Only slightly more historically accurate than 300, Mario Bava’s “Erik the Conqueror” (1961) is a must see for B-movie fanatics. The completely fictional account of two brothers, Erik (played by George Ardisson) and Eron (Cameron Mitchell) separated at birth and re-united on the battlefield.
“Erik the Conqueror”, or at least that’s its Americano name – the film was also released under the names “Fury of the Vikings”, “The Invaders” or “Gli Invasori” in the original Italian – is a part of the 1960s Italian film tradition that helped make many actors such as Clint Eastwood famous. The “spaghetti western” era of Italian film was predated by the “Peplum” era, or perhaps better known as the “sword and sandal epic” – Italian medieval, fantasy and biblical themed films. Wikipedia lists this as the best Viking film made in Italy, and yes, there are more than one.
The film is an entertaining hybrid of a convincing and well thought out plot coupled with a hilarious chain of historical inaccuracies, completely over the top acting and logical fallacies. While the story, which begins with an attempt to make peace between the Vikings – yes, they are just called Vikings in this. In fact, the Vikings at one point make an alliance with Sweden, Iceland and Norway which would suggest that they are Danes – but the would-be peace treaty is disrupted by the treacherous Sir Rutford (Andrea Checchi), who kills the Viking King Harald (Folco Lulli) and the English King Lotar (Franco Russel.) The English Queen Alice (Françoise Cristophe) finds the child Erik and raises him as her own. Eron is raised back in Denmark (Vikingland?) where he eventually becomes king and leads a new invasion upon England.
While the story has some entertaining twists and turns, the real gem of this film is the completely inaccurate clothing and sets and the hilarious attempt at re-creating Viking culture. An odd assortment of improvised costumes consisting mainly of re-used props from other films – according to www.vikingsofbjiornstad.com, there’s even some clothing from the original Jason and the Argonauts in it – make the Vikings look more like some sort of medieval Mad Max gang with a harem – known as the “Vestal Virgins” (played by twin sisters Alice and Ellen Kessler). At one point, we are treated to a Viking election – one hundred “soldiers” vote by throwing axes at totem poles – yes, I said totem poles - an effect achieved by pulling the axes out of the totem poles and then running the film backwards, which looks completely obvious. The soldiers come to a tie vote on who shall lead the new conquest, so King Olaf (Jacques Delbò) declares democracy dead and instructs the two contenders, Eron and Garian, King of Sweden (Joe Robinson) to each immediately forge a weapon and fight to the death. The film is full of such hilarious nonsensical treats. At one point our hero Erik scales a castle by using arrows shot into the solid rock wall… in full plate armour. At another point, Erik is knocked off his ship in his armour and washes ashore in Vikingland, even while the film itself points out the implausibility of this by having another character on the boat strap balloons to himself to prevent from drowning.
As a cheesy backdrop for your next party or if you’re *really* bored, Erik the Conqueror is an excellent method of killing 90 minutes. If you’re not convinced yet, watch this clipping from the film showcasing “Viking Democracy.”