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Ursus Film Series
(1961-1964)


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About These Films
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1. Ursus (1961) [Ed Fury as Ursus]
2. Revenge of Ursus (1961) [Samson Burke as Ursus]
3. Ursus in the Valley of the Lions (1961) [Ed Fury as Ursus]
4. Ursus and the Tartar Princess (1962) [Joe Robinson as Ursus]
5. The Rebel Gladiators (1963) [Dan Vadis as Ursus]
6. Ursus in the Land of Fire (1963) [Ed Fury as Ursus]
7. Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (1964) [Reg Park as Ursus]
8. The Three Avengers (1964) [Sergio Ciani aka Alan Steel as Ursus]
9. Samson & the Mighty Challenge (1964)
[Ursus, Hercules, Samson, and Maciste team up; a comedy-adventure with Yann Larvor as Ursus.]


About These Films:  The character of Ursus has its origins in a 1951 Hollywood production called "Quo Vadis?".  In that film, a muscle-bound Roman slave by the name of Ursus (played by Buddy Baer) kills a bull with his bare hands in the arena.  Jump ahead years later, when the 1958 film of "Hercules", starring Steve Reeves, began a powerful new craze in sword-and-sandal films.

    Ursus is a very loose idea.  Every one of the nine "Ursus" films presents Ursus as a different character!  There is no continuity.  It's like every movie is a reboot!  It's hard to consider "Ursus" a franchise.  The only thing that links together the Ursus movies is the fact that Ursus is always a muscleman hero with near superhuman strength.

    Ed Fury plays Ursus in films #1, #3, and #6.  He played Ursus more than any other actor and is the standard Ursus.  By 1964, most sword-and-sandal films ran their course in the heavily-flooded sword-and-sandal market, including the Ursus series.  Hercules is a recognizable character and has had many resurgences in popularity over the years.  Ursus was always a vague character, and his story ends in 1964.  It's very unlikely anyone will attempt to make another "Ursus" film.  If so, which one of the many versions of Ursus would they work with?



Revenge of Ursus (1961):  In this movie, Ursus is a simple farmer with a past he reveals to no one, especially his little brother Doraius (pronounced Da-ry-us).  Ursus was a great warrior who had previously served the king of Leecha and was romantically linked to his daughter, Princess Sira.  Now, Ursus is hired to escort Sira to her husband-to-be King Zagro.  Sira does not want to marry Zagro and still has feelings for Ursus.  It gets worse when Sira discovers Zagro is only using her to gain control of her father's kingdom.  Ursus also learns of this plot and attempts to save the good king Atheas.  However, Atheas does not listen and is soon assassinated.  Ursus gets the blame, but redeems himself by passing some most deadly trials.  Once Ursus proves his innocence, Zagro shows his true colors and his army raids the kingdom.  A climactic battle ensues, and the good guys win.  Zagro, by the way, is stabbed with his own sword by Ursus.  When the war is over, Princess Sira becomes Queen Sira and asks Ursus to be her King, who agrees.  The crowd goes wild.

    Although not a complicated story by any means, it is well written for the genre and doesn't leave many loopholes.  It's one of your better sword-and-sandal flicks.  Samson Burke is a physically impressive Ursus.  My only remark against his performance is that he always walks with his chest pushed out to show off his already impressive muscles, and this makes him look like a monkey.  Besides that, he does a good job.  Wandisa Guida is hot as Sira.  She's a good actress and should be given more notice.  In this movie, she plays one of the sweetest damsels-in-distress ever.  In another film, "Samson & the Seven Miracles of the World", she plays one of the nastiest bi***es alive, Queen Fazira.  That's range.  I also liked the performances by Roberto Chevalier as Doraius, Nadia Sanders as Sabra, and Gina Rovere as Lidia.  Everyone did a good job, but those I've mentioned are standouts.

Cast:

Samson Burke as Ursus
Wandisa Guida as Princess Sira
Roberto Chevalier as Doraius, Ursus' brother
Livio Lorenzon as King Zagro
Nadia Sanders as Sabra, Zagro's bad babe
Gina Rovere as Lidia, Sira's handmaiden
Gianni Rizzo as Lycurgas, Zagro's henchman and traitor to Atheas
Nerio Bernardi as King Atheas
Franco Fantasia as Captain of the Guard (Zagro's)

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Fun Facts:



Ursus in the Valley of the Lions (1961):  This is a cool movie.  Ed Fury makes an awesome Ursus!  In this movie, Ursus is a savage, wild man character like Tarzan.

