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?
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
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
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.
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)
Herkules, der Held von Karthago [West Germany]
La Vendetta di Ursus [Italy; actual title]
The Mighty Warrior
Vengeance of Ursus
This was Samson Burke's first acting role.
Wandisa Guida was in many sword-and-sandal flicks
including: "Goliath & the Dragon" (1960), "Gladiator of Rome"
(1962), "Hercules Against Rome" (1964), "Samson in King Solomon's
Mines" (1964), and "Giants of Rome" (1964).
In West Germany, this film was marketed as a
"Hercules" movie. He has been Ursus everywhere else.
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
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)
Ursus nella valle dei leoni [Italy; actual title]
Valley of Lions
This film was released in 1963 in the United
In France, this was called a "Maciste" film;
Maciste was the more recognizable name between the two characters.
Mariangela Giordano was in the earlier film,
"Ursus" (1961), as a character named Miriam.
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.
Ed Fury as Ursus
Luciana Gilli as Princess Diana
Claudia Mori as Mila [evil Queen]
Adriano Micantoni as Hamilan [evil King]
The Son of Hercules in the Land of Fire [U.S.; TV
Ursus nella terra di fuoco [Italy; original title]
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
Mireille Granelli as Aniko, the princess who loves Hercules
if you can help with the cast information above.
Titles For This Film:
Terror of the Kirghiz
Ursus, il terrore dei kirghisi [Italy; actual
Ettore Manni also starred with Reg Park in the
Hercules film, "Hercules
& the Captive Women" (1961).