Erik the Viking appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I didn’t expect much from this transfer, so the usually satisfying result offered a pleasant surprise.
For the most part, sharpness seemed good. I noticed some mild edge enhancement, and those haloes occasionally made shots a little blurry and ill-defined. However, most of the flick appeared pretty concise and distinctive. I noticed no issues with moiré effects or jagged edges, and source flaws were minor. Grain could be a bit heavy, and I saw the occasional speck or mark, but nothing major interfered.
Colors were decent. Most of the flick went with an understated palette, as the scenes in Hy-Brasil offered most of the broader shots. Even those seemed a bit pale and without great vivacity, but they showed reasonably good clarity. Blacks were pretty deep and dense, and low-light shots demonstrated satisfactory definition. The transfer wasn’t quite positive enough to rise above “B” level, but it looked better than expected.
I felt the same way about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Erik the Viking. On the positive side, the soundfield proved more ambitious than I anticipated. The movie’s action sequences opened up the spectrum to a surprising degree and created a pretty nice sense of environment. The elements didn’t blend together in a terrific way, but they fit together acceptably well given the audio’s age. Surround usage added pep to the package and even showed some stereo imaging at times.
Audio quality was a little more up and down, particularly in terms of speech. This wasn’t a very well-balanced mix, so the lines occasionally got lost along the way. Dialogue also could be somewhat stiff.
The rest of the track fared better. Music showed nice range, and effects provided a nice punch. Those elements could be a little flat in terms of high-end response, but they showed good bass. This track never made me forget that it came from nearly 20-year-old roots, but it still proved better than expected.
We get a few extras here. First comes an audio commentary from writer/director Terry Jones. Along with interviewer/moderator Giles Wiseman, he offers a running, screen-specific chat. Jones discusses the project’s origins and story, cast and performances, some aspects of the new cut, effects and production design, sets and locations, and a few other production bits.
At his best, Jones serves as an entertaining host. He throws out a reasonable number of good insights such as the influence investors had on the flick. However, he and Wiseman often just laugh at the movie, and dead air becomes a minor problem. Jones gives us enough useful content to make this a listenable track, but it’s too flawed to be anything special.
A new featurette takes us Behind the Director’s Son’s Cut. This 10-minute and 14-second piece includes the usual array of movie clips, archival materials and interviews. We hear from Jones and editor Bill Jones. Terry Jones tells us more about the story’s development and the editing for the new cut of Erik. They offer some nice information about how the updated version of the film changes from the original.
We also locate a 1989 “Making Of” Featurette. It runs 30 minutes as it presents notes from Terry Jones, producer John Goldstone, special effects supervisor Richard Conway, production designer John Beard, art director Roger Caine, set decorator Joan Woolard, and actors Tim Robbins, John Cleese, Mickey Rooney, Danny Schiller, Gary Cady, Richard Ridings, Imogen Stubbs, and Samantha Bond. The program looks at the project’s origins and development for the screen, cast and performances, locations and sets, effects and production design, and Jones’ work as director.
“Making of” presents a reasonably good balance of information and behind the scenes shots, though the latter prove most effective. I really like the glimpses of the production, as they help flesh our understanding of the flick well. The show has too many movie clips, but it offers a lot of good material.
Next comes a Photo Gallery with the grand title “Giant Visions in the Sky from the Gods of Valhalla”. It comes with 92 images. Most of these are under “Production Photos”, but we also get some “Poster Art”, “Behind the Scenes” shots and “Character Images”. It’s a decent collection.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get a couple of Previews for other flicks. The DVD advertises Spaceballs and Fargo.
Finally, the package comes with a four-page booklet. In this text, Jones discusses the origins of the film’s story as well as the changes made for this “Director’s Son’s Cut”. (By the way, if calling this the “Director’s Son’s Cut” sounds like nothing more than a cutesy gimmick, that’s not accurate; Jones explains that his son Bill did most of the editing for this new version.)
Not effective as comedy or adventure, Erik the Viking becomes a disappointment. It occasionally creates a few minor laughs, but there’s not a whole lot to amuse or delight. The DVD provides reasonably good picture and audio as well as a few interesting extras. This release treats the flick pretty nicely, but I can’t endorse the movie itself.