Your RDA of Irony

The Norse Code

Hollywood has always defeated the Vikings. There has yet to be a good movie about the Norse adventurers and marauders.

(No, you can’t count “The Virgin Spring.” Bergmann’s film is set at a time contemporary to the last Vikings, but it deals with the sedate Scandinavians. These are the ones who stay home, make Lutefisk and observe the new, allegedly more passive theology.)

I have seen four films that attempt to be Viking sagas.

The 13th Warrior might actually be a docu-drama: the truth behind “Beowulf”! A troupe of Norse warriors, accompanied by an Arab chronicler (Antonio Banderas who apparently can’t pass as a Dane), contend with a horde of cannibal troglodytes. In a meticulous observance of historical detail, none of the troglodytes are wearing Nascar decals. The battle scenes are good but the film has the subtlety of Cliffs Notes. For instance, the troglodytes are called the Wendols; gee, doesn’t that sound like Grendel! All these comparisons will be pounded into your head–so now you won’t have to read “Beowulf”.

The Long Ships has Richard Widmark as a brave but luckless Viking hoping to repay his debts by finding/stealing a fabulous treasure: the world’s largest solid gold bell. Apparently, everyone else has lost track of the bell, so it is just awaiting Widmark to collect it. However, the sight of a Viking fleet off North Africa does get the attention of the local Emir, played by a humorless Sidney Poitier who obviously is furious at his agent. The Saracens will vie and fight with the Vikings over who gets the treasure. And you will marvel at your stamina, watching the film while muttering “this is so stupid.”

“Eric the Viking” is actually a theological comedy, the saga of the title character’s visit to Valhalla. Written and directed by Terry Jones, this “Grim Pillage Progress” really is only one-fifth as good as Monty Python.  However, there is a very interesting explanation of the Norse Gods: they are vicious children.    That could be the most rational explanation of most theology.

And finally, there is that epic of miscasting “The Vikings” with Issur Demsky and Bernard Schwartz leading the Norsemen. Landing on the lower east side of Old York, in their dragonhead pushcarts….Actually, that would have been more believable. Perhaps Issur could pass for a Kirk Douglas or even a Viking; but Bernard? If there is ever a Tony Curtis Museum of Elocution, the shrine must include his invocation of “Toar” and “Oodun”.

If anyone here has seen a good Viking film, I await your review.

Yugin of the Arched Eyebrow

  1. Hal Gordon says:

    Eugene — Are you old enough to remember a TV series from around 1960 called “Tales of the Vikings,” or, simply, “The Vikings”? It starred a handsome singer-actor named Jerome Courtland who had spent most of his brief acting career playing buckskin-clad frontiersmen. (Walt Disney tried to turn him into another Davy Crockett, but he didn’t catch on.) He had a fine baritone voice and sang the title song for the Viking series, but alas, the series didn’t catch on, either.

  2. Peg Pruitt says:

    Eric the Viking’s theology was shared by Gene Roddenberry – at least once. In the original Star Trek series, there was an episode titled “The Squire of Gothos,” in which an omnipotent being named Tremayne captures and torments the Enterprise Crew. It is revealed that Tremayne is a spoiled child whose parents did not realize that he was “playing” with sentient beings. They release Kirk et al and promise that Tremayne will be punished.

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      Roddenberry also anticipated “Chariots of the Gods”, the best-seller that promoted the notion that the ancient Gods were really extra-terrestrial tourists. In the StarTrek episode “Who Mourns for Adonis”, the Enterprise encounters Apollo–who has been waiting these two thousand years for mankind to return to him. But so much for his omniscience. Of all the ships in Starfleet, Apollo expects nostalgic reverence from William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Walter Koenig. Oy, did he pick the wrong crew! (Our extra-terrestrial deity would be a combination of Sigmund Freud and Abe Vigoda.)


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