Erik the Viking (and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen)

I’m not sure Erik the Viking necessarily counts as a great movie by any metric, but when I noticed it had appeared on Netflix, I immediately dropped it in my queue.

I remember having a great deal of affection for it a couple of decades ago, when it first came out—though I probably haven’t even thought of it since college—so it seemed worth watching.

It’s certainly not without some virtues; the story isn’t as quite as fluffy as you might expect (however you might regard the Pythons, they’re not intellectual lightweights, just silly), and the actors do what they can with a script that is certainly geared for laughs—the moment when Erik and company are trying to take in the differing notion of life on Hy-Brasil is played a little broadly, even though the point it’s making about cultural assumptions is pretty funny.

“What, all the time?”

I do remember thinking at the time that no one as attractive as Imogen Stubbs should have as old and frumpy a name as that. I still believe this to be true.

It actually reminded me, in production quality, of another film, from another Python, from the same year, that I had recently watched again. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen showed up on Amazon Prime not long ago, and one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago I watched it.

The commonality is reasonably strong. I think it’s fair to say that both embraced their limitations, and decided that if absolute realism was not possible, they would dispense with it entirely.

In fact, the Dragon of the North Sea reminds me of nothing so much as the leviathan from Baron Munchausen.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that, upon reviewing it, Baron Munchausen no longer seemed as amazing and riveting as it did 20 years ago. Seeing Uma Thurman 19-year-old tits was as delightful as might be expected (however briefly), but otherwise, the scatter-shot quality of the storytelling seemed much more apparent to me than it did in 1989.

Still, it’s amusing to see some of the people no one knew then who were in the films. Of course, Sarah Polley was the little girl in Munchausen, and she’s gone on to do a thing or two. And I actually remember Joie Brun pointing out Sting’s cameo.

More surprising to me was recognize Ray Cooper, whom Chet and I were to see playing on tour with Eric Clapton the next year. And finally, Erik includes a young Samantha Bond in what appears to have been one of her first movie roles.

I’m not saying that either one is a bad way to spend a couple of hours, but as with so many things, the intervening time hasn’t been entirely complimentary—whether because my tastes have changed or become more sophisticated, it’s hard for me to say.

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Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.

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