Movies from the Black Lagoon: The Norseman
by Tom Doty Times Columnist
A boatload of Vikings take on a tribe of Native Americans in this yawn festival that failed to jump-start the Viking genre.
The movie begins with a brief history lesson, during which we learn the Vikings visited North America before other Europeans. That is about all they get right, as our horn-helmeted heroes take over the saga. We discover that this expedition is the second one to our shores and is more of a rescue mission.
Thurvold is in charge and he means to find the first group that was led by his father. To help, he has enlisted the aid of a black-robed shaman, a tough cookie named Olaf, and the elder Ragnar. These guys are loaded for bear and rock horn helmets, axes, crossbows and plastic armor. Thurvold even sports a black leather visor that makes him look like a Nordic Batman.
They cruise onto a beach and disembark. The landing party only makes it a few hundred yards before they come upon some Indians and are promptly pelted with arrows. Turns out bad breath and bony helmets are no match for arrows and a comrade quickly falls.
Next, we get a Viking funeral, and you can almost hear the screenwriter crossing it off his checklist of Nordic traditions he has heard about. We learn that the Indians are not only the same ones who Thorvold’s father met, but that they also still have him and his comrades. Turns out they were all blinded with a hot stick and now act as slave labor for the Indians.
For some reason, a Native American woman opts to help them spring their friends. An simple plan finds some of the group engaging the Indians from their boat, while the rest sneak into the village to rescue their countrymen. The boat guys fight off the Indians but can’t make their escape because there isn’t any breeze to push their boat.
Meanwhile, the Vikings escape and run through the woods, kind of slowly, since half of them are blinded now. They have a small skirmish with the Indians but make it back to the boat, where there is great rejoicing.
You want to like this attempt at making a Viking saga, but it proves impossible. Director Charles Pierce just doesn’t know how to film, choreograph, or execute a fight scene. When you spend a whole movie waiting for some action, it is disappointing to endure the slow-motion bunk he puts together.
Pierce gets no help whatsoever. His props look like dimestore toys, the shields even bend noticeably when they have to stop a blow. The Indians are just beach bums with bad wigs and nowhere near enough red dye to be convincing. The actors are pretty lost at sea too. Especially Lee (“The Six Million Dollar Man”) Majors. He interprets Thorvald as a vacuous boob who appears incapable of registering, let alone expressing , any emotions. He also mispronounces Norse, a relatively straightforward word. Then again, his wife, the late Farrah Fawcett, produced the film and nobody criticizes the boss’ husband.
That said it is hilarious to watch and approaches Ed Wood style badness. The only thing missing here is a laugh track , but you can probably supply your own.
Best line: “The day that I turn my sails and hide from a new enemy will be the day that I become like a woman in my homeland.”
1978, rated PG.
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