and none were great shakes.”