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GLI INVASORI (1961, Italian-French co-production)
Director/Cinematographer: Mario Bava
Story and Screenplay: Mario Bava, Oreste Biancoli, and Piero Pierotti
Camera Operator: Ubaldo Terzano
Editing: Mario Serandrei
Music: Roberto Nicolosi (U.S. version rescored by Les Baxter)
Main Players: Cameron Mitchell (Eron); Giorgio Ardisson (Erik); Alice Kessler (Daya); Ellen Kessler (Roma); Francoise Christophe (Queen
Alice); Andrea Cecchi (Sir Rutford); Folco Lulli (King Olaf); Franco Ressel (King Charles)
Alternate titles: Erik the Conqueror; The Invaders; Fury of the Vikings;
The Viking Invaders
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
In 786 AD, three great Viking ships land in the British isles, heralding
the beginning of an attempted invasion. Many other ships soon follow,
and an all-out war is instigated. King Harald, the only Viking chieftain
interested in maintaining peace, makes a plea to King Charles. The
English King sends Sir Rutford, commander of the British sea forces, to
work out a deal with the Vikings. However, Rutford is not interested
in making bargains, and so he stages a surprise attack on the Vikings.
In the ensuing battle, Harald and his people are savagely slaughtered.
When King Charles hears of this, he is enraged. Upon his arrival in the
Viking village, he threatens to strip Rutford of his command of the sea
forces and to put him in prison. Rutford retaliates by having one of
his cohorts kill the king, and blaming the crime on a wounded Viking.
Queen Alice is greatly distressed by the death of her husband, and when
she finds a little boy on the beach, she takes his discovery as a gift
from the gods. The boy is actually Harald's child, but the Queen takes
him for her own and names him Erik. The Queen takes the boy with her to
England, not realizing that he has a brother who shares a similar mark:
a tattoo of the family crest is imprinted on the chest of both boys.
The brother, Eron, is rescued by his people and returned to the Land of
the Vikings, though he spends the rest of his life hoping to be
reuninted with his brother and to wreak vengeance on the British for the
death of his father.
Twenty years later, the Vikings plan to wage war on the English. Eron has fallen in love with a vestal virgin named Daya, but because she is
promised to the gods, they cannot make their love known. Eron realizes
that only a King is permitted to marry a vestal virgin, so he plans to
take advantage of the forthcoming battle to prove his valor and
leadership abilities. King Olaf, leader of the Vikings, makes a pact
with Norway and Sweden. Together, they will launch an attack on the
English. Because of his age and physical infirmity, Olaf determines
that a younger man will have to lead the attck in his place. He chooses Eron, and the Viking ships are soon under way.
In England, Erik is appointed Duke of Helford, and leader of the English
sea forces. Erik's first duty is to stave off the impending Viking
invasion. Sir Rutford is jealous of the young man, and decides to
sabotage the mission by planting a spy on board who will set fire to the
ship while they are at sea.
The two forces meet at sea, and a battle ensues. Erik is still unaware
of his real heritage, and he actually engages in a fight with his
brother. However, as Rutford planned, the English ship is sabotaged,
thus enabling the Vikings to continue on their way with little
difficulty. Erik is subsequently washed ashore in the Viking village,
where he is discovered by Daya's twin sister, Roma. Upon seeing her,
Erik inquires, "Are you real? Or an angel?" Roma is similarly smitten
with him, but she does not understand the significance of the cross he
wears around his neck. Erik replies that it is a kind of talisman
which keeps him safe. Roma fears that she will be missed, so she points
Erik in the direction of a nearby village. Because of his Nordic
features, Erik is accepted as a ship-wrecked fisherman.
Back in England, Sir Rutford proposes marriage to the Queen. He
accepts the fact that she cares nothing for him, but claims to see it as
an opportunity of uniting the country -- in fact, he is only interested
in becoming King. The Queen sees through his deception, and remarks,
"Your ambition shows -- it devours you."
When the Vikings arrive, Rutford grants them admission to the castle. Eron and his men take over with little difficulty, and Rutford is
appointed Regent, with the objective of ruling in Eron's absence. Eron
then takes the Queen hostage back to his village, promising to kill her
if anybody rebels against Rutford and his men. Before departing, Eron
promises to kill Rutford if he ever betrays him. There is some
indication that Eron recognizes Rutford's true nature, yet he fails to
trust this instinct, a mistake that will eventually prove to be fatal
Roma is put in charge of looking after the Queen when the latter woman
is imprisoned. Roma happens to notice that the Queen also wears a
cross, and she mentions this to Erik when they meet again. Demanding to
know the prisoner's identity, Erik is shocked to discover that it is his
"mother." Erik surmises that his presence in the village is an act of
fate, brought on so that he can rescue his mother, while finding
happiness in the form of Roma. When Erik remarks, "All men carry in
themselves a vision of a perfect woman," he is explicating a theme which
haunts many Bava films. The idea of surface appearance, or the
seductiveness of beauty, is a major issue in Bava's work. Typically, as
in SEI DONNE PER L'ASSASSINO or IL ROSSO SEGNO DELLA FOLLIA, this
obsession leads to destruction. Where GLI INVASORI differs is in the
basic purity of its characters. Daya and Roma are both vestal virgins
-- as such, they can both be seen as being "pure." Likewsie, both Erik
and Eron are positive characters who reveal loyalty of their respective
friends and societies.
