Presents An Interview With
Samson Burke, star of
"The Three Stooges Meet Hercules"
& other popular action adventure films
of the 1960's was interviewed
at a collectors show in Toronto Canada.
Samson Burke at the Toronto Show September 8th 2002
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Samson Burke at
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Samson Burke in his signature role as the mighty  Hercules.
The Samson Burke Interview:
The following "Hollywood Teen Movies Special Feature" is based on notes taken during an interview, conducted by Larry Anderson and Gord Harmer, with the great SAMSON BURKE in Toronto on September 8, 2002. After having some photos autographed, Larry & Gord started to ask Samson a few questions about his career in Italian movies.
Samson Burke
Larry: I understand that you are originally from Montreal.
Samson: Yes, I'm from a suburb of Montreal. I also graduated from McGill University and hold a degree in physical education. I also speak French fluently. When I was in Italy, I learned to speak Italian as well
Gord: (He was born on April 6th 1930).
Larry: We all know your name is Sammy Berg, but I hope you don't mind if I call you Samson?
Larry: I understand that you have won several bodybuilding titles?
Samson: Yes, I was the 1952 Mr. Canada and the 1961 Professional Mr. Universe.
Larry: Ercole Magazine mentioned that you were once a Mr. Muscle Beach.
Samson: Yes, I won that in 1960 in California.
Larry: I know you were involved with Ercole magazine as there are several articles on you and your films throughout the issues. (Ercole Magazine started in 1959 and is still published today).
Samson:  I was also on several of the covers.
(I took this opportunity to hand him several of the Ercole covers that I had brought with me).
Larry: Here is a photo of you on a horse in western attire.  The article from the Weider Magazine said it was from a movie of yours called, THE RETURN OF RINGO.
Samson: I believe that was from a film called OKLAHOMA JOHN, or something like that. You know, it started off as that, but they change the names so often, it's hard to keep track of them. That was about 1964.
Larry: Was the film ever completed? (There is a well-known Italian western called THE RETURN OF RINGO that Eric Mache sent to me from New York, to look at. The video arrived a few days before I met with Samson, and I can state without a doubt that Samson Burke is not in that movie). Samson remembers making some sort of western but doubts that it was ever completed and released.
Larry: There is also a report in Ercole that you were slated to make a film with Gordon Mitchell, called PIRATA DIABOLICO (Devil Pirates). Was that ever started? They used to team up the big guys to star in some of these films.
Samson: No, that was never even started. Gordon Mitchell brought me over to Italy to film the VENGEANCE OF URSUS. In fact, I stayed at his place for a while. We had a gym at Mitchell’s apartment on the roof. We had a makeshift gym with an umbrella to shade us from the sun as we worked out. We got a friend at a small machine shop nearby to make us weights and bars.
Gord: Gordon Mitchell wants you to write to him. Here is his address.
Samson: Thanks; I'll be sure to do that.
Bill Connolly wanted to know what it was like to work with Luigi Capuanno?
Samson: He was a Commander in the Italian Navy and did "everything by the book". Very straight forward. The Italians were more laid back in their approach to filmmaking. A very relaxed set.
Gord: Did you have an agent?
Samson: Yes, I had to have an Italian agent. It was the same agent that Gordon Mitchell used.
Larry: Ercole reported in 1964, that you were going to star in a CHEIENNE TV series, but didn't say anything more about it.
Samson: Yes, 3, 1 hour long episodes were filmed for RAI, the Italian TV network. I know they were completed, but don't know if they were ever shown on Italian TV.
Larry: RAI is still going strong. In fact the network is broadcast all over the world in 2002. I watch it here in Toronto.
Larry: Ercole also reported that you were to star in, IL SEGNO DI ZORRO. (Sign of Zorro), was that ever started?
Samson: No, I made IL TRIUMFO DI ROBIN HOOD (Triumph of Robin Hood) instead. I played Little John in that. Don Burnett and Gia Scala starred as well. They were husband and wife at the time.
Larry: Several magazines published reports that you were set to star in an Italian TV series based on the ERCOLE (Hercules), character. Did that ever get off the ground?
Samson: No, never heard a word about that.
Larry: You had a good part in the I SPY, TV series.
Samson: Yes, the episode was called NOW YOU SEE HER, NOW YOU DON'T. It was filmed on the Greek islands of Delos and Mykonos.
