“The Viking”

May 10, 2008

This journey is surely taking me to some strange places. And discovering some cool new things. Like this film.

“The Viking”, 1931, has an interesting history. It was made by Varick Frissell, an explorer and documentary filmmaker. Varick had some success with short films of seal hunters in New Foundland. He wanted to make a feature, and Paramount agreed to distribute it, but they wanted a love story. Enter Charley.

The film is basically documentary footage of a crew out on a seal hunt. In addition, Charley and another fellow are fighting over the love of the same girl back in port. It’s a beautiful and intense film, all the more impressive for the time that it was made (especially seeing as it is a sound film.)

I found a New York Times review from June 17, 1931, which says “Charles Starrett does well as Luke.” I would say he did a little better than that. I’d give him points for taking on a tough accent. Also, this must have been one hell of a grueling shoot. There some interior scenes that could have been soundstages, but, for the most part, it’s really happening, in the real setting.

Interesting further history to this film. After it was completed, Frissell was dissatisfied with the response he was getting from test audiences, so he set sail again to get some more spectacular footage. On the journey, the explosives kept aboard to break up icecaps exploded and sank the sink, killing most on board. It was a sensational news story and helped to make the film a big hit.

Thank God Frissell didn’t take Charley along for those reshoots. Otherwise – no Durango Kid!

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