Monday, March 21, 2016


For our first AndressFest’16 experience, we took a rare trip back to a time before Ursula’s breakout role as Honey Rider in 1962’s ‘Dr No’. As a novice actress, struggling both with the craft and with every man within reach (and frankly having more difficulty with the former than the latter), Ursula was probably delighted to get a gig as heroine of the week on Boris Karloff’s Thriller.

Our story begins with a bunch of belligerent Italians in silly hats cornering Ursula’s character Luana while she’s doing the laundry, beating her up and throwing her in the river. Fortunately she is rescued by a passing Spanish art student, Antonio, who is immediately smitten by her shapely figure and impenetrable accent.

Unlike Honey Rider, Luana wasn’t redubbed in post. Thus we were treated to the full weight of Ursula’s blurred teutonic consonants. But as Ursula’s career from that point on demonstrates, no one was hiring her for her crisp, Maggie Smith-style diction.

Antonio takes Luana back to his place, where she reveals her terror of her grandmother, the La Strega of the title. When the old woman turns up, chewing the scenery like it was Turkish Delight, Antonio hides Luana in a trunk. Unable to find her recalcitrant granddaughter, La Strega then curses him, in a florid but oddly specific way.

“Listen to my word, and remember them well. When the moon is down and the night is dark, the blood in your veins will boil and burn. Your hands will do the work of the Devil. Those you love will be taken away. The curse will lie on you day and night. A mad man kept in a darkened cell for the rest of your life. Only a grave for the ones you love.”

This seems something of an overreaction to Antonio’s minor Luana-pilfering misdemeanor. But then she is Italian.

Antonio laughs it off. He doesn’t believe in witches. He believes in art, love and getting into Luana’s panties. In pursuit of all these goals, he paints Luana’s portrait and agrees to help her escape La Strega’s clutches.

Antonio’s teacher warns him that La Strega will be attending the witches’ Sabbath at the full moon (presumably he read that on her Facebook page), and the three of them go there to confront her. It turns out that witches Sabbaths don’t have much of a liturgy: it appears to be several hours of La Strega cackling by a bonfire while dancers in unitards do jazz ballet in the near vicinity. I didn’t even know that unitards had been invented in 1652, but that just goes to show how evil La Strega is – she can access the future but all she comes back with are unitards and modern dance troupes.

While Antonio is transfixed by the ceremony, La Strega somehow murders his beloved teacher. The clunky, inelegant curse is becoming clunky, inelegant reality!

After his portrait of Luana spookily transforms into an image of La Strega, Antonio leaves Luana in the care of the local Catholic priest, figuring that as she’s a 25 year old woman she’ll probably be safe, and goes to La Strega’s hovel to confront her. He begs for her to lift her curse and relinquish her claim on Luana, but she refuses. In desperation he strangles her – it seems that for all her satanic power she’s still vulnerable to getting throttled by an emotional Spaniard - then buries the body and returns to the church.

However, Luana isn’t there, and the confused priest tells him that he has just spoken to La Strega in the street. Horrified, Antonio races back to the hovel and digs up the body… and the last thing we see is that the body in the grave is Luana.

Darn that witch.

La Strega’s greatest power, besides being a bigger ham than bacon-fried pork chops, is her ability to transcend logic. How did she trade places with Ursula? Had Antonio been bewitched the whole time? How did she kill Antonio’s teacher? Were the jazz ballet troupe paid equity rates? The list goes on.

Like all of Ursula’s performances which didn’t involve her showing her boobies (thanks a bunch, TV morality in 1961!), La Strega was a little tepid and distinctly lacking in thrills. But overall Thriller was quite an enjoyable little show. You can watch every episode on YouTube, although it only lasted two seasons from 1960 – 61. I think it’s worth noting that it was cancelled only thirteen episodes after Ursula’s story, proving once again that the only true curse around here is the eternal Curse of Ursula.


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