The Viking Queen (1967)
The dying King Priam signs a will bequeathing half the lands of his tribe, the Iceni, to the Roman empire and names his daughter Salina as his successor. Once she has been crowned Queen, Salina starts a relationship with Justinian, the Roman Governor General. The couple are prevented from marrying as it is against the will of the Druids, who predict that Salina will lead her people in a bloody revolt against the Romans. Greedy merchants and Justinian's deputy, Octavian, conspire against Salina and Justinian to shatter the peace with the Iceni, and soon the Druids' prediction comes to pass as Salina dons armour and rides into battle against the Romans and her beloved Justinian with deadly consequences.
I'll get straight to the point. This film is a load of old arse. It certainly looks good. The costumes are impressive and there are sufficient extras to convincingly show two armies going into battle, but a cursory look beneath the surface quickly shows that the film is complete cobblers.
Let's start with the most fundamental problem. THERE ARE NO VIKINGS IN THIS FILM! The Iceni are a British tribe and have no connection to the Vikings whatsoever. The film only gets its title because King Priam tells his daughter that she will become a Viking Queen, which makes absolutely no sense. They aren't Vikings, they never mention Vikings there is absolutely no sign of any Vikings anywhere. In fact some basic research I did reveals that there were no such thing as Vikings during the Roman occupation of Britain and the term wasn't used until about 400 years later. The very title of this film is nonsensical bollocks.
I'm not that much of a stickler for historical accuracy. I quite enjoyed One Million Years B.C.: a film whose central concept sticks two fingers up at history. That film however had one glaring howler (cavemen and dinosaurs fighting) which was a conceit necessary in order to make a pretty good creature feature. There are so many historical cock ups in this film that will be obvious to anyone with even a basic knowledge of history. I was constantly shouting “WHAT?” at the screen.
Take the Druids. They are led by the power hungry Maelgan, played by Don Houston, who has to shout everything at the top of his voice as his face is covered by a ridiculously huge beard. Imagine Brain Blessed infected by a radioactive privet hedge and you are pretty much there. Maelgan is constantly banging no about how displeased Zeus is. Yes, you read that right: Zeus. Apparently, according to this film the Druids worshipped the gods of ancient Greece.
Then there is Salina who is clearly supposed to be Boudica. Except it seems that the writers couldn't be bothered to actually read up on Boudica and instead decided to tell a story based on what they vaguely remembered about her. This basically amounts to she was a woman who fought the Romans and had blades on her chariot wheels. The whole script comes across like it was copied from the homework of a six year old who wasn't paying attention in class because he was too busy swapping pogs.
The one shining beacon of quality amongst this bobbins is Patrick Troughton. Initially it's a little jarring to see Doctor Who thundering across the British landscape in a chariot wearing a fur cloak, but Troughton brings a quiet dignity and wisdom to Salina's trusted advisor Tristram. He manages to rise above the ludicrousness of the material and gives a quality performance that the film ill-deserves.
The film tries to take a more serious turn when Octavian takes charge. He has Salina stripped and flogged and it's very strongly implied that he rapes Salina's sister Talia. Unfortunately these scenes come across as titillating exploitation rather than shocking brutality and so many other stupid things have happened by then that it's difficult to care.
It's Octavian's actions that lead Salina to don a bargain basement Xena costume and lead her bumpkin people in revolt against the Romans. The battles lack conviction and seem to be performed by a bored re-enactment society who are hungover after a dull party. There is no sense of danger or urgency, as people half-heartedly wave swords at each other. Also somewhat surprisingly there is a lack of blood. Considering the much more graphic deaths that I have seen in Hammer films so far the battles are positively tame by comparison.
In short this film is rubbish. Absolute claptrap. Everyone, apart from Troughton, either can't act or overacts. The dialogue is drivel and actually features someone uttering the battle-cry “TO ANGLESEY!” and the amount of historical research done makes One Million Years B.C. look like an award winning David Attenborough documentary. Come back The Reptile all is forgiven.
Join me next time as I take my first step into Hammer's other main franchise as I experience The Curse of Frankenstein.