Saturday, January 22, 2022

THE VIKING QUEEN (Don Chaffey, 1967)


A father’s Last Will and Testament may be forged from his heartfelt compassion and diplomacy but instead is forged by the Romans, castigating the Icena and relegating them into poverty and slavery to their pompous masters. Director Don Chaffey doesn’t seem much interested in a historical drama based on fact and legend as his story focuses upon the T&A (mostly T) of beautiful and scantily clad women. To be fair, we also get to see Andrew Keir naked too! 

Salina is one of three daughters whose temperament makes her ideal to rule the Iceni as she’s willed by her father the dying King. She falls in love with the Roman diplomat Justinian, and they wish to join together both physically and diplomatically. But both are at odds with their own people: Salina struggles against the Druids and the wealthy merchants while Justinian fights against his militant commander Octavian and his peers. Together they want peace and prosperity while their enemies want destruction and dominance. It’s an interesting story that reveals political intrigue that is rather contemporary (to 1967 and 2022!) concerning destructive nationalism that utilizes religion on one hand supported by the 1% and Fascism on the other. When Justinian lowers taxes on the poor farmers and raises levies on the rich his Reign of Error becomes Octavian’s Reign of Terror. This isn’t so much a war between the Romans and the Iceni as it is the Rich against the Poor. At least Salina gets a warrior’s death as she plunges an enemy sword through her heart instead of becoming a slave to her lover. 

This isn’t a History Channel show so don’t expect historical accuracy as much as histrionic acuity. For one, Salina isn’t a Viking Queen as there are no Vikings in the film. Her father tells her she has Viking blood in her veins but that’s as close to Norse history as we get. Also, the Druids didn’t worship the Greek god Zeus, so their declaration is a bit fantastic and unintentionally funny. Salina is portrayed by the actress Carita who would go on to no other roles of note, which is quite understandable as she’s wooden and emotionless unable to invest her character with pathos. Don Murray as Justinian is adequate but develops little mutual chemistry with his lover. But it’s Andrew Keir as Octavian and Donald Houston as the Druid priest who give their all with overarching performances and cathexis skewing the film towards camp and parody. There are some nice battle scenes with spiked chariots and a huge number of extras in armor, a dash of blood and a plethora of sexual exploitation which helps it become a fun and enjoyable diversion. If this film makes the audience interested in Boudica the real Queen of the Iceni, then it has more than made up for its modicum of truthfulness. 

Final Grade: (C)