Larry: Just so you understand Toronto a little bit. Did you know that Toronto has the second largest concentration of Italians in the world, second only to Rome. Thirty years ago, there were about 20 Italian movie theaters here. I was very lucky to have seen many of these types of films on the big screen. In fact I saw several of your movies there.
Samson: I had no Idea. (Complete surprise).
Gord: How many years did you wrestle?
Samson: 9 years. I used the names Sammy Berg and Samson Burke in the ring. In fact I fought Lou Thiez 3 times for the Championship Belt. I was in Los Angeles when Norman Mauer spotted me for a film called THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES, which was being shot at Columbia. It was shot at the Columbia Ranch. Of all the films that I made, that one was probably my favorite. I was wrestling in LA and a friend suggested that I try out for the role of Hercules. Norman Mauer asked me to read for the part and without even a screen test, I got the part while others that were waiting, were told to leave. Even thought I had no prior acting experience. Norman Mauer was very helpful and understanding in guiding me through the role. The Stooges helped me immensely.
Above: Gia Scala
Larry: Tell me about DIE NIBULUNGEN.
Samson:  This is actually an opera in which I played King Blodelin.  I had a wig on, my eye were turned up because I was mongolian.  They put a bit of tape over your ears that pull your eyes back.  I had on a long suede coat, a very expensive outfit.  Because DIE NIBULUNGEN is sort of like their national anthem, they put the best costumes on. Director Harold Reinl was very strict and the set was very regimented, no nonsense, just do your job.  Reinl’s wife, Karin Dor, was one of the stars of the film.
Gord:  You worked with Herbert Lom in this one?
Samson:  Yes, I did.  He was very serious and workmanlike and didn’t associate with the other actors very much.  He said his lines and went back to his trailer.  His wife, at the time, was his manager and she was the one securing his acting jobs and his finances.  She made sure he was being paid upfront.
Gord:  Did you get hurt in any of your films?
Samson:  No, not really.  I got onto a horse in Yugoslavia that wasn't shoed right.  Two shoes on and two shoes off.  So, he was running sideways on the pavement.  I was trying to rein in.  When he got a hundred yards down, he slowed down real slow; I jumped off, as I know that I would have gotten hurt if I stayed on.  No, it wasn't planned. (Laugh).
Larry:  Mark Forest broke his leg during his first film.  (Reported in the London times).
Samson:  I didn't know that.  I never got hurt.
Gord:  I met Mark Forest a few years ago.  He went over to Italy, made a few films, took the money and got out.
Samson:  He bought an apartment building in California.
Larry:  Steve Reeves did the same; he bought that ranch in California.
Samson:  Yeah, I've been there a couple of times.  He lived alone after his wife died.
Larry:  He had another lady, a very pretty blonde.  I was shocked when he died.
Samson: Yes, I thought he would go on forever.  He was one of those types that I thought could go on forever and ever.  Gordon Mitchell was a good friend of his as well.
Gord: Tell us about Gordon Mitchell and Joe Gold and your times together in California.
Samson:  Gordon and I used to run together, 2 or 3 times a week.  We used to live in the same area.  Joe Gold lived in Santa Monica and wasn't part of the clique.
Larry: Tell me that Ferrari story again.
Samson:  Gordon Scott had bought a new Ferrari and took a drive to Milano.  It is 600 miles straightaway on the "Road of the Sun".  He turned around and came back to Rome and headed down one of those city streets and couldn't slow it down enough.  He hit 2 or 3 cars, banged up his Ferrari and left it in the street.  He was lucky he walked away.
Gord:  I guess he figured he was making money, so, who cares.  He probably didn't want to get deported.
Gord:  How many years did you stay?  Did you come back to the states?
Samson:  Off and on for about 10 years.  I also worked in Germany.  I did a spy film with Brad Harris, did you know that?  Part of it was filmed in Turkey; it was called THE GREEN HOUNDS (KILL ME GENTLY).  It was like a James Bond type of film.  Wild Motorcycle rides up and down the mountains, a wild fight inside a cave.  They loved it on TV.  They wanted me to do another one. Brad specifically hired me for this “heavy” role.
Above: Samson Burke with Brad Harris and Tony Kendall
Above: Olinka Berova
Samson Burke in " Whom The Gods Wish To Destroy"
Below: Thanks to Matt Blake for the Kommissar X pics
Gord: Brad Harris' wife, Olinka Berova was in that film.
