Hercules Prisoner of Evil (1964)

a.k.a. - Ursus, il terrore dei kirghisi (ITA)

Antonio Margheriti directs this well written Central Asian set Peplum starring Reg Park. Retromedia US R0 DVD.

The Film

A small village is massacred by a mysterious monster - Hercules (Reg Park) and his travelling group discover the massacre and it is reported to the local King who suspects that Hercules' group control the creature and order them to be stopped. Meanwhile Hercules' brother Ilo returns after travelling for several years, but that night is attacked by the monster and almost killed. He becomes suspicious of his brother and discovers that he is having a secret romantic rendevous with the future Queen...

Although dubbed a Hercules film by AIP for the American release, Hercules Prisoner of Evil is actually one of the small selection of Ursus films, loosely inspired by a character of the same name from the Roman epic book Quo Valdis. This film is also one of a small number of Peplum films set outside of the normal Greco-Roman mythology and is based in Central Asia, in this case probably inspired by the earlier Ursus e la regazza tartara (1962) - although the American dub removes any real reference to the Kyrgyz and the location, presumably in an attempt to sell the film as another Hercules Peplum. Regardless of setting, Hercules Prisoner of Evil is a well written Peplum with a surprisingly in depth storyline that will keep you guessing and contains a few interesting twists. Although paced on the slow side it never drags and builds up to a nice effective climax.

Director Antonio Margheriti, credited under his usual Americanised moniker of Anthony Dawson, takes the chair for this one - although already receiving notice for his gothic horror films at this time, he had already helmed two Pepla and does a solid job with this production with a few highlight scenes including the horror tinged opening, a burning village scene and a cavalry charge towards the climax - sadly the budget does not stretch to any real epic sequences.

A clean shaven Reg Park in the title role doesn't actually get too much to do - spending quite a lot of time unconscious - but gives a typically strong performance when he is awake, with several good fighting scenes. The rather dashing Italian character actor Ettore Manni - a Peplum regular since the early 1950s - plays his brother Ilo and actually gets quite a bit more screentime, putting on a good show.

Not a traditional Peplum, this Central Asian adventure film is solidly written (if a little slow paced in places) and well filmed, with a brief but enjoyable lead performance from Reg Park. Recommended to genre fans.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Reg Park - the British Mr Universe who also starred in horror style Peplum Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)
Directed by anyone interesting? Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson) - best known for his Italian gothic horror films including Danza macabra (1964) and La Vergine di Norimberga (1963) he also helmed a wide selection of exploitation films.
Any gore or violence ? Some blood
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Reg Park and Peplum fans should enjoy this.

Visuals Cropped ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen (OAR is believed to be 2.35:1). Colour
A poor but watchable print, probably from a video source - there is frequent minor print damage, faded colours and a general lack of detail in many scenes.
Audio English mono - a noticable hum on the soundtrack in many scenes but the dialogue is generally clear. Sadly the audio goes out of sync about 10 minutes into the film, by at least a second, and is never corrected. Although not unwatchable it does prove very distracting for the rest of the film.
Subtitles None
Extras None
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Only available as part of a double-film release with the first Reg Park Peplum Hercules and the Captive Women (1961)
Other regions? Not otherwise available on DVD.
Cuts? This is the AIP print of the film so most references to the location are played down and Ursus character renamed Hercules in the dubbing. It was not uncommon for AIP to make edits to the film and change the score as well, this might have happened here.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th March 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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