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Pier Paolo Capponi
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After the apparent death of her husband King Arald, a viking peasant woman, named Karin, takes her son Moki into hiding from Aghen, King Arald's enemy. But a mysterous stranger, named Rurik, begins acting as Karin's guardian, which evetually leads to a brutal showdown between Rurik and Aghen. Written by
Director Mario Bava was brought in to salvage the troubled production after the original director was fired. Bava wound up scrapping most of the footage that had already been shot, threw out the old script, and rewrote and reshot virtually the entire film in six days. See more »
The last of Mario Bava's various peplums for the silver screen although he would still have a couple more stabs at the genre for Italian TV is also the last of four films (one of them in an uncredited capacity) he made with second-tier Hollywood star Cameron Mitchell. It seems rather incredible to me now that Italian producers were still trying, at this late stage, to emulate the commercially successful formula of THE VIKINGS (1958) even down to dyeing their leading man's hair blonde like Kirk Douglas'.
The film starts atmospherically enough with a witch on a sandy beach waxing metaphysically about the doom-laden future lying in wait for a vanquished Queen (the rather wooden Lisa Wagner) and her treacherous pursuer (Fausto Tozzi, a forceful if decidedly one-note portrayal). Despite the expected bouts of lively action, the film is surprisingly intimate for this director and genre; in fact, an even stronger influence is that of SHANE (1953), complete with adulating kid an aspect which is further reinforced by the various scenes of horsemanship and showdowns in dark taverns. Besides, even the action sequences rarely involve more than a couple of characters (including the climax set inside a cave), and the fact that it employs flashbacks (which help render the two male leads the stoic and, decidedly, ambivalent Mitchell and the rugged Giacomo Rossi Stuart more rounded than is par for the course) is largely a departure for this kind of film.
On the debit side, one must certainly note the sluggish pace. All in all, even if still perhaps his best peplum, this is a lesser Bava film which I rather enjoyed more the first time around (ironically, watched via a pan-and-scan print on Italian TV!).
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