Thursday, May 15, 2014


On a beach, an old oracle named Jona tells Karin that her Viking husband Arald, missing at sea for years, will return soon, but she also tells Karin that she is in danger and should take her son Moki and leave. Slowly, the backstory is revealed: two Viking tribes, one ruled by Rurik and one by Arald's father, were enemies for some time, but they agreed to a peace pact. But on the wedding day of Arald and Karin, Hagen, a rough and brutish warrior who had been hired as a protector of Aarld's people, rides in with the heads of Rurik's wife and son, apparently not realizing that peace had been reached. Arald's father exiles Hagen, but later that day, Rurik and his men ride in, killing the king and razing their village. Rurik himself, his face hidden by a helmet, rapes Karin. Back to the present, where Karin and her son, suspicious of everyone, turn away a hungry blond begger; just as he leaves, a gang of Hagen's brutes attack Karin and the blond man comes back to kick ass, axing the lead attacker right in the chest. Karin gratefully takes him in, and we soon find out that the blond protector is Rurik, and, though he does not reveal his identity to Karin, he suspects that Karin's son is the fruit of his rape. Rurik has turned over a new leaf, but what will happen when: 1) Arald does in fact return, and 2) Hagen also returns with intent to kill Karin and Moki?

This Italian action melodrama from Mario Bava, better known for his horror and fantasy films (BLACK SUNDAY, DANGER DIABOLIK) was a very pleasant discovery. Bava’s visual sense is always interesting—though you need to see it widescreen—and the plot and characters are fairly complex for the genre; it combines elements of the western SHANE and the epic tale The Odyssey. The American star who anchors the film is Cameron Mitchell (with his hair dyed radioactive yellow) and he's not bad, even though he doesn’t have the physique one might expect for this Viking hero. Better is Fausto Tozzi (Americanized as Frank Ross) as the vicious Hagen; I never exactly sympathized with him, but he does come off much more rounded than most such stock villains. Both Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (aka Jack Stuart, pictured to the left of Mitchell) as Arald and Elissa Pichelli as Karin are fine. There is a lot of violence but very little gore, and the long one-on-one knife fight between Rurik and Hagen conjures up memories of the big fight in THE QUIET MAN. The theme music is quite catchy. Overall, a little gem. [DVD]

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