Erik the Conqueror

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Kitsch Italian curio with demented Viking twist

Image of Erik the Conqueror

Mario Bava / Italy / 1961 / 90mins

Available on Dual-Format Blu-ray/ DVD now.

Fans of the TV blockbuster Vikings will have been spoiled for special effects, locations (Ireland and Canada) and complex, novelistic storytelling. The fourth and latest season has just been released on disc. The TV show owes a debt to the 1958 film The Vikings with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis (who went on to revisit the period actioner with Spartacus two years later). The 1958 movie has gloriously photographed fjords and many-horned helmets. While the 21st-century Vikings offers gore, “shield maidens”, animal-skin waistcoats and endless shagging. In the 60s and 70s movies Nordic warriors never took off although there was a huge interest in Greek myths like the classic Jason and the Argonauts.

Erik hoped to ride on the coattails of the Kirk Douglas movie. Although the exteriors – longboats and mountains – of this Twilight of the Gods soap opera are all good and well, the Christmas grotto lighting and creeping sync – an Italian stock practice, alas – take some getting used to. The plot, in case anyone’s interested, involves two fighting brothers mirrored by the conflict between the pagan Vikings and the Christians but it’s all rather mired in too much thundering hooves, rapine and pillage. The lead is played by long-forgotten Cameron Mitchell and the love/sex interest is provided by the equally forgotten and fetching Kessler twins who float about with French twists in silk chiffon togas and look as if they’ve stepped in from another movie entirely. The action sequences have pace and often the whole thing looks gorgeous although it’s clearly been made in a tiny budget.

Bava made his career in Italian schlock and horror movies so Erik is something of a departure. The director inspires much cult fandom. His best-known Italian giallo movie is probably I Vampiri.

For lovers of kitsch Erik might be high on their best-of list – and there’s certainly a demented surrealist element to proceedings – but, for the rest, this is little more than a fleapit special.

/ @kenwilson84

Ken is a feature writer award-winning editor covering subjects as diverse as the arts and design, film, the law, health and popular culture.


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