Fans of Viking flicks will get a charge out of this Nordic-themed action extravaganza that should come with one of those horn hats that they favor.
The film begins with an exciting battle sequence that is pretty heavy on the carnage for a swing 1960s movie. The Vikings are just about to pillage an English village (got my Doctor Seuss on today) when they are routed by the Brits. The Viking chief is mortally wounded and orders his men to evacuate his two little boys (apparently it was bring your kids to work week). The boys, Eron and Erik, are led to the boats, but Erik falls behind when their guard gets an arrow through his head.
The aftermath of the battle sees the English general, Ruthford, assassinate his own king in the confusion and then blame it on a nearby Viking, who is stone dead so he doesn’t complain when they thump him with clubs for appearance’s sake. Now the movie leaps ahead 20 years and tempers have reached their boiling point between the Vikings and the British.
Eron is now a top dog in the outfit and he wins the coveted role of War Chief by defeating the acting General in a duel to the death. Turns out he is a shrewd leader as he spares the other guy’s life, claiming he fights too well to die before breaking bad against the enemy. In Britain, the Queen rebuffs Ruthford’s advances and appoints Erik, whom she has adopted, to the role of Naval Commander.
Erik sets out to fight the advancing Vikings, unaware that Ruthford has a spy on his boat who plans to destroy it. The spy finds time to set a fire in the hold but can’t escape because the Vikings attack at the same moment. The ensuing battle is well staged but ends when the fire breaks out. The British perish on their burning vessel but Erik makes it to land. Too bad it is the Vikings’ home.
Eron sails on to England, where the Queen is handed over to him by the traitorous Ruthford. They take her back to their homeland. Erik winds up getting captured but escapes with the help of Eron’s sister-in-law. Erik makes it to England and is determined to kill Ruthford, but Eron is there, too. Rather than lose an army, the leaders opt to duke it out in a no-holds-barred fight that abruptly ends when the men discover they share a tattoo that identifies them as being from the same clan. They make up like this stuff never happened and lay siege to Ruthford’s castle. A lot of blood is spilled but at least they fill Valhalla with many brave souls .
Sword and sandal flicks don’t get much better than this film. That’s because it was directed by Mario Bava and he had a gift. This guy could spin straw into gold, folks. He got hold of mediocre scripts and filled them with exciting visuals that kept your eyes so busy that your brain never complains. He also ensured that his high standards would be met by doing many jobs himself, often acting as director of photography as well as handling the special effects.
Sure, this film relies on a lot of coincidences, but that’s okay as long as we have a fight every 10 minutes. The battle scenes are beautifully staged with excellent lighting, dramatic music and a lot of sweat. It is also a polite film which ends abruptly and doesn’t feel the need to repeat itself.
Bava is better known for his horror flicks, like “Black Sunday,” but his action movies were even better and are easy to find in collectible, and affordably priced, sets that feature lots of extras and commentaries by Bava scholar and “Video Watchdog” publisher Tim Lucas.
Best line: “She succumbed to her passion and gave away that which belonged to Odin.”