    For the first time ever, we see an origin story for Ursus.  Ursus, as a baby prince, survived the onslaught of an evil king that left him orphaned.  Raised by lions, Ursus grows to manhood.  Through a series of incredible events, Ursus learns about himself and destroys his enemies as he reclaims his kingdom.

    The goofy slave trader named Simud is funny!  He gets killed a bit later in the movie (not by Ursus).  Ursus rescues a beautiful slave girl named Annia (pronounced Ahn-ya) and her dog Argo.  The stakes are raised high when the evil king Ayak (pronounced I-yak) kidnaps Annia and attempts to make her his queen while trying to kill Ursus.  Legendary Italian screen siren Moira Orfei gets second billing to Ed Fury, and has a pretty important role.  She is not, however, the leading lady of the picture.  Orfei plays Attea, a beautiful, but greedy and deranged slave girl who plays both sides and ultimately dies at the hands of Ayak.  Moira Orfei gives a strong performance here, and is not just a one-dimensional character.  She's a bad girl, but with some good in her, too.  The evil in her leads to her undoing.

     This is a fun and intelligent story.  Everything ties together well enough, and it's entertaining.  The dialogue isn't too clever, but the performances are solid and convincing.  Recommended!

Cast:

Ed Fury as Ursus
Mariangela Giordano as Annia (Ursus' lover)
Alberto Lupo as Ayak (The evil king)
Moira Orfei as Attea (Ayak's top slave girl)
Gerard Herter as Lothar (Ayak's right-hand man)
Giacomo Furia as Simud (Goofy slave trader)

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Ursus in the Land of Fire (1963)
:  S'okay.  It's not bad, but it doesn't grab me like other Ursus films.  The women are awesome, and Ed Fury makes a good Ursus.  Once you see so many of these sword-and-sandal flicks, this one seems a little "blah".  It's the same old thing:  Somebody bad comes into power, the hero is captured and plays prisoner for awhile until he breaks out and all hell breaks loose.  Then he saves the innocent princess.  This is just one of those things that's been done over and over. 

Cast:

Ed Fury as Ursus
Luciana Gilli as Princess Diana
Claudia Mori as Mila [evil Queen]
Adriano Micantoni as Hamilan [evil King]

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Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (1964)
:  Not a true Hercules movie, but truly awesome!  This film successfully combines elements of the sword-and-sandal genre with horror and mystery.  As an Ursus movie, this rocks.  As a Hercules movie...not so much.  The reason the sword-and-sandal genre fizzled out like it did in the late 1960s is because of the misdirection these Italian-made movies gave us in international distribution.  This character is clearly not the Hercules anyone was familiar with.  They would have been much wiser to keep the name Ursus in the English-language versions.  The Ursus movies could then have developed a more faithful following and an ongoing saga could have been used to hold the viewer's interest in the character.  As it were, American audiences were given a mock Hercules.  Just remember that who they call Hercules is really Ursus, and you'll enjoy the movie.

    Reg Park DID play Hercules in two earlier films up to this point.  In this movie, "Hercules" has no beard, and is fully-clothed most of the time.  He also lives in Europe sometime AFTER the fall of the Roman Empire, so it's set a ways ahead in time.  Ursus is a barbarian; sort of a Conan-type character.  He's incredibly big and strong.  Ursus really kicks a** and proves to be an intimidating hero.  Brother Ilo has about as much screentime as Ursus and should have been given equal billing.

    This movie keeps you guessing.  Some people find it confusing, and think it's because of the American edit, as was the case with a lot of Italian films that reached the American market.  That was NOT the case for this feature.  It was purposely meant to be a suspense thriller.  A lot of things are not explained until the film's final moments.  Trust me, it's worth sticking out the whole movie...the payoff is great!

