I halfway watched DAMON AND PYTHIAS (1962) this afternoon. When I wasn't watching the film, I was enjoying several unscheduled short naps on the couch. But even dozing off a few times didn't hurt my movie viewing. I had no trouble picking up on what was going on in this lackluster, routine "sword and sandal" adventure film. Based on the Greek legend of Damon and Pythias and set in Syracuse during the reign of Dionysius (432-367 BC), is pretty standard stuff. There are no muscle men in the cast, no fantasy elements at all, a couple of attractive Italian actresses (Ilaria Occhini and Liana Orfei) and a rather meager budget with which to bring the screenplay, by Samuel Marx, Franco Riganti, Paola Ojetti and Bridget Boland, to life under the yeoman direction of Curtis Bernhardt. An epic it ain't.
What's most interesting about this film is the presence of American actor Guy Williams in the role of Damon. Williams rocketed to fame and fortune by riding a midnight black stallion and playing the part of Zorro in the ABC-TV series from 1957-1959. During the course of two seasons, 78 thirty minute episodes were produced by Walt Disney Studios for airing in prime time. Four additional hour long episodes were later broadcast in 1960 and 1961. ZORRO was a smash hit for all concerned. The network got high ratings while Disney cashed in with tons of tie-in merchandise and two theatrically released films that were comprised of various episodes edited together.
And of course, Williams became a bonafide star and household name. And why not? He was tall, dark and handsome with dashing good looks and he played Zorro to perfection. For many baby-boomers, his interpretation of this masked swashbuckling righter-of-wrongs is the definitive one.
So, given all of that, you would naturally assume that big things were awaiting Williams when production of ZORRO ceased. He ended up going to Europe (as many American actors did in those days), where he made DAMON AND PYTHIAS in Italy in 1962, followed by CAPTAIN SINDBAD in Germany the same year. By the way, CAPTAIN SINDBAD has no relation to Ray Harryhausen's SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958). There was a Gold Key movie comic adaptation of the film, a comic I happen to own, along with a copy of the film on DVD. I have yet to watch it but maybe one of these days....
Williams returned to the United States to appear on the hugely popular western TV series BONANZA, which dominated it's time period Sunday nights on NBC for years. Williams was cast as Ben Cartwright's (Lorne Greene) nephew but he only appeared in five episodes before the part was dropped due to fears of co-star Pernell Roberts, who played Adam Cartwright, that Williams would usurp his screen time.
But Williams landed on his feet in a big way. He starred as Professor John Robinson on Irwin Allen's LOST IN SPACE, which ran on CBS from 1965-1968.
Getting back to DAMON AND PYTHIAS. It isn't a bad movie. I've certainly seen worse "sword and sandal" movies. It's earnest and straightforward with fairly decent performances from most of the cast, especially Williams. It just wasn't compelling enough for me to stave off several short naps. Your mileage may vary.