Knives of the Avenger (1966)

aka I coltelli del vendicatore
Article 3731 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-17-2011
Posting Date: 11-1-2011
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Cameron Mitchell, Fausto Tozzi, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
Country: Italy
What it is: Period action-adventure

The queen of a viking village flees with her son after her husband has disappeared and a brutal villain, hoping to have the throne for himself, sets his sights onto forcing her into marriage. A knife-throwing stranger comes upon the scene and begins protecting her. However, even though she does not recognize him, he is no stranger…

Even though this period adventure film came from Italy and was produced near the end of the sword-and-sandal era, I had a hunch that this movie didn’t quite deserve to be lumped in with that form, despite its similarities. Upon watching it, I believe my hunch was right; our hero has an extra level of complexity that is missing from the usual peplum hero, as he has an atrocity in his past for which he must redeem himself, and it just so happens that his own vengeance for a wrong did to him dovetails with what he must do to gain redemption. As a result, this one comes off as distinctly more adult than a sword-and-sandal movie; if anything, it feels more like a western transplanted into Viking settings. The fantastic content is very slight; since the hero has no super-strength, all the movie really has in this regard is the presence of a minor soothsayer/sorceress character. The presence of Mario Bava as director does not change this movie into a horror movie in any way, but he does draw from his horror experience to add a lot of moody tension to a battle scene in a darkened inn, one in which the absence of light heightens the suspense a great deal. I actually found myself quite satisfied with this one.

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