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Terry Jones
Tim Robbins, Mickey Rooney, John Cleese, Eartha Kitt, Terry Jones, Imogen Stubbs
Writing Credits:
Terry Jones

Be there ... or beheaded!

Ever since he accidentally killed a girl he was just getting to like, Erik (Tim Robbins) has been moody. Fed up with the emptiness of life in the Dark Ages, he leads a quest to wake the gods and bring back the sun ... and the girl, if she'll have him. But along the way, Erik will have to face formidable obstacles, including a dragon with hay fever, tone-deaf islanders who love to sing, and a warlord (John Cleese) who likes his Ages dark and nasty!

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$1.932 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 12/4/07

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Terry Jones
• “Behind the Director’s Son’s Cut” Featurette
• Original 1989 Featurette
• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer
• Previews

• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Erik The Viking: The Director's Son's Cut (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 17, 2008)

After the end of Monty Python, Terry Gilliam went on to become a filmmaker of decent renown. Fellow Python Terry Jones – who co-directed the three Python movies with Gilliam – didn’t do quite as well for himself, but he continued to create his own flicks, at least for a while. Today’s example: 1989’s Erik the Viking.

On an expedition to loot, rape and pillage, Erik (Tim Robbins) finds that he enjoys the stealing and slaughtering but he’s too sensitive to indulge in the sexual side of things. He tries to rape a village girl (Samantha Bond) but doesn’t go through with it, and he even defends her when others try to have a go at her. Erik inadvertently kills her as well, an action that leaves him in a funk.

A wise woman (Eartha Kitt) tells Erik he needs to awaken the gods to lift the Age of Ragnorok and ensure the return of the sun. He gets most of his fellow villagers to go along with this, but the blacksmith’s assistant Loki (Antony Sher fears that such an event will end the demand for weapons and end his career. He pleads this case to Halfdan the Black (John Cleese), someone else whose livelihood requires the darkness of Ragnorok. The movie follows Erik’s quest and all the challenges he faces, both mortal and fantastic.

This DVD presents “The Director’s Son’s Cut” of Erik, a much shorter rendition of the film. While the original theatrical edition ran around 100 minutes, this one clocks out at 79 minutes. I never saw the longer version, so I can’t compare the two, but based on my experiences here, the 100-minute cut must’ve been interminable. Erik wears out its welcome well before the 79-minute mark, so 100 minutes of this stuff would’ve been painful.

While Erik nods in the vague direction of Python, it doesn’t embrace that tradition particularly well. Oh, I think it wants to be Pythonesque, but it fails to succeed. The movie throws out the same kind of quirky bits like the father and son berserkers and similar gags. It’s just that almost none of them stick, as the humor seems ill-conceived and half-baked.

At times I get the impression that Erik uses Gilliam’s Time Bandits as its model. Both attempt skewed takes on legendary tales. However, Bandits gives us clever humor and good characterizations, while Erik just falls flat on the screen. Nothing here ever quite evolves into anything noteworthy or memorable.

A flat cast doesn’t help. Robbins seems miscast as the lead. He neither looks nor feels like any kind of Viking – even a sensitive one. He’s awkward in the action scenes and only marginally better during the comedic pieces, though his “invisible” sequence offers minor mirth.

You’ll find well-known actors like Cleese, Kitt and Mickey Rooney here, but those two essentially provide quick cameos. I get the feeling they did the movie as a favor to Jones but stipulated they wouldn’t have to work for more than one day. All three come and go from the film very quickly and add nothing to it.

All of this leaves Erik as a surprisingly tedious comedy-adventure. It never produces many laughs, and the action scenes seem equally dull. The film remains uninspired from start to finish.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Erik the Viking appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I didn’t expect much from this transfer, so the usually satisfying result offered a pleasant surprise.

