Director’s cut can be a misleading term. The very definition of cut means to take away. A lot of Director’s Cuts add in footage to the original release to make it longer. Then there are Director’s Cuts which don’t even involve the director. They involve a team which could possibly care less about whether the finished product resembles a movie or a saturday morning cartoon. Then there are Director’s Cuts which involve a family member like a son. That my friends is another animal indeed.
Erik (played by Tim Robbins) never got the Viking handbook on pillaging, plundering and raping. After a bout of self realization and a talk with his grandfather (played by Mickey Rooney), he decides to take his crew aboard his ship in search of Valhalla. There he will ask the gods to end the age of Ragnorok and bring sunlight to his home once again. However, along the way he takes a Odyessey-esque journey as he encounters everything from a dragon with hay fever to the people of Hy-Brasil to a rival monarch named Halfdan the Black (played by John Cleese) that stand in his way. This begins a hilarious escapade on the Viking Life and might even involve an invisibility cloak or two.
The movie is directed by Terry Jones(Monty Python people!) and that should immediately be a clue as to what you are in for. Mix that up with a good dose of fairy tale as well to get the right mixture. While the movie is not supposed to be as funny as Monty Python and the Holy Grailfor example, it can be quite funny and silly at times. It’s a very fun movie, the actors and actresses turn in great performances from supporting actors like Tim McInnery playing Sven the Berserk to even cameos such as Eartha Kitt playing Freya the mystic. It’s light, it’s funny and should be talked about in the same breath as The NeverEnding Story or The Princess Bride.
But it’s not. The reason is the supposed Director’s Son’s Cut. The original movie was roughly 100 minutes long. Probably too long for a normal audience. However, this version made to England and a somewhat smaller version made it to the states. When this DVD came about, Terry Jones and his son, Bill decided to pitch the idea of a new tighter cut. MGM went ahead with the idea and made it into a special edition dvd. But they didn’t include either of the original cuts. Not a particularly good idea. The cut weighs in at 75 minutes (79 with credits). They took away nearly twenty minutes of film and made it an ADD love fest.
Scenes are sped up, restructured and ordered in such a way that makes the director look like he has a nervous twitch as he moves quickly from scene to scene. The final scene in Valhalla is completely redone and is confusing at best as you attempt to figure out what is going on. I don’t mind a cut of this movie. It is probably needed. But the final movie should have been in the 90 minute range. It should not have the appearance of being shoehorned into a kid’s special during the 4:00 hour of a thursday cartoon block. Furthermore, the original theatrical cut should have been included even if they treated it like Lucas did with Star Wars(Ep 4-6), a barebones original sound track that should watched for mere reference sake.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The colors have been polished up a bit but the movie does not hold up very well. The effects look hokey and most scenes like those in Hy-Brasil look drab and very dull. It’s not bad per say, it just looks very dated.
Audio is provided in 5.1 Dolby Digital with an optional 2.0 Mix included. The audio has been improved quite a bit and feels near new. Hy-Brasil’s singing display sounds better than ever before (well to a point). The surrounds are used quite well for a near twenty year old film and dialog is crystal clear. Subtitles are also provided for English, Spanish and French.
- Commentary with Terry Jones: Chas Whiteman (don’t know his relation) holds kinda an interview with directory Terry Jones for the commentary duration. They talk about the movie a lot but never really discuss the main issue: the new cut and differences from the original. I guess if I had nothing to do with the new cut, I might not want to discuss it either.
- Behind the Director’s Son’s Cut 10:14: A brief explanation and behind the scenes of cutting this movie with Bill and Terry Jones. I almost wonder whether Terry ridiculed Bill’s first dates with first baby bath pictures or something. Because I feel like Bill cut the movie the way he did to get back at his father. That’s the only explanation for straight to ribbons job he did.
- 1989 Making of Featurette 30:01: The original making of featurette is included here. It is told from the viewpoint of those old fairytales where they make everything more grandiose than they seem. I dig it. Cool featurette and good information about the film.
- Theatrical Trailer 2:07: The original trailer, good retro feel to it.
- Giant Visions in the Sky from the Gods of Valhalla: The picture gallery, again lots of good shots here for those who like shuffling thru what the picture used to be like before somebody took an exacto knife to it.
- Trailers: Spaceballs: Collector’s Edition and Fargo: Special Edition
Erik the Viking is a fun movie. The director’s son’s (brother’s second roommate)cut tears it to shreds. It has plenty of strong performances from some great names in comedy and showbiz. However, with the exception of Tim Robbins, most of the other characters are reduced to a mere afterthought. This is really unfortunate as if this movie was treated fairly it would be talked about in the same breath as other great storybook movies. The dvd is pretty well done, with a decent slice of extras. The restoration still needs work but is a good representation of how to update a movie. Hopefully in the future they will include the original cut with this version. Hopefully in the future, they won’t allow Bill Jones to cut anymore of his father’s movies. Only recommended if you can’t see Erik the Viking any other way.
- DvdTown.com – “…you’re going to need a big tankard of mead to get you through this.”
- DvdVerdict.com – “This version of Erik the Viking comes across as a fleeting glimpse of some of the directions Terry Jones might have gone with his ambitious tale.”