May 12, 2014

Samson Burke: the Villain of 1960s Bodybuilding Movies

If you saw The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962) -- and every Boomer kid did -- you probably that Joe DeRita, the most flamboyantly feminine of the Stooges, was trying his best to appear afraid rather than excited during his scenes with the super-muscular Hercules.

This was a rare example of a villainous Hercules, played by 6'6", 275 lbs Samson Burke (born Samuel Burke), a Canadian-born Olympic athlete, bodybuilder (a former Mr. Canada), pro wrestler, and budding peplum star whose Vengeance of Ursus had just been released (1961).

He went on to specialize in more rare examples of villainous bodybuilders: King Blo-Edin in the German Nibelungen series, Khemal in Three Green Dogs (1967), and Polyphemus the Cyclops in an Italian tv version of The Odyssey.  After a minor role in the Italian comedy Satiricosissimo (1970), he retired from acting.

He moved to Hawaii to pursue his interest in fitness (and incidentally joined the crew of Magnum P.I. when it was filming in Hawaii during the 1980s).  The Three Stooges film brought him his greatest popularity, and he still appears at fan conventions, where his bicep is still capable of crushing heads.

On his personal website, he advises: "once you're finished browsing, get out from behind your computer and exercise!  Taking care of your body is something you will benefit from for the rest of your life."

Good advice from a 84 year old bodybuilder.

Burke  has never married.  I don't know if he's gay or not, but on Hollywood Teen Movies, the interview keeps feeding him openings like "that actress you worked with was very beautiful" and "that actress was very attractive," but Burke won't own up to any heterosexual interest, limiting himself to evaluations of her physical fitness:  "yes, she was fit and healthy."

See also: The Three Stooges; Sword and Sandal.