For the most part, sharpness seemed good. I noticed some mild edge enhancement, and those haloes occasionally made shots a little blurry and ill-defined. However, most of the flick appeared pretty concise and distinctive. I noticed no issues with moiré effects or jagged edges, and source flaws were minor. Grain could be a bit heavy, and I saw the occasional speck or mark, but nothing major interfered.

Colors were decent. Most of the flick went with an understated palette, as the scenes in Hy-Brasil offered most of the broader shots. Even those seemed a bit pale and without great vivacity, but they showed reasonably good clarity. Blacks were pretty deep and dense, and low-light shots demonstrated satisfactory definition. The transfer wasn’t quite positive enough to rise above “B” level, but it looked better than expected.

I felt the same way about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Erik the Viking. On the positive side, the soundfield proved more ambitious than I anticipated. The movie’s action sequences opened up the spectrum to a surprising degree and created a pretty nice sense of environment. The elements didn’t blend together in a terrific way, but they fit together acceptably well given the audio’s age. Surround usage added pep to the package and even showed some stereo imaging at times.

Audio quality was a little more up and down, particularly in terms of speech. This wasn’t a very well-balanced mix, so the lines occasionally got lost along the way. Dialogue also could be somewhat stiff.

The rest of the track fared better. Music showed nice range, and effects provided a nice punch. Those elements could be a little flat in terms of high-end response, but they showed good bass. This track never made me forget that it came from nearly 20-year-old roots, but it still proved better than expected.

We get a few extras here. First comes an audio commentary from writer/director Terry Jones. Along with interviewer/moderator Giles Wiseman, he offers a running, screen-specific chat. Jones discusses the project’s origins and story, cast and performances, some aspects of the new cut, effects and production design, sets and locations, and a few other production bits.

At his best, Jones serves as an entertaining host. He throws out a reasonable number of good insights such as the influence investors had on the flick. However, he and Wiseman often just laugh at the movie, and dead air becomes a minor problem. Jones gives us enough useful content to make this a listenable track, but it’s too flawed to be anything special.

A new featurette takes us Behind the Director’s Son’s Cut. This 10-minute and 14-second piece includes the usual array of movie clips, archival materials and interviews. We hear from Jones and editor Bill Jones. Terry Jones tells us more about the story’s development and the editing for the new cut of Erik. They offer some nice information about how the updated version of the film changes from the original.

We also locate a 1989 “Making Of” Featurette. It runs 30 minutes as it presents notes from Terry Jones, producer John Goldstone, special effects supervisor Richard Conway, production designer John Beard, art director Roger Caine, set decorator Joan Woolard, and actors Tim Robbins, John Cleese, Mickey Rooney, Danny Schiller, Gary Cady, Richard Ridings, Imogen Stubbs, and Samantha Bond. The program looks at the project’s origins and development for the screen, cast and performances, locations and sets, effects and production design, and Jones’ work as director.

“Making of” presents a reasonably good balance of information and behind the scenes shots, though the latter prove most effective. I really like the glimpses of the production, as they help flesh our understanding of the flick well. The show has too many movie clips, but it offers a lot of good material.

Next comes a Photo Gallery with the grand title “Giant Visions in the Sky from the Gods of Valhalla”. It comes with 92 images. Most of these are under “Production Photos”, but we also get some “Poster Art”, “Behind the Scenes” shots and “Character Images”. It’s a decent collection.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get a couple of Previews for other flicks. The DVD advertises Spaceballs and Fargo.

Finally, the package comes with a four-page booklet. In this text, Jones discusses the origins of the film’s story as well as the changes made for this “Director’s Son’s Cut”. (By the way, if calling this the “Director’s Son’s Cut” sounds like nothing more than a cutesy gimmick, that’s not accurate; Jones explains that his son Bill did most of the editing for this new version.)

Not effective as comedy or adventure, Erik the Viking becomes a disappointment. It occasionally creates a few minor laughs, but there’s not a whole lot to amuse or delight. The DVD provides reasonably good picture and audio as well as a few interesting extras. This release treats the flick pretty nicely, but I can’t endorse the movie itself.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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