Arrow Video has released the 1961 Italian sword and sandal film Erik the Conqueror to a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Read on to find out if it deserves a spot in your collection!
Mario Bava directs this picture, a name mostly known for his atmospheric colorful Italian horror films. Perhaps it is blasphemy in the critical film community but I never saw what the big deal was with him as a film maker. He does do a decent job as an entertainer but I always found his stories a bit flat and dull. Not much has changed here on a minuscule budgeted remake of the Kirk Douglas film The Vikings.
Cameron Mitchell stars as a Viking warrior who wants to be king and fights against the British. Complicating this fact is during the war while he was a child he was separated from his younger brother (who he assumes is dead) that was found and adopted by the Queen after both side’s Kings were killed. Now 20 years later as the factions are still fighting they start dating twin women and want to rule over the kingdoms themselves unaware it’s brother fighting brother. To say it’s convoluted would be an understatement. Also there is really never any reason to want to get behind either brother’s cause because they are never engaging and that really hurts the film.
It’s fairly straight forward otherwise. It’s sort of a soap opera feel with Cameron Mitchell doing his best Mirror Mirror Universe James T Kirk impression. The sets and the overacting really cement this as a B-movie and has a bit of campy entertainment to it but nothing really sticks as having a lasting impression. Your enjoyment of the film is really going to center on exactly how much you like Bava and 60’s Italian sword and sandal films.
Arrow’s booklet has this to say about the transfer of the film:
“Erik the Conqueror (Gli invasori) has been exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Italian and English mono audio.
All restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution on a pin- registered Arriscan and was graded on Digital vision’s Nucoda Film Master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, picture instability and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques.
The mono Italian language track was remastered from the optical sound track negatives. The English language track was sourced from the best master elements available. There are times in which audio synchronization will appear loose against the picture, due to the fact that audio was fully recorded in post-production.”
The colors look very nice on the transfer although there are some screen length scratches that occur a few times but nothing that is extremely detrimental to the enjoyment of the picture. It’s not a pristine restoration but it is very nice and is probably the best the film has looked since it’s theater release. I think in general fans should be pleased.
The audio is going to be dubbed regardless of the language selected so on films such as this I typically choose the original language release. It sounded like what a typical low budgeted 60’s movie sounds like. A couple times the subtitles (which are white) would be played against white lettering on the screen which was sort of difficult to read but that was only at the start of the film. The English voice actors, while not terrible, seemed to somehow be even more over the top than the Italian audio. I decided to stick with the Italian with subtitles for the duration of the film.
Audio Commentary by Bava biographer Tim Lucas
Cameron Mitchell Interview – Hour long audio only interview from 1989
Gli Imitatori – a 12 minute video essay comparing this film as the unofficial remake of Kirk Douglas’ The Vikings film.
Original Ending – a few seconds of additional footage in very poor quality (hence the reason not attached to the film proper) that only exists in VHS format.
First print run only Booklet with photos, transfer information and essays.
While not being a massive amount of special features I thought they were well done and really illuminate the production and ideas behind the film quite well. Quality over quantity. The Cameron Mitchell interview is particularly interesting as he discusses not only this film but his career during that time period and other Hollywood anecdotes. The crown jewel of the specials features for me was Gli Imitatori which shows where Bava made changes from the original film and what creative decisions he had to make because of budgetary constraints. It also shares some really odd additions that don’t even fit into Norse mythology (which frankly I was complaining about while watching the film). I think it may be more interesting than the movie itself and is a quality special feature I am thankful to own.
Erik the Conqueror Final Thoughts:
Erik the Conqueror is a silly Italian pop corn movie from the 60’s. It’s not epic by any stretch of the imagination but it has entertaining bits in it and is an interesting flick for the historical quality. It’s worth checking out alone for the comparisons between A grade Hollywood pictures with a large studio budget and a back yard B Italian film mimicking it. Cameron Mitchell fans will love to see him younger and not needing to sit behind a desk to deliver lines. He really Shatners it up in this film. Modern audiences probably would find the movie dull and somewhat confusing so I would highly suggest a rental first unless you are an Arrow completionist or love Mario Bava.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.