While Curtis Harrington (Games, What's the Matter with Helen?) began as an avant-garde filmmaker and became a master of the covertly queer hagsploitation subgenre, Mr. Williams, who is all but completely unknown today, should be credited for directing what is the first (and probably last) experimental Grande Dame Guignol film. Indeed, it is almost incomprehensible to think that anyone, especially an American, would direct an experimental horror film in the early 1960s featuring a little dude in drag that concludes with said little dude brutally butchering his bitch of a mother with the same exact knife that she just used to slaughter her sexually confused son’s new pet frog. To be fair, Ursula is a fairly subtle and hardly graphic film, thus its particular brand of psychosexual perversity might be lost on many contemporary viewers who expect to see buckets of blood and guts. Of course, as a man that previously directed an experimental surrealist adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s 1871 poem Jabberwocky entitled Jabberwock (1959), Williams—an auteur that is even pretty much completely unknown among cinephiles and avant-garde film fetishists—was no ordinary filmmaker, but I guess one should not expect anything less in a country were art cinema is hardly respected and horror cinema is mostly considered titillating teenage trash.
I almost must confess that every time I watch Ursula, I am reminded about virtually every single serial killer that I have ever read about it. After all, it could be argued that the eponymous little boy is just as much the monster of the film as his loathsome mother, as he completely transcends her transgressions and graduates on to matricidal murder before he even reaches puberty. In that sense, the film is like a sort of anti-nostalgic coming-of-age film for serial killers as Henry Lee Lucas, Richard Chase, Gary Ridgway, Edmund Kemper, Bobbie Joe Long, and countless other real-life serial killers experienced childhoods involving maternal abuse similar to that of Ursula. Arguably more importantly, Ursula is, in terms of brutality and aesthetics, the closest thing to a fag filmic equivalent to a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Indeed, forget Larry Yust's Shirley Jackson adaptation The Lottery (1969)—a 20-minute horror short that is well known for scaring generations of American school children who were forced to watch it in their English classes—Williams' short should be mandatory viewing in public schools lest the United States be condemned with another generation of deluded fatherless youth who believe that cross-dressing is the height of cultivation.