Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Viking Queen

Ah, yes, let us now all take a moment and consider our debt to the fine British gentlemen of Hammer Films, who helped keep the 60s and 70s full of luridly colored historo-overkill epics after Cecil B. DeMille lost his mojo. Arguably, the essence of the Hammer style is 1,001 ways to nearly and/or accidentally show naked breasts, and The Viking Queen is a high example of such.
The queen of the title seems to be based on Boudica , ancient queen of the Britons who almost drove the Romans off the Isles, but for some poor battle strategy. (Boudica, or Boudicca or Bodicea,  has been one of my heroes since childhood and deserves to have a decent damned movie made about her someday -- it's a tale of honor and treachery, cultural conflict and the changing role of women, how quickly we can be taken in by hubris and how revenge can spin out of control.)
But the historical foundations of The Viking Queen are unsteady and the story built upon them is flimsy indeed. To start, they call her the Viking Queen, even though she is queen of the Britons. I can only imagine this is some kind of excuse for the leading lady's accent (although that's the least of her thespianic issues). She is also the leader of the Druids, even though they all worship Zeus. Zeus was actually a Greek god, so this is kind of taking historical inaccuracy to a new level of "whatever."
Said queen is played by "International Beauty" Carita in a style so rigid that "wooden" doesn't cover it, although she is slightly more expressive than a rock. She was a model who had bits in two other films, but this was her only leading role. However, she is not the Carita who did some of the best hair of the 60s, including Jane Fonda's astonishing do's in the Euro-Poe flick Spirits of the Dead. Starring opposite her as her eyeliner-ed Roman love interest is Don Murray, a long way from Marilyn Monroe and the Bus Stop. But, well, he wasn't much of an actor even then, so The Viking Queen is pretty understaffed. The guy playing the head Druid priest tries to make up for it by chewing scenery like a pothead eats animal-style double-doubles. Along with people who can't act acting, there's also people who can't swordfight swordfighting, people who can't ride riding and battle scenes that seem to simply consist of people in bathmats milling about and waving their arms.

So, it's during the time of the Roman conquest of Britain. The Viking Queen's husband dies, leaving half the kingdom to her and half to Rome. At first, she bonds with her Roman co-leader, Don Murray -- not even Bette Davis or Meryl Streep could make "I look at this middle-aged man with a perm, hot pants and gold chains and immediately fall in love and want to chariot-race him into a bucolic pasture for a mercifully brief love scene" believable, so i guess we should go easy on Carita for this one.

Perm n' Hot Pants of the Imperial Legion XXIV gets called away to another part of the map to put down some kind of tribal uprising. During this time, his asshole Roman boss decides to welch on the deal and take all of the Viking Queen's kingdom. They seal the deal by publicly whipping the Viking Queen (this scene has a cult following of its own) and allusively raping her daughters (who seem to be the same age as her, because Hammer has no use for women under 18 or over 30). This pisses her off and she goes on a rampage of bloodshed and human sacrifice.

My favorite scene is where the British-Viking-Greek-Druids are sacrificing Romans to the fiery pit and there's this great awkward moment where they've pitched in the first few and hooted for their vengeful god and victims have screamed as they died in agony. But then the fire burns down and some kind of assistant priest has to climb down from the big rock and stoke the fire for the next human sacrifice while all the other British-Viking-Greek-Druids stand waiting impatiently and talking amongst themselves, totally ruining that ritual sacrifice momentum. I hate it when that happens.
The Viking Queen is a reasonably enjoyable piece of sword & sandal schlock. However, i wouldn't try to pass a history quiz based on its information. If you want pop culture you can use for high school study, i suggest you stick with Isabelle Adjani films or Iron Maiden songs. Seriously: I know people who passed their AP English test on Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by listening to the Iron Maiden song of the same name.

1 comment:

  1. A correction: In this movie (unlike the historic Boudicca), the king who dies isn't Salina's husband, it's her father. The women who get raped aren't her daughters, they're her sisters. And yep, the picture has British Druids worshipping the Greek god Zeus -- with nary a Viking in sight (the Vikings didn't arrive in Britain until some 700 years later).