23 September 2008 | BrentCarleton
Epic adventure with great visual panache--one of Bava's very best.
Mario Bava really outdoes himself with this story of two brothers separated in infancy, who grow to be rival leaders in a battle between Scandanavia and Britian.
This yarn, replete with monumental battle sequences on both land and sea, magnificent coastal and interior castle settings, and bravura use of color simply amazes in its ambitious achievements.
The film opens with a battle sequence on the seashore, by turns both thrilling and horrifying as the soldiers meet with death by spear while the nearby coastal village is burned, with women and children scattering to their doom.
With this breathless sequence, Mr. Bava introduces the audience to a breakneck pace that never lets up.
The story such as it is, is played engagingly on the level of an Errol Flynn film, intelligent enough for adults, but close enough to a comic book for whatever youngsters may be in the audience.
It is, however, the visuals that linger in the mind: a grotto with an enormous twisted tree upon which are bound two captured adulterers, bathed in that phosphorescent green light that Mr. Bava was so adept at casting; a stunning vista of the seashore at twilight with two women in billowing robes silhouetted against a sky banked with tempestuous cloud formations, Georges Ardisson and his mother flanked by flaming braziers, amidst tall stalagmites, in a setting that might be from Dante's Inferno, (and recalls a similar setting in Orson Welle's "Macbeth" and countless others.
Mr. Bava painted his masterpieces not on canvas but on celluloid.
The cast is both attractive and serviceable, with Mr. Ardisson and the luscious Kessler Twins deserving of special commendation. Indeed the Misses Kessler, (as Vestal Virgins) perform a sword dance with such delicacy and intricate footwork that it is easy to see why their cabaret act was once the toast of Europe.
Highly enjoyable for fans of the genre.