DVD Review: Damon and Pythias

The normal Sword and Sandal epic cranked out in Italy during the early ’60s featured a cast of European muscle men given American sounding names to make the cast more internationally appealing. Even the oiled up stars that really were American weren’t that famous in Hollywood. Nor did they have great thespian skills. Damon and Pythias shocks the system by casting actual English speaking actors in the titles roles. The dashing Guy Williams was fresh off Disney’s Zorro. He’d soon become Mr. Robinson on Lost In Space. Don Burnett had played plenty of guest star roles on American TV including Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6. They were thespians and not merely Muscle Beach posers. They flew to Italy along with Hollywood director Curtis Bernhardt to make a film within the ancient ruins.

The movie follows the Green legend of the friendship that developed between these two men. In Syracuse, the evil king doesn’t appreciate the peace lovers cropping up in his warrior kingdom. “The Brotherhood of Man” is being taught by Arcanos (Andrea Bosic) to the locals. Pythias (Burnett) arrives in Syracuse looking for the pacifist philosopher to help him flee the impending violence. He hires Damon (Williams) to locate the guy. Damon isn’t the most faithful of characters and finks out Pythias. Eventually the scamp gets a conscious and springs Pythias from the guards. When Pythias gets caught again, he’s condemned for execution. Damon agrees to swap places so Pythias can make a final trip home to see his wife one last time. If he doesn’t return, Damon gets snuffed. Will Pythias screw his new pal over as payback?

While there’s no hard evidence, Damon and Pythias might have been prompted into production by Jerry Lewis. His movie The Delicate Delinquent starred him as Sidney Pythias and Darren McGavin as Officer Mike Damon. The story of Damon and Pythias is often mentioned in the juvenile delinquent comedy. It only made sense that someone would finally cash in by providing the source material during the age of Hercules and Samson movies. Guy Williams works well as Damon with his money talks attitude turning into true loyalty. There’s plenty of action between the talking scenes that focus on the pre-Christian philosophy talk between the two men. Damon and Pythias doesn’t overplay its hand by making the legendary friends too mythical. These are men and not musclebound demigods on the screen.

The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. The transfer looks fine without much schmutz on the frame. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The movie sounds a bit weird with Guy and Don recorded on location while many of the supporting actors were Italian so their English lines were dubbed later by voice talent.

There are no bonus features.

Damon and Pythias brings the legendary friendship to the big screen. Guy Williams makes sure this isn’t the usual musclebound ancient action films made in Italy during this period. He really does act on the screen. The title is part of Warner Archives’ Burn on Demand series. The DVD-R plays best on a dedicated DVD player.

Warner Archive Collection presents Damon and Pythias. Directed by: Curtis Bernhardt. Screenplay by: Samuel Marx & Franco Riganti. Starring: Guy Williams, Don Burnett, Ilaria Occhini and Liana Orfei. Running Time: 98 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Released: August 30, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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