Samson:  Olga was a nice girl.  Very pretty, healthy looking girl.  She had that mountain look.  Very fresh.  I think she came from Russia or something.  
Gord: Czechoslovakia.
Samson: I also did that Toto comedy film in Italy.  Toto is a famous comedian in Italy.  Very funny guy.  He was like the Stooges.
Larry: Bill Connolly wanted to know how long it took to shoot this Fernando Cerchio film?
Samson: 3 months.
Gord: What was it like working on ARRIVA DORELLIK, a comedy-caper film, with Johnny Dorelli? Margaret Lee was in it.
Samson:  I remember Margaret Lee, but I don't remember the film.  Often I did cameos, got in, and got out.  I only remember full-length films like FIVE FOR HELL.
Gord: What did you think of Klaus Kinski?
Samson: Kinski was very good.  He had an aura about him.  In his own way, he was different.  He just had a different aura, and developed from there.
Gord: Did you see any of the temperamental stuff that we read about?
Samson: A little of it.  He had a chauffeur to drive him around to his sets etc.  He wasn't that friendly a guy.  It was hard to make fiends with him.  Like I said, he had a thing about him, and if he was successful, that's the way it was.  I'm not one to judge.  I say great for him, good for him.
Gord:  How about Sal Borgese?
Samson:  I didn't know him.
Gord:  How about John Garko?
Samson:  Garko was a little hard in his own way, he meant well.  He had a style, a nature.  He worked on the stage quite a bit.  He was a good stage actor as well. He made a lot of Westerns as well.
Wandisa Guida and Samson Burke in "Revenge Of Ursus"
Movie posters for "Arriva Dorellik" & "Five For Hell".
Gord: Do you remember your involvement in THE ODYSSEY mini series, where Mario Bava directed you as Polyphemus, the Cyclops?
Samson: Polyfemo (the Italian way), No I don't remember the director, nor Bava. They got me at the last minute; I never forgot that, I never had a chance to remember the script. I was in a scene with these little lambs, so I put the script under them, and could see the script. I was reading from the script and petting the lambs and reading for about 15 minutes. I couldn't remember the whole thing at once, it was too heavy, so I just read it. 2 or 3 pages, full, of just me talking. So that's how I did that part. The strangest part was, the cameraman and everyone on the set was clapping and yelling, Bravo! Bravo! You never heard a roar like that in your life. You'd think it was the start of the opera or something. They didn't know how I remembered all that dialogue. I did a Marlon Brando thing. He always worked from queue cards anyway. I used to stay up till 3 o'clock in the morning, just learning my lines for the NIBELUNGEN. Slept 2 hours a day, worked 12 hours a day.
Larry: The NIBELUNGEN was cut down from 10 hours into 2,
Samson: That was filmed in Iceland, Yugoslavia, Rome and Germany.
When I was in Germany, I went over to the Spandau Prison and saw Rudolph Hess. Walking around all by himself, with a British guard on the outside of the prison. I was on a hill looking down. That was a sad thing to see, a man all by himself. They kept him alive.
Gord: MAGNUM P I, what did you do in that series?
Samson: I worked as a villain in that. I did a heavy part were I had a fight with Roger Mosley the helicopter pilot. I always try and fill in wherever I can. I made sure the angles were right in the fight scene, so I had optimum camera time. I had more of the camera on me, hogging the camera. I got more camera time, so people remember.
Larry: Tell us about you work with Fellini?
Samson: I played a pilot. I did it in one day. Fellini never uses a script. He just films things that pop into his head. First I played the Centaur, then I put on a pilots uniform. There was an actual pilot there, pretending to be a passenger, to tell me what to do, what controls to operate. There was a cockpit of a plane with a moving screen outside the window, so it looked like the thing was moving. A lot of hollering people, then I took off. That was the only little part that was in there, why, I don't know. He obviously used it for something, but which title, I don't know.
Gord, Larry: We'll have to check out all of Fellini's film and find those parts. (The scenes are not in JULIET OF THE SPIRITS or SATYRICON).
Samson: He used a lot of people as chess pieces, and animals. If you look at it straight in a sensible way, you think it's weird. But who knows? He was supposed to be a genius. Everybody paid a lot of money to see his films.
Gord: Gordon Mitchell told me "he didn't get paid for some of his films. Did that ever happen to you?
