Hammer had a long tradition in the production of historical adventure films, one which dated back to their first Robin Hood adventure The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954), which featured Don Taylor in the role of the outlaw thief. Two more Robin Hood pictures followed in 1960 and 1967, in addition to several controversial tales of Eastern cruelty (The Strangles of Bombay [1959), The Terror of the Tongs ), a slew of pirate adventures (The Pirates of Blood River , Captain Clegg , The Devil-Ship Pirates ), and miscellaneous departures into historical territory such as The Scarlet Blade (1964), The Brigand of Kandahar (1965) and Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). The emphasis in all of these films is on action and adventure rather than history, and The Viking Queen slots neatly into a subset of films with which Hammer had dealt with consummate ease. However, somewhat unusually, the lifeless screenplay by Clarke Reynolds and John Temple-Smith attempts to place the action within a historical context they believed to be accurate. The use of voice over and on screen captions do a semi-decent job in setting the scene; in this case 1st century Britain, a time when the country was divided up into numerous kingdoms, all ruled in collaboration with the occupying forces of the Roman army. The kingdom under scrutiny here is that of Icena, a realm that has seen the recent death of its beloved king, and the ascension to leadership of his daughter Salina (Carita).
The film builds to a final battle sequence which is an unsurprising disappointment. Although the distinctive sight of chariots (replete with spiked wheels) speeding down a hill towards the immobile Roman army is impressive, the claustrophobic camera work and congested frame doesn’t allow the action to breathe. An earlier scene in which Salina and Justinian race on chariots through the beautiful countryside of County Wicklow in Ireland is far more successful. The uprising of the Icenan’s is crushed with ease and the film ends on a surprisingly downbeat and sour note. The Viking Queen, despite its complex plot, moves along at a brisk pace. It will undoubtedly appeal to enthusiasts of camp cinema (perfect haircuts, and well groomed beards pervade) and although its action scenes are atrociously choreographed and the direction by Don Chaffey (who had done much better work with Jason and the Argonauts  and One Million Years B.C. ) is unobtrusive to the point of invisibility there is much of interest here. This is often lumped together with Prehistoric Women aka Slave Girls (1967) as one of Hammer’s worst films, but this is a cut above that film in all departments.
© Shaun Anderson 2011