The next day, Eron and Daya are to be married. Roma and Erik plan to
take advantage of the ensuing ceremony to flee to England with the
Queen. However, as Erik watches the ceremony, he is under the
impression that it is Roma who is being married. Enraged by this
imagined "affront," Erik confronts Daya, thus sacrificing his anonymity.
He is then captured and imprisoned, and Eron intends to execute him at
dawn. Such confusing issues of identity mirror other Bava films,
including LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO and LA VENERE D'ILLE.
After drugging the men who are guarding Erik, Roma explains that the woman he saw marrying Eron was her twin sister. Erik is relieved to
hear this, and together with the Queen they make their escape. Eron
follows in hot pursuit, but he is unable to prevent their escape to
Upon their return to England, Erik is pleased to discover that the Scots
have volunteered to help stave off the Vikings. Before they can charge
the castle and re-claim it from Rutford, Eron and his men arrive. Eron
leaves Daya in Rutford's care, while he accepts a challenge from Erik.
In the ensuing fight, Eron notices the tattoo on Erik's chest.
Over-joyed to be reunited with his long-lost brother, Eron announces a
cease-fire. This is upsetting to Rutford, who responds by firing an
arrow at Erik. Eron sacrifices himself by throwing himself in front of
the arrow intended for his brother. The Vikings attempt to storm the
castle, but Rutford promises to kill Daya if they do not disband.
As Eron dies, he names Erik as his successor as King of the Vikings.
Becoming more and more delirious, he asks to see Daya one last time.
Erik determines to do this by breaking into the castle and retrieving
her, but Roma recognizes that Eron will not last very long. Instead,
she poses as her sister, and Eron is totally oblivious to the deception.
This rare example of positive deception ends movingly as Eron declares
his love for Daya and dies in Roma's arms.
In time, Erik manages to scale the castle wall. After rescuing Daya, he
lowers the drawbridge and the various forces charge forth. After a
brief battle, Rutford and his men are killed, and peace is restored.
The film ends with Erik and Roma returning to the Land of the Vikings,
while Eron is laid to rest in a traditional Viking burial.
There is much to admire in GLI INVASORI. Like so many of the director's films, it was designed to cash-in on the success of a "bigger" film (in
this case, Richard Fleischer's THE VIKINGS, 1960, with Kirk Douglas) but
Bava's utter commitment to the project insures that it takes on a life
of its own. No matter how superficially pulpy the scenario may appear,
Bava succeeds in investing it with all the drama and pathos of a
Shakespearean tragedy. In its emphasis on essentially decent people,
GLI INVASORI has a warmer, more inviting tone than most Bava films. If
it lacks the emotional scope and complexity of Bava's second and last
Viking drama, I COLTELLI DEL VENDICATORE, that is not to suggest that it
is at all simplistic.
The characters of Daya and Roma can best be interepreted as symbols of
mercy and virtue. Their physical similarity is not employed by Bava in an ironic fashion. They do not fulfill the same role as doppelganger
relationship between Asa and Katia in LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO, for
example, meaning that they do not represent flip sides of the same
spiritual coin. Like Erik and Eron they are distingusihed by their
basic decency and by their sympathetic disposition. The comforting
effect these two women have on their respective mates is matched by
their ethereal beauty. Clad in the purest of white gowns, they often
take on an angelic cast. Bava accentuates this aspect of their
appearance by often bathing Daya and Roma in pools of pure, unfiltered
light, and by accentuating the flowing of their diaphanous gowns as they
move from room to room.
GLI INVASORI also benefits from some of Bava's most beautiful color photography, and from some spectacular action set pieces. Considering
the low budget, many of these scenes (notably the opening attack on the
Viking village) are nothing short of miraculous. Bava also indulges in
some colorfully fetishistic set pieces. When Rutford imprisons Daya,
he chains her to a wall, and dangles a glass case containing a poisonous
spider over her face. If she does not give into his commands, Rutford
promises to unleash the spider. The obvious pleasure which Rutford
gleans from this act speaks of his sexual displacement. For many Bavian
protagonists, violence takes the place of sex, and Rutford is no
exception. Anticipating the approach to the murder set pieces in SEI
DONNE PER L'ASSASSINO, Bava lends an air of cinematic perversity to
Rutford's torture of Daya by staging their encounter in a seductive and
beautifully stylized fashion. Though the audience's sympathies clearly
rest with Daya, the spectator cannot help but share in Rutford's
pleasure. Bava's suggestion here is obvious: the dark, repressed aspect
of the human psyche is a part of us all.
In the role of Eron, Cameron Mitchell gives a sincere and energetic
performance. Despite his preference for technicians over actors, Bava developed a close relationship with his star, and they became close
friends. The l and I COLTELLI DEL VENDICATORE for Bava, once said of the
director: "I loved Mario Bava; in many ways, he might have been the best
director -- certainly the best one I've worked with in Europe, and maybe
the best of them all. I've worked with Kazan, I've worked with Orson
Welles. . . I've worked with John Ford. I've worked with the best.
Bava's right up there. And when I think of the limited money he had,
and the corners he had to cut, it's unbelieveable! He never really had
a good script, but he could make a film out of anything. He was so
clever! He was a really wonderful man and I loved him dearly." (Quoted
by Tom Weaver, in FANGORIA).
Review © Troy Howarth
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