Samson: He worked for a director called Emimmo Salvi, who would promise him things and tell him all kinds of fantasies. "There is a problem with the money it's coming in, etc." He never got paid. That never happened to me. When they sent a car to pick me up, I either wasn't home or I wouldn't go. They'd try all day to get me. When they finally did, I said, "If you don't pay me any money, I don't want to do any work". All of a sudden, ”we made a mistake, here is your money", and they paid me for the week. That was the only way you could work there. They fooled a lot of people. If you didn't get paid, there was no way to make them pay you. There were no unions of any kind and there was nobody in authority. You cannot press anyone for money in Italy. You cannot demand your money.
Gord: What was it like being a star of these films?
Samson: I was in Morocco and decided to visit the Kasbah. I was walking down the street and turned to see a horde of people following me. I thought that I’d done something wrong, so I asked the guide. He explained that there were 2 of my films playing in town and all of these people recognized me. It was a little unnerving.
Gord:  What about Wandisa Guida?
Samson:  She was a very pretty girl.  She got married soon after that (REVENGE OF URSUS), and never worked again. I saw her once after that, I stopped her in the street, she didn't want to work anymore.  She said goodbye and that's all that matters.  
Larry: Was the set for REVENGE OF URSUS, all outdoors, or was it in a studio?
Samson: All outdoors. That was originally the CLEOPATRA set. I wish I had know you were interested in that, I'd have brought you a big color brochure from the movie, which I have at home. I'll catch you next time. (Probably an Italian press book, which are very elaborate). I'll bring my albums with stuff from my other films as well.
Larry: I'll be waiting at the airport. I'll also put some videos together on your films.
Gord: Did the Stooges joke a lot on the set? Were they fun to work with?
Samson: All the time. I had a lot of fun making that film. The Stooges were true professionals. They would act out their parts and "fill in the spaces" and make everyone else look good as well.
Gord: Are you hanging around Toronto for a few days?
Samson: No, I have to fly out tomorrow. I work as a personal trainer in Miami and have a client tomorrow night. I give only private lessons, which I've been doing for 4 1/2 years now. I have a good cliental.

So ends the interview with the mighty Hercules, SAMSON BURKE. Conducted by Larry Anderson and Gord Harmer.

A very big THANK YOU to Bob Kotsopoulos for arranging to have Samson Burke at the Toronto show.
From "Hollywood Teen Movies" a special thanks goes out to Larry Anderson & Gord Harmer for conducting this awesome interview and allowing us to use the information and fantastic stills to put together this exclusive "Samson Burke Special Feature". I am sure fans will agree that this interview is a fantastic addition to the "Sword & Sandal Epics" component of the "Hollywood Teen Movies" website.
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Beefcakes & Cheesecakes :
Samson Burke demonstrates his strengh in this black & white still from the sword & sandal epic  "Revenge Of Ursus" (aka Vengeance Of Ursus).
Left & Right:
Samson Burke is featured on some fantastic movie posters for the action-packed "Revenge Of Ursus" (aka Vengeance Of Ursus).
Above Left & Right:   Lobby cards for Toto vs. Maciste (1962)       Above Center:   Poster for Toto vs. Maciste (1962)
Above: 3 movie stills of Samson Burke as strongman "Ursus"                 Far Right:   Poster for "Triumph Of Robin Hood"
Above: Samson Burke the bodybuilder
Below:  Samson Burke in western attire
Samson Burke the wrestler

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Samson Burke September 2002
Samson Burke the bodybuilder
Samson Burke as Ursus
Samson Burke The Wrestler
Kommissar X Lobby Card
Toto vs. Maciste Lobby Card
Samson & Wandisa in Revenge Of Ursus
Samson Burke in Revenge Of Ursus
Samson Burke as Ursus
Kommissar X Lobby Card
Toto vs. Maciste Lobby Card
Vengeance Of Ursus Poster
Samson Burke in western attire
The Triumph Of Robin Hood
Vengeance Of Ursus Poster
Five For Hell Poster
Olinka Berova
Samson Burke as Ursus
Gia Scala
Whom The Gods Wish To Destroy
Toto vs. Maciste Movie Poster
Arriva Dorellik Poster
Vengeance Of Ursus Poster
The Three Stooges Meet Hercules Poster
The Three Stooges Meet Hercules Poster