    A huge werewolf monster is tearing up the countryside, killing people and destroying villages.  Ursus and his barbarian band search for the monster.  The evil Prince Zara also searches for the monster.  Zara hates Ursus with a passion, and tries to blame the monster on him.  In the midst of this crisis, Ursus' brother Ilo (played wonderfully by Ettore Manni) returns to his tribe after a long absence of about ten years or so.  Ilo, more of a scholar than Ursus, traveled the world learning things and bettering himself.  Now he returns when his people are in their greatest despair.

    Ursus explains to Ilo the newest member of their tribe, a beautiful strawberry blonde by the name of Katia.  Ursus and Katia are quite fond of each other, although a romantic relationship is not yet in place.  Ten years before, Katia was found by Ursus and his people, wounded and without her memory.  She was actually named Katia by the tribe, and has lived with them ever since.

    It is kept secret from everyone that Ursus is in love with Princess Aniko, cousin of the evil Prince Zara.  They meet in secret in a hidden cave very frequently.  They plan to marry someday.  Ursus tells Aniko of his brother returning.  Later that night, a werewolf almost kills Ilo in his sleep back at Ursus' village.  Katia's screams send the monster fleeing, after he drops his dagger.  Before Ilo awakens, she hurriedly hides the dagger.  Why?  Later on, Ilo recalls hearing a dagger fall and discovers Katia has been hiding it.  It turns out to be Ursus' dagger.  Is she hiding it only because she loves Ursus and doesn't want him to take blame?  At any rate, the beautiful stranger is now under suspicion.

    Ursus returns to camp, only to hear that his brother was almost killed.  Ursus blames himself that the werewolf tragedies only happen when he is not around.  The man of might leads his people into the woods on a hunting party for the monster.  The werewolf kills most of the hunters, and severely injures Ursus.  Ursus, now unconscious for a fair amount of time in this film, is taken to their doctor friend Amok, a good distance away.

    Zara hears of Ursus' injury and hatches a fiendish plan.  Ursus cannot be saved if the doctor is killed, so Zara's army is sent to the village of doctor Amok and wipes out EVERYONE.  The only "survivor" is an assassin working for Zara, who claims he was just a merchant passing by.  The werewolf was blamed for the travesty.

    Ursus is taken to another doctor, farther away, that Zara doesn't know about.  It is there that Ursus is cured.

    Meanwhile, Ilo is on the run from Zara's army, with fellow villager Frido.  The night before Ilo had been called to Aniko's secret cave.  She told him of her secret affair with Ursus and gave him a "special wine".  He didn't remember anything after that until he was found by Frido.  He was then told of Ursus being wounded by the werewolf.  On their way to see Ursus, the two are chased by Zara's men.  Ilo leads Frido to Aniko's secret cave and they successfully throw the soldiers off the trail.  Trapped in Aniko's cave, Ilo cannot find the "magic spring" that opens the stone wall.  Suffocating from the smoke of torches and the lack of oxygen, Frido gets something to drink from the leather flask that holds the "special wine".  Next thing we know, Frido is gone and the werewolf appears.  The werewolf attacks Ilo and nearly wins.  At that time, Aniko returns to the cave and provides enough of a distraction for Ilo to win the fight.  Ilo pushes the werewolf off a high cliff.  When Ilo looks down, he finds Frido dead, but the werewolf gone.  He thinks the werewolf must have ran away.

    Unbeknown to Aniko, her tryst with Ursus had long been discovered by Zara.  She was followed by Zara and his men to her secret cave.  Ilo is captured, but Aniko manages to lock herself away in the cave.  Now Ursus' heroic brother is imprisoned at Zara's palace.  It is there that he finds out the truth about Aniko from a messenger who served Aniko and betrayed Zara.  Before Yoseph the messenger dies, he reveals to Ilo shocking news about Aniko, but what could it be?

    Meanwhile, Ursus is cured by the doctor.  Beautiful Katia stays by Ursus' side.  Just as Ursus comes to, Zara's paid assassin (who had accompanied the group to this doctor) pulls a knife and attempts to kill Ursus.  Katia defends Ursus, but gets stabbed in the process.  The assassin is quickly slain by Ursus' buddies.  With his dying breath, the assassin tells Ursus that he was also the one who killed the Great Khan (king) ten years ago, which allowed Prince Zara to take over the kingdom.  In serious hurt, Katia regains her long lost memory and tells Ursus shocking information, but what could it be?  The doctor heals Katia, and she lives, but Ursus is angered and goes to kick Zara's a**.

