‘Do you believe an animal can rule human beings?’
An uneasy standoff exists on the borders of an ancient kingdom, with a tribe of shepherds under constant threat from soldiers of the King. A plot makes it seem that the peaceful settlers attempted to kidnap the King’s daughter, so the Princess is sent out as bait to trap their unwary leader…
The sixth film in the loosely connected series based around the exploits of muscleman Ursus. His literary origin, rather than biblical or mythological, allowed him to be conveniently placed in any ‘ancient world’ scenario that producers chose. Here, he turns up in the usual vague location and time period. American actor Ed Fury makes his last of three appearances in the role, finding himself with a brand new cast and director Giorgio Simonelli.
Princess Diana (Luciana Gilli) is out for her usual morning ride along the border of her father’s kingdom when a rattlesnake spooks her horse. Her unconscious body is thrown into a river, but she’s fished out by Ursus (Fury). He’s the leader of the shepherds who live across the water in the neighbouring lands. The big man hands her over to General Hamilkar (Adriano Micantoni) and her cousin Mila (Claudia Mori), who witnessed the incident but did nothing to help. Back at court, Micantoni convinces doddering King Diego Pozzetto that Fury’s rescue was an attempted kidnapping and that it’s time to deal with the shepherds once and for all. Persuading the reluctant Gilli to act as a lure, his soldiers pursue Fury to a nearby volcanic region where a landslide buries him within the side of a mountain.
Expecting praise from the King when he returns to court, Micantoni finds instead that he’s in deep trouble. Not only is the Land of Fire taboo, but his troops killed the holy man who tried to prevent their sacrilege. Pozzetto turns the General over to High Priest Lotar (Nando Tamberlani), who pronounces a sentence of death. However, the verdict is carried out on the priests instead, with only Tamberlani escaping via a secret passage from the temple. Realising he has nothing left to lose, Micantoni kills the King and assumes the throne, believing Princess Gilli slain trying to escape.
Micantoni tries to spin events in a positive light, but, of course, the populace isn’t happy. Mori suggests a tournament to distract them but, by now, Fury has dug himself out. Gilli isn’t dead after all (surprise, surprise) and links up with Fury. It’s only now we find out that the two grew up together and that she’s always had a thing for him, which makes her lack of belief in him at the beginning of the story somewhat hard to swallow. In the best ‘Robin Hood’ tradition, they go to the tournament in disguise, and Fury’s attitude lands him a gig fighting five of the kingdom’s most formidable warriors. Triumphant, he’s still thrown in the dungeon, and Micantoni decides to kill off Mori and marry Gilli to legitimise his reign.
Fury’s first two outings as Ursus may not have boasted a great deal of creativity in the story department, but they did manage to sidestep the more well-worn clichés of the genre. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. Perhaps aware of the predictability of developments, director Simonelli leans more into the violence of the tale. Although there’s nothing too graphic, warriors do plunge into the inevitable pit of spikes at the tournament, and Mori takes a whip to Gilli in the dungeon. Something she seems to enjoy far too much.
The actors who brought their talents to Fury’s two previous appearances in the role (albeit as different characters) do not return for this third round, and their replacements are definitely off the substitute’s bench. Mori fares best, but then the ‘evil queen’ in Peplum is usually the part with the greatest opportunity to shine. Unfortunately, the script does not provide her with the chance to turn Fury to the dark side, although it’s heavily implied that she’s more than willing to try. However, one tired development that is present and correct is Fury getting chained to ‘The Big Wheel’ with the other slaves. Some mention is made of a gristmill, though, so perhaps it’s actually connected to something on this occasion.
Fury was born in Long Island and travelled to Los Angeles in his early twenties to compete in bodybuilding contests. His screen career began with a string of uncredited appearances over a decade before he finally got billed for a small appearance in Universal ‘B’ Western ‘Raw Edge’ (1956). There was a more significant role in the bad movie classic ‘The Wild Women of Wongo’ (1958), but, perhaps figuring he was not on the fast track to success, he followed in the footsteps of compatriot Steve Reeves to Italy. It was an intelligent move, his impressive physique resulting in second-billing to Australian actor Rod Taylor in comedy ‘Colossus and the Amazon Queen/La regina delle Amazzoni/ Queen of the Amazons’ (1960). He was then cast for the first of his three turns as Ursus and a couple of other Peplum roles. As the craze for musclemen ran out of steam in the middle of the decade, Fury returned to America and played bits on Network TV shows such as ‘Star Trek’, ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Columbo’, his last small screen appearance being on a 1979 episode of the original ‘Fantasy Island’. Seventeen years later, he came out of retirement to play a character called ‘Ur-So’ in Donald F Glut’s poorly received comedy ‘Dinosaur Valley Girls’ (1996).
A workmanlike Peplum but a step down from previous entries in the series.