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Erik the Viking gathers warriors from his village and sets out on a dangerous journey to Valhalla, to ask the gods to end the Age of Ragnorok and allow his people to see sunlight again. A Pythonesque satire of Viking life. Written by
Alexander Lum <email@example.com>
A Nice Sense of Period and One or Two Moments of Interesting Logic
Terry Jones wonderful examination of the mess of Viking life and legend is a funny film - almost as good as MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. His intelligence is at work here. Jones wrote a book version of the story first, and in it examined some of the odd concepts of that remarkable period of rapine and violence. Jones is an expert on the Middle Ages (he did a very amusing and informative multi-episode series on the people of the Middle Ages for the history channel). So his grasp on detail is marvelous.
To date, this is the only film to look at the Vikings and their religious/spiritual beliefs. What was their idea of heaven and hell. Well, we finally see Valhalla for what it was supposed to be. And the fallacy of it is brought home in the conclusion when Erik and his crew realize what garbage their culture embraces.
This is the only movie I know that also deals with the lost island of Hy-Brazil. Not to be confused with the huge country in South America, Hy-Brazil was one of many fictitious islands that were believed to be in the Atlantic Ocean in the Middle Ages - in some cases to the 19th Century. Hy-Brazil was supposed to sink every now and then, as it does in this film. But it sinks due to a violation of the moral purity of the island, for an act of violence occurs there that is against the state of the island. And the King of Hy-Brazil (Jones) is so self-centered that he can imagine that everything is fine, that he refuses to accept that the island is sinking and his subjects are drowning.
The King is also one of the examples of the marvelous twisted logic of the film - he has gotten a piece of cloth that he is told makes the wearer invisible. Nobody else but the king believes this. Erik, caught in the rooms of the King's daughter, puts the cloth on him. The King comes in to see who is there, and can't see him, although everyone else can see him.
There is a similar piece of logic at the end of the film, when the crew has reached Valhalla, and found it not as they wanted to find it. They are trapped there because their belief and religion makes them seek Valhalla. Only the one Christian among them (Freddie Jones, in a nice performance) can't see what they see - he is a Christian, not a Viking Pagan. So he is able to return to their boat and free the others because he is not trapped by their mindset.
The performances are good, especially John Cleese as an expert in extortion and torture, who is treated like the benevolent laird of the manor (he willingly changes the dates of torments and tortures he schedules). Eartha Kitt as a priestess, and Mickey Rooney as a feisty grandfather of Erik, give good performances too. It is an interesting, odd, but successful period comedy.
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