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This movie is guaranteed to set the pulses of any red blooded viewer racing.It pulsates with vibrant action and splendid period atmosphere; Kirk Douglas was born to play the role of Einar and he extracts every bit of menace and finally pathos as a warrior whose love for the wrong woman finally destroyed him.Tony Curtis shows restraint in his role and is free of the too eager to please grinning and mugging which marred his later performances.The action is the thing here,however,and what action it is;the final attack by the vikings on the English castle is a stupendous spectacle with swords,axes,grappling hooks used aplenty as a horde of expert stuntmen have the time of their lives whilst the truly magnificent score by Mario Nascimbene provides suitable accompaniment to their lusty adventures.With wonderful scenery,convincing performances and enough testosterone to launch a 100 longships,"THE VIKINGS" is a gloriously sadistic and savage experience that belies its 1958 vintage,disengage your brain and revel in this serio-comic romp which should be in the video collection of any true action fan.
When I was a boy of 11 years, I admired the reconstructed Viking ships near our cottage at the Hardanger fjord. It was the year 1957, when Kirk, Tony and Borgnine visited our country and participated in this beautiful movie... In a funny sort of way, the picture makes us Norwegians proud of that brutal past... I have seen it many times, and am struck by the surprisingly "right" atmosphere, touched by the landscape that I know so very well, and fascinated by the action. OK, so it's Hollywood, but somehow, I have the feeling they don't make movies like this any more. Pity! Well, maybe I'm getting old.
I saw this film at the pictures a long, long time ago.
I was a kid and was as wide eyeyed as any kid seeing a spectacular of comparable impact as Star Wars or Harry Paintpot or any derivative.
How on earth could any little lad be less than profoundly moved by the images of of eyes being ripped out by a hawk, people being eaten by crabs, wild wolves eating people in a pit, hands being chopped of.
This was a bloody massive movie and still is.
I just bought it on VCR and feel like a kid again.
I cannot imagine any modern kid being as equally moved but I'm sure they will come across it one day the same way I see impressive movies on TV made way before I was around.
Trouble is, for some reason this film never seems to get shown on either satellite or terrestrial TV. Why is that?
Setting asside my middle aged predudice, I challenge anyone to put forward a movie of a more spectactularly impressive introductary sequence and haunting theme music.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Dark Ages in the cinema have to live up to accepted connotations of
pillage, murder and rapewithin the limits of the family picture, of
Richard Fleischer's film is photographed with all the visual grandeur of Technirama, with some mystically beautiful shots of the Viking ships in the fjords of Norway... The film presents fearsome warriors who glide silently out of the mists in their great dragon-shaped long ships to pillage towns and villages before disappearing once more out to sea... These are the Vikings and their fighting prowess, feared along the England coasts...
Led by fiercest warriors, they live for adventure and combat... The Vikings believe that a warrior dying a glorious death will gain immortality as his exploits will be forever remembered by those left behind... To this end, the Vikings (calling upon their god to help them) continually seek combat and fear little as they look for a way to enter Valhalla...
The Vikings, worshipers of Odin, the god of war and death, try to conquer England, which at that time was a series of small, divided kingdoms... The film plays against the background of lust and blood, love and hate, as Eric (Tony Curtis), symbolizing the traditional rebel slave emerges from obscurity and performs the deeds of a proud warrior, predestined to win with the steel of his sword...
The opening scene presents a vivid introduction to Norse savagery as Viking leader Rainar (Ernest Borgnine), invades the English coast and pillages everything in his path... He kills the king and rapes the queen, who later has to admit to her confessor Father Godwin (Alexander Knox) that she is pregnant...
Twenty years later, Aella (Frank Thring), the successor, announces that in order to strength their defenses against the Vikings, he will unite the kingdoms of Northumbria and Wales by marrying the Welsh princess Morgana (Janet Leigh), a price the young lady was not willing to pay...
The mean king also turns upon his upright cousin Lord Egbert (James Donald) and accuses him of being an English conspirator, and has him thrown into jail... Egbert is rescued from a cruel death by Ragnar...
Back in Norway, Ragnar is greeted by his son Einar (Kirk Douglas) who is instantly hostile to the Englishman...
While showing Egbert some 'barbarian' customs, Einar comes across a pair of slaves, one of whom is Eric...
Apparently captured as a child, Eric has grown up among the Vikings, but he and Einar become enemies when Eric turns his hunting hawk on him...
Eric stands trial and is punished by being cast into a slop-pool to be eaten alive by giant crabs...
Egbert notices a royal pummel-stone Eric wears around his neck... Aware that the Queen mother had placed such an ornament on her illegitimate offspring, he suspects the identity of Eric and asks Ragnar innocently: 'If Eric survives, what then?'
When the king's intended bride is kidnapped by Einar, and brought to Norway, Morgana finds herself drawn to Eric to the consternation of Einar, who would like to have the lovely princess as his Viking queen...
With the help of Eric, Morgana is able to escape back to England, but this only intensifies the hate between Einar and Ericwhom we know are half brothers...
The jovial humor of the script (by Calder Willingham, later co-author of the script for 'The Graduate') is nicely captured in a scene between British princess Morgana and her older and less well endowed companion, who are in the power of the Vikings, held prisoner in a boat moored in the fjord by their stronghold... Both are expecting that violation is on the way, a possibility which is worrying Morgana very much more than her companion...
