Wednesday, June 07, 2017


In 786, the Scottish King Lotar sends Sir Rutford to negotiate peace with some newly arrived Viking settlers, but instead Rutford and his men kill the Viking king and massacre the settlers.  The king's young son Eron is spirited away by Vikings, but his other son Erik is discovered by Lotar's wife Alice; after her husband is killed (supposedly by a Viking but actually by Rutford), she takes Erik in and raises him as her own—you see where this is going, right? Twenty years later, Eron (Cameron Mitchell) is chosen by Olaf, the aging king of the Vikings, to lead an invasion of England—Olaf assumes that Eron will be driven by a desire for revenge. Meanwhile in England, Erik (George Ardisson, pictured) has been made a duke, a move spearheaded by Queen Alice, and is chosen to lead troops against the Vikings. When the two meet at sea, Eron is victorious and kidnaps the British queen; Erik escapes and is washed up on a Viking shore and is assumed to be a Viking by the villagers. Eventually, Eron and Erik face each other during a swordfight; when Eron sees a Viking tattoo on Erik, he realizes that they are brothers, but Eron winds up shot in the chest by an arrow (from the conniving evil Sir Rutford). Will Erik be able to avenge not only his Viking parents but also his brother? (And did I mention the love plot?: Eron and Erik are in love with two Viking sisters—played by real-life twin sisters—who play a role in the climactic action)

Italian director Mario Bava is mostly known for his horror films, giallo thrillers and peplum (HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD). This is none of the above—despite scenes of men showing off their physiques, this is not really a sword-and-sandal movie; it's what might be called a mock- or faux-historical adventure. Bava and his screenwriters make mincemeat of history and that's fine. It might as well take place in Middle Earth or Westeros for all that the background setting matters. There are villages and castles and statuesque women in robes and swordfights. As in most Bava films, there is also beautiful use of visual texture and color, particularly greens and purples. Mitchell and Ardisson are fine in the leads, but acting is never the most important thing in a Bava film, especially given the wall-to-wall dubbing. The action scenes are well-handled and the plot is surprisingly elaborate. Recommended for fans of 60s action movies. Bava's later KNIVES OF THE AVENGER functions as a thematic sequel, featuring Vikings, Cameron Mitchell, and family intrigue. [DVD]

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