Monday, May 9, 2011

Erik the Viking - 1989

Dir. by Terry Jones - 1 hr. 37 min.

Official Trailer

"Erik the Viking" stars Tim Robbins as the titular character (and from the same era as "Bull Durham," which was a fertile time for comedy by Robbins).  Erik is a viking that hasn't quite worked everything out, though.  He starts off the movie with his cohorts, looting and pillaging another village.  Unfortunately, he has difficulty pulling off the rape part of the equation, not only failing to successfully complete that act, but instead accidentally killing the woman while trying to defend her from a couple of men on his own side.

If this sounds like heavy stuff, you should be aware that this is sort of a Monty Python-adjunct film.  Terry Jones wrote and directed it (and plays King Arnulf, ruler of Hy-Brasil), and John Cleese has a supporting role as well.  So, it would probably be better to understand this movie as a deeply silly one instead, where matters of life and death are addressed with inanity.  Not being a Python fan (I'm more indifferent than anti-Python), I wasn't expecting genius, which probably helps matters.

There are funny bits along the way (including the attempted rape scene - pure comedy!), but the whole thing doesn't really click until the viking crew reach Hy-Brasil, about half-way into the film.  From there on out, it's consistently pretty good (and biting at times, wait until you see how the Norse Gods are portrayed), but the lull in the first third of the story is tough to come back from.  While this version of the film is roughly 100 minutes long, Jones cut 10 minutes out of the run-time for UK release, and there's a later "Director's Son's Cut" that runs only 75 minutes long.  There is a DVD available of the shortest version (and no others), and it might be an interesting academic exercise to see how the two versions play against each other.  It's clear that the editing is an issue (according the offical record of our time, Jones was unhappy that he wasn't given enough time to edit the film to his satisfaction), and to the detriment of the work.

There is some great stuff in here, and it's also fun to sit back and enjoy the cameos.  Aside from Jones and Cleese, Mickey Rooney and Eartha Kitt have small roles as well.  Tim Robbins plays Erik with a gusto that isn't usually seen in Python-esque movies (there's usually a determination to be silly frequently, as well as a very British resignation.  To see what I'm talking about, especially note the scene when Erik boards Halfdan the Black's warship), and it's a nice change of pace.

3.5 / 5 - NF Streaming

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