Knives of the Avenger (1966)

Posted: April 12, 2021 in Uncategorized

Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava watch-along with Knives of the Avenger, which was our chance to see an Italian viking version of Shane with Cameron Mitchell sporting as unconvincing blond curls. It was interesting, but not inspiring.

Mitchell plays Rurik, a wanderer who comes onto the scene in time to save Elissa Pichelli’s Karin and her son from a couple of marauders in the employ of the villainous Hagen (Fausto Tozzi), who has come to usurp the throne (such as it is) of this village while Karin’s husband, the rightful heir, has been absent and presumed dead for years. Rurik goes all Man With No Name on the bad guys, killing many of them with the implements of the title.

The fight scenes are grand, and there’s a night brawl in a tavern between Rurik and Hagen that gives Bava a chance to deploy his skill with lighting and colour, as does the early burning of the village. In general, though, this isn’t really a showcase for Bava visual gifts. It looks fine, but for the most part could have been put together by any jobbing Spaghetti Western director.

Without a lot a visual splendour to focus on, the issues of the plot come to the fore, and the script makes the supremely dubious move, in a flashback, of implying that a masked Rurik once raped Karin, and now he is consumed by guilt. There’s also the lingering possibility that her son is also his (the hair is certainly the same), but nothing is done with that. This narrative move seems to be intended to add depth and tragedy to Rurik, but (obviously) backfires massively, making it impossible to root for the character the film wants us to get behind.

In short, a weaker entry in Bava’s filmography. This is, it seems, another one of those productions (like Caltiki — The Immortal Monster and I Vampiri) that he took over when everything was falling apart. He rewrote and shot it in six days. So it’s impressive that it looks as good as it does, but it definitely has the hallmarks of paycheck job.

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