Gli invasori

Synopsis: Blonde giants, thirsty for blood and eager for conquest! In the long-unseen classic from legendary director/cinematographer Mario Bava, Viking hordes invade Britain in an orgy of violence, vengeance and virgins. Cameron Mitchell (KNIVES OF THE AVENGER) stars with Andrea Checchi (BLACK SUNDAY), George Ardisson (HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD) and the luscious Kesslar Twins in this epic of ferocious color and design, bursting with more chained maidens and shocking violence than any other Viking movie of the era.

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Gli invasori 7.75

eyelights: its scale. its pace. its ambition.
eyesores: its abrupt ending. its technical lapses.

“In death, I have but one companion: my sword.”

I’m no great fan of historical epics. Like westerns and war pictures, I tend to switch off unless there’s something unique about them, a special approach or subject matter.

That’s why I initially skipped ‘Gli invasori’, one of Mario Bava’s earliest works; I didn’t have a copy, and since I had almost everything else of his, I didn’t feel too compelled.

But I recently read a very positive review of this 1963 Italian “sword and sandals” picture, which is mostly known to North American audiences as ‘Erik the Conqueror’.

So I decided to get my hands on it.

Loosely based on the 1958 Richard Fleischer film ‘The Vikings’, it tells of a decades-long rivalry between a collective of Viking clans and the English army that defeated them.

At the start of the film, the Vikings are nestled on the coast and the British rampage through their village, killing everyone and decimating everything to get rid of them.

Only a small group escape by boat and return to Norway.

What no one knows, however, is that newly-widowed Queen Alice has found a deserted Norse child and decides to raise him as her own. This child, is the Viking leader’s son.

But he has another son, Eron, one of the few survivors of the English’s assault. And, twenty years later, he will lead a charge to regain the land that they were driven from.

He will face his long-lost brother, Erik.

Of course he will.

Frankly, though ‘Gli invasori’ may seem clichéd, it’s so filled with zest and fury that it doesn’t allow its audiences to consider its frailties; it just barrels along brazenly.

The plot is completely contrived, but it’s exciting and fun; it’s like an action-adventure soap opera, with every possible coincidence connecting the characters together.

Case-in-point:

  • Erik and Eron are separated.
  • Queen Alice is widowed by Sir Rutford.
  • Queen Alice finds and raises Erik.
  • Eron is in love with Daya, a young priestess.
  • Eron returns to Britain with a Viking force.
  • Erik is sent out to stop the Vikings.
  • Erik and Eron fight.
  • Erik and Eron are separated again.
  • Eron reclaims the land thanks to Sir Rutford.
  • Eron leaves with a hostage, Queen Alice.
  • Sir Rutford takes over in the Queen’s absence.
  • Erik washes up on the Viking coast.
  • Erik falls in love with Rama, Daya’s twin.
  • Erik finds out that his mother is captive.
  • Erik is captured by Eron.
  • Erik escapes with his mother.
  • Erik and his mother try to reclaim the crown.
  • Eron returns to Britain and assists Sir Rutford.
  • Erik and Eron duel to the death.
  • Eron recognizes Erik’s Viking tattoo.
  • Reunited, they band against Sir Rutford.
  • Sir Rutford takes Daya hostage.
  • Eron is mortally wounded.
  • To ease Eron, Rama pretends to be Daya.
  • Sir Rutford is defeated and Daya is rescued.
  • Daya burns on Eron’s funeral pyre.

Seriously, what more could you want?

The scale of the fight sequences was pretty impressive for a Bava picture. Perhaps it was trickery, perhaps he had a decent budget, but the darned thing looked like an epic.

It’s a rare feat, as his other, similar, films always looked either hokey or too small-scale to truly reflect their intentions. Here the audience can rightly get involved in it.

Don’t get me wrong: we’re not talking about a Kubrick-quality production and staging. But when one considers the shoe-string budgets Italian productions had, this is amazing.

Even the set designs are noteworthy: the pagan ritual beneath the large tree was immense and populated, the Viking council was a large hall filled with armed warriors, …etc.

And when the sets weren’t enough, Bava amped up the scenes by adding some sort of action, like having the Vikings vote for their leader by throwing axes at emblems in small groups.

There’s no end to the excitement.

(Though it is, admittedly, silly.)

Frankly, I was rather impressed with just how entertaining ‘Gli invasori’ was, despite its low budget roots. I’d say it’s one of the better examples of Bava’s directorial genius.

Seriously, few directors could do as much with so little; One could argue that Bava is at the height of his powers here. It’s an imperfect film, but he conceals its flaws fairly well.

Oh, sure, it’s a Viking picture. But I’m sure I’ll see it again.

Date of viewing: Sept 11, 2017

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