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Gli Invasori

Erik the Conqueror
La Ruée des Vikings / The Invaders / Fury of the Vikings

Italy/France 1961
produced by
Ferruccio De Martino for Galatea Film, Critérion Film, Societé Cinématographique Lyre
directed by Mario Bava
starring Cameron Mitchell, George Ardisson, Alice Kessler, Ellen Kessler, Andrea Checchi, Jean-Jacques Delbo, Francoise Christophe, Franco Giacobini, Raf Baldassarre, Enzo Doria, Joe Robinson, Gianni Solaro, Franco Ressell, Livia Contardi, Folco Lulli
written by Oreste Biancoli, Piero Pierotti, Mario Bava, music by Roberto Nicolosi, cinematography by Mario Bava, Ubaldo Terzano, assistant director: Franco Prosperi

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Whenever in the Middle Ages: The Vikings have pretty much run over Great Britain, but British King Lotar (Franco Ressel) decides to negotiate a treaty with Viking King Harald (Folco Lulli), a man of sound mind ... but Lotar's second in command Rutford (Andrea Checchi) sees to it that Harald's troops are lured into an ambush and are slaughtered, and when Lotar threatens to punish him for that, Rutford sees to it that he too is killed, but makes it look like the deed of a viking. Harald has two baby sons though, and while one, Eron, is taken back to Scandinavia where the vikings regroup, the other somehow gets lost and is later found by the British queen Alice (Francoise Christophe), who raises him as her own son, Erik.

Twenty years pass: Eron (Cameron Mitchell, who at 43 did not look the part of a twentysomething anymore) has become a viking leader, and he intends to invade Britain to avenge the death of his father - but to do so he has teamed up with Rutford, oblivious to the fact it was him who betrayed the vikings.

Erik (George Ardisson) on the other hand has become commander of the British fleet, which he is now leading against the vikings - but unbeknowest to him, Rutford has sent a traitor with him, who sets the fleet aflame during battle, making all their efforts futile. Surprisingly Erik survives, is washed upon Scandinavian shores, and finds abode in a viking village.

Eron meanwhile has conquered the castle of the British queen, has taken her hostage, and has installed Rutford as regent in his absence.

Erik falls in love with Rama (Alice Kessler), a priestess and the twin sister of Eron's fiancée Daya (Ellen Kessler), and Rama promises to reunite Erik with his mother during Eron's and Daya's wedding ... but at the wedding, Erik mistakes Daya for Rama, causes a ruckus, is recognized as the leader of the British fleet, and is neatly tied up. It's only in the night when everybody is sleeping that Rama frees him and goes to Britain with him and his mother, where Erik plans to form an army to reconquer the royal castle. But when his army approaches the castle, they realize the vikings have already landed in Britain and outnumber the Brits two to one.

So Erik challenges Eron to an one-on-one fight, which Eron accepts, and it seems Eron has little trouble defeating Erik - when he spots the tattoo on his shoulder that identifies him as a viking prince and his long-lost brother. Immediately, Eron wants to make peace with the Brits, but Rutford's not one to easily give up his post ...

 

On a story level, Erik the Conqueror has little to offer in terms of originality, it's just a formulaic period piece like so many others produced in Italy during that time. But the film really succeeds in its camerawork and its (sometimes psychedelic) use of colour and lighting that not only make up for the film's budgetary restraints but manage to give the film an eerie atmosphere all of its own, both of which of course thanks to its director, Mario Bava, then still at the beginning of his directing career and not yet the celebrated horror maestro of later years.

And that said, Erik the Conqueror is not among director Mario Bava's better films, it's just formulaic genre fare - but it's very beautiful to look at and ought to rate high on the nostalgia scale.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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