'The Vikings' serves as an illustration of the lifestyle of the ferocious Norsemen whose idea of fun and games was pretty much as lethal as their warfare...
Ernie Borgnine, playing the viking father of Kirk Douglas but actually very close in age, does a marvelous job in this film. I have seen this film many times and each time I am more impressed than the last time. Also, the beautiful scenery sets a background for the sea scenes and the home location of the Vikings. The Fjords, hills and waterfalls are so very beautiful. I especially enjoyed the final battle scene where Einar and Eric are fighting on the top of a castle tower where it looked as if any slight false move would have both of them and the camera operator tumbling down to an awful demise. I highly recommend this film to those who enjoy watching Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine and the others.
The Vikings is a top notch movie. I too saw this movie as a young kid in the 50's and I loved it then. I went and saw it every time it was rereleased in the theaters. Viewing it on video 40 years later it has lost none of its luster. Kirk Douglas gives an outstanding performance as Einar. Ernest Borgnine should be the prototype of all future viking performances. Excellent supporting cast in Frank Thring and James Donald. Everything about this movie is excellent including the musical score, the scenery, the story line, the makeup. This film gives a true picture of Viking savagery and love of life and war. I do not want to give away any of the plot so just rent this movie you will not be disappointed.
Two Viking half brothers (who are unaware that they are related) fight
over Welsh Princess Morgana, who has been captured during a raid in England
while en-route to marry the King of Northumbria.
A handsomely mounted historical epic in the old tradition. However, a great deal of effort was made to achieve accuracy in terms of clothes, villages, ships, weapons etc. The stunning Norwegian locations add to the authenticity, and are breathtakingly photographed in Technirama by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff.
Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine all give strong performances, although the characters are hard to like. The level of brutality is quite surprising for a film made in 1958, and the overall atmosphere is one of harshness.
While the film is perhaps not quite in the league of 'Spartacus' or 'El Cid' in terms of epic status, it is admirably authentic, unsentimental and vigorous.
I've always thought that this was a fun film to watch. Kirk Douglas with his impressive physique is well cast but I think Ernest Borgnine steals the show playing his father. A great role for him. Maybe Tony Curtis looks a little out of place among the vikings but he's always been a good enough actor to pull it off. Great sets and just beautiful cinematography. The film was shot on real locations in Norway. If you get a chance to see this just sit back and enjoy this fun adventure film.
Call me a fool, but I feel strongly that the Richard Fleischer/ Kirk Douglas
1958 film THE VIKINGS is a waiting-to-be-rediscovered masterpiece.
Of the costume drama spectaculars of the 1950s-1960s, it has the most coherent script and theme. It knowledgeably explores the themes Europe was dealing with during its Dark Ages. Acting performances are first rate (Frank Thring's villainy drips pure acid), and the photography is breathtaking. Mario Nacimbene's score has a majesty that matches any, including its little love theme. See it (if possible) on the big screen/wide screen format.
Many thanks to vaughn.birbeck for giving us the historical
background of "The Vikings." It is great to know that the film has a
basis in fact right down to the names of the main characters. I first
saw "The Vikings" on a raw Saturday afternoon in February of 1959 with
my brother and my best friend, Buddy. When the show was over, we ran
home full of excitement. My brother and I burst into our house to find
the Hall family was visiting. Catching our breath, we choked out, "We
just saw the greatest movie of all time! It's The Vikings! It had
Vikings and knights and they were sailing across the poison sea and
attacking the castle and shooting arrows and throwing axes and chopping
off hands with slashing swords......"
When Mr. Hall retorted, "Now don't you think it is unfortunate that people can't find other ways to settle their differences?" I felt, "Oh, boy! I hope I never get so old that I think like him and can't enjoy 'The Vikings'."
It was the thrill of my brother's life as an adult to ask Kirk Douglas on a New York studio talk show, "Did you actually jump across the moat to grab onto the axes in the drawbridge door, or did a stunt man do that?"
Kirk's answer was, "I wanted to do it but the insurance company wouldn't let me."
Even now I love the film but two things about it bother me. Great actor that he is, Kirk Douglas is just too nice of a guy and too good looking to be convincing as Ainar. Edison Marshall's book "The Viking" on which the film is based portrays him by the name of Hastings more like the character of Barnes as played by Tom Berringer in "Platoon." In "The Vikings", Ragnar introduces his son Ainar as someone who is "so vain of his beauty, he scrapes his face like an Englishman." Hastings is not charming or vain but tough and so cruel and even sadistic that after Eric's hawk tears up his entire face (not just his eye), Hastings delights in the horrifying effect his facial scars has on the victims he kills and rapes. The women scream, his facial scars dance as he laughs at their horror, the women scream even more in horror.... Hastings, like Barnes in "Platoon" clearly is a guy other Viking warriors hold in awe and whom Eric really wants to see dead. But in the film, Ainar is just a good looking, charismatic, fun guy we actually pity when after crossing the poison sea, storming the castle, jumping over the moat, climbing the tower, and crashing through the stain glass window to get to the love of his life, Morgana tells him he isn't her type.
The other thing that bothers me about "The Vikings" is the miscasting of blond, buxom Janet Leigh as the Welsh princess, Morgana. Eric and Hastings were used to having blond, buxom Scandinavian women around them all the time. It was the novelty of the cute, demure, petite, brunette Welsh Morgana that captivated them and motivated them to engage in an adventure that involved scores of ships sailing the Mediterranean before they finally engaged in their showdown at high noon with crossed swords.
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