• Damon & Pythias



    Released by:
    Warner Archive
    Released on: August 30, 2012.

    Director: Curtis Bernhardt

    Cast: Guy Williams, Don Burnett, Ilaria Occhini

    Year: 1962

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    The Movie:


    Directed by Curtis Bernhardt in 1962 and brought to theaters by MGM, Damon & Pythias comes to the Warner Archive MOD/DVD-R program in a decent transfer for the first time in North America. The film tells the story of Pythias (Don Burnett) of Athens, an honorably progressive type who truly believes that all men are created equal – he basically follows the beliefs of Pythagoreanism. For his beliefs, when he arrives in Syracuse he is sentenced to death by Dionysus (Arnoldo Foa), the ruler of the city who is often referred to as Dionysus The Tyrant.


    Dionysus is not without a heart, however, and he agrees to allow the condemned Pythias to return to his home city to visit his wife one last time. The condition here is that, since his wife (Liana Orfei) is in need of his help he may go tend to her, but after that he is to come back to Syracuse and be put to death. As collateral, Pythias’ best friend, a likeable thief named Damon (Guy Williams), will allow himself to be held prisoner in Pythias’ place until he returns from Athens. Dionysus, of course, doesn’t believe that Pythias will return…


    Very nicely shot and making great use of some legitimately great looking sets and locations, Damon & Pythias is slow. Very slow. The first half of the movie moves at a snail’s pace and those expecting busomy women running around in white sheets and macho men battling beasts with metal swords will be disappointed – in this way, Damon & Pythias is a fairly atypical sword and sandal movie. On the flip side of that coin, it seems that Hollywood director Curtis Bernhardt, in his penultimate directorial effort, was trying to do something a little different in the genre and provide some interesting food for thought. He fails in the first half but makes amends for that in the later part of the film where the pace does pick up and things do get more interesting.


    As far as the performances go, Guy Williams is fun here, playing his role with stereotypically rogueish charm. It’s hard not to like him and it’s interesting to see his character’s outlook change after he meets and quickly befriends Pythias. Played by Burnett, Pythias is considerably more serious in his approach not only to how he lives his life but in how he hopes to change things on a much broader scale. Burnett gives his character plenty of stoic nobility and is also quite good in the role. Liana Orfei, who popped up in quite a few sword and sandal films, is beautiful while Arnoldo Foa steals the show as Dionysus. Those expecting a stereotypical peblum won’t necessarily get into this one but if you’re a fan of the more traditional take on bringing Greek myth and historical drama to cinematic life and don’t mind the very slow start, this one turns out to be worthwhile.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Warner Archive presents Damon & Pythias in 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen in a transfer that generally looks pretty good. Some scenes are a bit soft and there is occasional color fading but compared to the fullframe version that has popped up here and there, this is quite a nice improvement in quality. Skin tones look good, black levels are acceptable if not reference quality, and the print used for the transfer was in pretty nice shape.


    The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is also pretty good. Levels are well balanced and dialogue is easy to understand. The score sounds nice and the effects do too. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.


    There are no extras on the disc, just a static menu offering chapter stops at ten minute intervals.


    The Final Word:


    Guy Williams fans will get more out of this than the average moviegoer but Damon & Pythias at least partially succeeds in bringing more to the sword and sandal genre than just muscular guys, hot women and cheesy monsters. This one manages to offer up some food for thought and while it’s slow, it’s ultimately interesting enough to merit a watch.