• Erik The Conqueror



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: August 29th, 2017.
    Director: Mario Bava
    Cast: Cameron Mitchell, George Ardisson, Alice Kessler, Ellen Kessler
    Year: 1961
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    The Movie:

    Maria Bava is best remembered for this wildly influential horror and giallo films, but it would be unfair to dismiss the films he made in other genres, as many of them are quite good as well. Case in point? 1961’s Erik The Conqueror (Gli invasori in its home land). While it may be an Italian knock-off of the Kirk Douglas vehicle The Vikings made a few years prior by director Richard Fleischer, this is very definitely a Maria Bava picture through and through.

    The film begins in In 786 AD, where a horded of Viking invaders are pushed back from the English coast at the end of a grueling battle that leaves scores of dead littering the landscape. They leave in their wake a young boy named Erik, the son of the recently killed Viking king. Time passes and Erik (George Ardisson) is raised by the English Queen Alice (Françoise Christophe)as her own son. As he becomes a man, he’s appointed Duke Of Helford.

    What Erik, who has fallen for pretty Daya (Ellen Kessler), doesn’t know, is that on the other side of the ocean his brother Eron (Cameron Mitchell) now leads the horde he was once a part of. When Eron and the Viking’s King Olaf (Jean-Jacques Delbo) decide to once again lay siege to the shores of England, it’s brother against brother in a battle for dominion over the land…

    There are a few subplots that get a little messy – one involving Daya’s twin sister Rama (Alice Kessler) is a good example, as it doesn’t really add much or really go anywhere – but the pacing here is solid and the action scenes quite good. As to the acting? Cameron Mitchell is fun to watch as Eron, playing the role with the appropriate amount of machismo and we have no trouble buying him as a tough guy. George Ardisson is a little softer in his role but he’s fine in the part. He’s got enough charisma that we like him, at least. Ellen and Alice Kessler as the twin sisters that get involved in all of this aren’t given as much to do, dramatically speaking, as the principal male leads but they look great and are perfectly fine in their roles.

    The similarities to Fleischer’s film are very obvious on a surface level, in fact, the plot is almost identical at times, but Bava manages to put his own stamp on this picture with plenty of his trademark visual flourishes. If the script is somewhat predictable, it doesn’t stop the director from staging some impressive action set pieces or injecting the film with some absolutely gorgeous compositions rich with many of those primary colors he seemed to love so much. Add to this some generally solid production values, nicely handled period costumes and some quality sets and props and Erik The Conqueror is, if nothing else, a feast for the eyes (this was made the same year as Hercules In The Haunted World, which shares a lot of similarly impressive visuals and use of color – now THIS is one that needs a proper Blu-ray release!).

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The AVC encoded 1080p high definition 2.35.1 widescreen transfer on this Blu-ray from Arrow, taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative, is a pretty big improvement over the previous DVD releases. Colors are much stronger and considerably bolder without ever looking artificially boosted. This allows some of the more 'pop' looking elements in the movie to really come to life. Detail is pretty strong throughout, and not just in close up shots but in medium and long distance shots as well. You can notice the texture in the clothing seen throughout the movie as well as in background props and sets. There are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement nor is there any noticeable noise reduction. The picture is clean, strong and stable – quite film like, with nice skin tones and solid black levels. Aside from a few scratches here and there, really, there’s nothing to complain about. The picture quality on this release is great.

    LPCM Mono tracks are provided in English and Italian with optional subtitles in English only. No issues here. It’s interesting to note that the scores are different on each track (Roberto Nicolos scored the Italian version while Les Baxter did the American version). Quality is fine. The sound effects aren’t as punch as you might want but that won’t surprise anyone used to films like this. More importantly, the dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion to complain about. Having said that, the Italian track is the stronger of the two mixes, it just has a bit more power behind it for whatever reason.

    Extras start off with an all new audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of The Dark. As you’d expect from a Lucas commentary over a Bava film, the track is packed with a lot of info and covers a lot of ground. There’s discussion here of the production history, the cast and crew involved in the picture, how this film compares to The Vikings, some of the many visual flourishes on display, the movie’s distribution history and quite a bit more. Lots of talk about the gorgeous locations used for this shoot (and a few others) as well. This is a very thorough track that covers pretty much everything you’d hope it would.

    Gli imitatori is a twelve minute long piece in which Michael McKenzie makes some interesting comparisons between Erik the Conqueror and The Vikings, the film that clearly inspired it. He not only notes the similarities between the two films but he also manages to present the movie in a proper context allowing us to better understand why Bava might have borrowed as heavily as he did from the earlier picture.

    Arrow has also includes a sixty-three minute long audio interview in which Tim Lucas talks to the film’s leading man, the late Cameron Mitchell, recorded back in 1989. This is an interesting listen as Mitchell talks about his work not just on this picture but on Blood And Black Lace and Knives Of The Avenger as well. Mitchell’s got a pretty sharp memory here and seems to be enjoying himself as he answers Lucas’ questions about the time he spent in Italy working with Bava and a few others on these films.

    The disc also includes the eighty-four second long original ending sourced from a tape – but still quite interesting to see here. Menus and chapter selection round out the extras on the Blu-ray disc itself.

    As this is a combo pack release Arrow has also included a DVD version of the movie featuring the same extras as are found on the Blu-ray disc. On top of that we get some nice reversible sleeve art with some original poster art on one side and a newly created piece by Graham Humphreys on the opposite side. Also included inside the keepcase is an insert booklet containing an essay on the film by Kat Ellinger alongside credits for the feature and the Blu-ray release.

    The Final Word:

    Erik The Conqueror might not be the film that first comes to mind when discussing Mario Bava’s career, but it’s a rousing mix of dark fantasy and adventure made with a game cast and with the director’s stamp all over it. It’s an entertaining picture with some gorgeous visuals that are now even easier to appreciate thanks to Arrow’s sterling presentation. Add to that a nice mix of extras and this turns out to be an excellent package overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





























    Comments 5 Comments
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      The Lucas commentary is not all new.
      There are about 20 minutes of old commentary from the Image DVD spliced in near the last half hour. Not putting the final shot into the film is a mistake, but that is my complaint on this release.

      I think this is the best looking Bava on Blu to date, it's gorgeous and bring on HERCULES!!!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      The Lucas commentary is not all new.
      I don't have the old Image DVD to compare it to but Arrow's press materials say 'new.' I guess 20 minutes extra is enough to make that claim.

      But yes, Hercules. We need that one.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      This is a Bava film I don't particularly like but must own on Blu anyway (because... I must have them all!). HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, on the other hand, I'd just about kill for that one. Does anyone know of any plans for it to get released in the format?
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Now, when are we going to get ESTHER AND THE KING on Blu so I can get rid of my shitty public domain DVD.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      I was a bit disappointed with the English audio on this. In fact I had to watch this in Italian, which normally is the right thing to do. Otherwise I was happy.