    Ursus and his army take Zara's army by surprise and storm the palace.  Ursus reluctantly takes Zara alive, and he tells Ursus something he didn't know.  Katia had told Ursus that the evil Zara had the Great Khan assassinated.  Zara explained further, and said that the Great Khan's daughter, Aniko, was the rightful heir to the throne.  But the woman known to everyone as Aniko was an imposter.  The real Aniko was wounded and sent away by Zara.  Katia was, in fact, the real Aniko, and the rightful heir to the throne.  The fake Aniko was just a beautiful young girl raised in the palace to take place of the true Aniko.  That way, Zara could someday marry his alleged cousin, and become King through his connection to Aniko.  For a long time, the fake Aniko had been holding out on marriage because she was in love with Ursus.

    Ilo managed to escape prison when Ursus and company raided the palace.  Ursus goes to the secret cave because he believes Ilo went there to find the imposter princess.  Ilo did head for the cave, but Ursus managed to get there before him.  The fake Aniko confesses what Ursus knows, and gives him the "special wine".  Now we see, for the first time, that Aniko is the one turning men into werewolves with her wine.  Ursus becomes a werewolf.  She instructs werewolf Ursus to kidnap Katia and throw her off a cliff.

    Brother Ilo arrives too late, but knows what the fake Aniko has done.  He knows she is a witch, and that she's transformed Ursus and ordered him to kill Katia (the real Aniko).  Ilo chases Aniko throughout the cave, and gets her to confess all her sins.  Zara did not even know this Aniko was a witch.  She turned Ursus into the werewolf for almost all of the crimes committed by a werewolf monster.  Ursus had no idea that he was ever a werewolf.  Ilo himself was turned into the werewolf that almost killed Ursus.  And the werewolf that attacked Ilo in the cave earlier was, in fact, Frido.  She didn't truly love Ursus, but wanted him to be her super-strong, demonic minion.  The fake Aniko wanted to be Queen, without Prince Zara or anyone as her King.  When she thought Ilo posed a threat to her power, she had Ursus try to kill him.  Now that she knew Katia's true identity was discovered, she had Ursus try to kill her.

    Aniko falls to her death off the same cliff that took Frido's life.  The spell over Ursus is broken, and he has no idea what he was doing holding Katia (the real Aniko) at the edge of another cliff, far away.  Ilo and the good barbarians meet up with Ursus and Katia.  Good brother Ilo knew that Ursus did not know anything about being the werewolf, and he knew that Ursus would never live down the atrocities he committed in werewolf form.  So he told everyone that Ursus killed the werewolf, but not to look for its body, for it was consumed in the forest fire.

    Katia is now the ruler of the kingdom.  Will Ursus be her king?  It is extremely possible as Ursus has pondered marrying her earlier in the film.

    I would have loved to see this film followed-up by another entry.  What happens when Ursus and Katia (Aniko) become King and Queen?  Is Zara executed, or does he escape and become a threat to our favorite barbarian couple?  And how would Ursus' brother Ilo fit into the story?  Like I've said, the saga of Ursus would have been a compelling one, if the filmmakers followed through with more entries and continuity between them.  I recommend this movie!

    Reg Park is dependable as always as the strongman hero Ursus.  Ettore Manni as brother Ilo is equally as appealing as the dashing, non-strongman hero who has just as big of role in this film as Reg Park.  The women are drop-dead gorgeous! 
Mireille Granelli, who played the (fake) Aniko is a stunning, well-dressed beauty with jet black hair.  And I find Maria Teresa Orsini very captivating as the strawberry blonde Katia who stands by her man.  Between the cast and the story, this movie is a must-see!  A lot of fun!

Cast:

Reg Park as Ursus [character called "Hercules" in American version]
Ettore Manni as Ilo, brother of Ursus
Maria Teresa Orsini as Katia, strawberry blonde barbarian woman in Ursus' group
Mireille Granelli as Aniko, the princess who loves Hercules

CONTACT ME if you can help with the cast information above.


Alternate Titles For This Film:
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