Thursday, February 13, 2020

By the Gods!

Setas (Luis Prendes) meets Ursus (Ed Fury), while Doreide (María Luisa Merlo) listens in THE MIGHTY URSUS (1961)

One of the many heroes of the PEPLUM genre, Ursus came into existence thanks to the famous best seller, QUO VADIS, and subsequently the epic movie from Hollywood made in 1951. The name Ursus became synonymous with very powerful and muscular man, who, more often than not has blond hair. A change from the usual dark-haired heroes such as Hercules or Samson.


The story is simple enough: Attea is kidnapped at the very start of the story (her face is hidden as she's working behind a weaving machine). We hear her talk to her father about Ursus returning from war. Her father is killed during the ambush. After the opening credits, we see Ursus leaving fellow soldiers and meeting Doreide (Merlo) who recognizes the muscular man even though she's blind. The two used to know each other before the war. Setas (Pendres) shows up and threatens Doreide. Ursus wonders what's going on. Doreide tells him about the kidnapping of his fiancé and that she heard the men who kidnapped her. The two go on a quest to find Attea. This leads them to an island ruled by a cult of Zaas, a goddess / bull. There, Ursus finally finds Attea (Moira Orfei) but he soon discovers that the woman he once loved his not the same anymore. 

Attea (Moira Orfei) worships the goddess Zaas. 

Directed by Carlo Campogalliani, who began his career back in 1915. He would direct two other PEPLUM movies before retiring. He directed a fair number of classics including GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959) starring Steve Reeves. So when he directed this he was well versed in the PEPLUM genre. And it shows. He understood the genre. Because of this, as a fan, it's fun to watch from beginning to end.

Ursus (Fury) has enough of Setas, excellently played by Luis Prendes.

The story is populated by an endless number of villains. It's like a convention of villains. There's Setas (an excellent Luis Prendes), Kymos (Mario Scaccia) and Magali, wonderfully played by Cristina Gaioni. And then there's Attea, Ursus' fiancé. It's easy to root for Ursus since nearly everyone else is bad.

Ed Fury is up to the challenge and makes a memorable PEPLUM hero. The handsome bodybuilder is in top form. Fury went on to make 2 other Ursus movies, URSUS IN THE VALLEY OF LIONS (1961), and URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE (1963), with the latter being a cult favourite to some fans out there. Personally speaking, of the three, THE MIGHTY URSUS is the most solid Ursus / Fury film but I must admit that URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE, also populated by villains, is pretty good as well.

It also stars a very young Soledad Miranda who eventually became a Eurocult star, even after her tragic death. I wrote about her story hat TRAGIC STARS.

Cristina Gaioni is a beautiful seductress who deceives Ursus. Clip at BY THE GODS!

The action is good and effective, certainly during the ending when Ursus confronts a very big bull (even if it's obvious a stuntman stands in for Fury). It has plenty of feats of strength, a gruelling torture scene (mostly cut from the Spanish DVD release) and perils which keeps audiences entertained until the end. The reveal of Attea, played with energy by Moira Orfei, is something else, making this quest and its eventual conclusion one of the most twisted ones ever filmed. The fate the characters find themselves in is fascinating: it's tragic and yet there's a certain sense of irony and logic to it.

The dubbing is quite good and the voices really fit the actors. The soundtrack Roman Vlad is excellent and quite memorable but a tad repetitive and overblown, certainly during the climax. As some point, it sounds like a score from the 1930s.

This is an Italian - Spanish co-production. The production values are good throughout the movie.

There's no official release of this movie in the US even though United Artist released it in theatres in the US back in 1962. TCM sells a copy of this movie from their website but it's a Fan Dub. I don't know who made it but they used the audio track from my Fan Dub that I've made and uploaded to Youtube years ago (I can't upload the entire movie anymore just small clips, due to a worldwide ban from a dubious company). I was the first to make a Fan Dub of this title, with video/image taken from the Spanish DVD release, which is heavily edited with minutes and minutes on end of scenes cut throughout. It's very annoying but even so I was able to stitch the missing scenes taken from the rare English TV broadcast from my collection with the Spanish version, and edited the English audio over the scenes from the Spanish DVD. It was a very unique Fan Dub: it's in widescreen and 4:3 aspect ratios as it switched back and forth between versions. It's the most complete version available anywhere. Well, the dubious copy sold at TCM is also taken from the Spanish DVD but with all the same cuts, plus the audio I edited to it. So don't buy that copy. It's NOT an official release.

Different versions in my collection:

- I have copy from a TV broadcast from the US. The image is poor and the audio is not that good but I was able to use it for the Fan Dub I created. This copy came from the famous Video Search of Miami, a place which had tons of dupes and bootlegs. It was eventually closed because they started selling bootlegs of recent releases. But the place was invaluable. It's almost 90 minutes long (NTSC).
- I have the Spanish DVD. This print is heavily cut. Visually speaking, it's the best copy available anywhere, in widescreen, but there are so many cuts that it's frustrating to watch. Oddly enough, the company that released this DVD is SONY. I guess SONY has the rights to the movie in Spain. It's slightly over 83 minutes long (PAL).
- I have a French VHS release. The image quality is much better than the one from Video Search of Miami but it's still in 4:3 format. It's 88 minutes long (PAL). Aside from my Fan Dub, this is the most complete copy out there.
- I also have a French Fan Dub of the Spanish release.

IMDb lists the runtime at 90 minutes. This is incorrect. The US version from Video Search of Miami has an abbreviated opening credits (just a few seconds long) and it's already almost 90 minutes long. With a complete opening credit, the US version would be longer than 90 minutes. The Spanish DVD is missing the opening scene of Attea kidnapped, which is crucial and its omission doesn't make any sense. The title in the US version is URSUS - SON OF HERCULES. The title of the French VHS version is LA FUREUR D'HERCULE, which translates as THE FURY OF HERCULES, which is the same title as the Brad Harris movie.

I give it a solid 8 out of 10.

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