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Einar and Eric are two Viking half-brothers. The former is a great warrior whilst the other is an ex-slave, but neither knows the true identity of the other. When the throne of Northumbria in Britain becomes free for the taking, the two brothers compete against one another for the prize, but they have very different motives - both involving the princess Morgana, however.Written by
Graeme Roy <email@example.com>
The opaque scleral contact lens that Kirk Douglas wore to simulate his blinded eye was incredibly painful. He could only stand to have it in place for a few minutes at a time. See more »
The Northumbrian flag, a complex banner flying from the tops of Aella's castle towers, would not have existed in this period. The Viking age preceded formalized heraldry by centuries. Northumbria did have a flag, as many pre-heraldic kingdoms did, it was a counterchanging banner of 8 vertical stripes, red (or purple) and gold. It is also unlikely that Aella's soldiers would've had shields bearing heraldic devices. If the shields (a red 'X" on a white background) were meant to signify St. George's Cross (which today stands for England in the UK's Union Jack), that is also anachronistic. The symbol was not used until centuries later and it was a cross (vertical & horizontal members) instead of a saltire (diagonal members). See more »
The Vikings, in Europe of the 8th and 9th century, were dedicated to a pagan god of war, Odin. Trapped by the confines of their barren ice-bound northlands, they exploited their skill as shipbuilders to spread a reign of terror, then unequaled in violence and brutality in all the records of history.
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Opening credits prologue: PROTECT US OH LORD FROM THE WRATH OF THE NORTHMEN See more »
In many TV broadcasts, two bits seem to be missing from the final battle scene. One of these is a close-up of an arrow hitting a man in the neck and the other is of Eric (Tony Curtis) running through a passage and stabbing an enemy. See more »
Unknown to both men, warrior Einar and disgraced slave Eric, are in fact half-brothers. As the kingdom of Northumbria becomes ripe for the taking, both men, with a fancy for Princess Morganna, are heading for the revelation right in amongst their bitter rivalry.
Kirk Douglas (Einar) and Tony Curtis (Eric) would both re-team for Spartacus two years after this sword and sandal swasher had hit the screens in 1958. That Spartacus is considerably a better film all told is a given, but The Vikings stands up well as an entertaining precursor to that Thracien slave classic. Based on the novel of the same name written by Edison Marshall, The Vikings makes up for what it lacks in authenticity with sheer gusto enhanced sword swishing adventure. These Vikings may not totally convince as mead swigging, women chasing, pillagers of England, yet running along side Mario Nascimbene's terrific score and Jack Cardiff's excellent photography (the Norway location scenes are breath taking), it doesn't take much for the discerning genre fan to get swept away in it all.
Douglas and Curtis give it a good blast, while Janet Leigh as Morganna perks her breasts out and actually becomes believable as a lady lusted after by two rough and ready ruffians. However, The Vikings doesn't sit up in the top echelons of swords and sandals pictures, something which irked both Douglas and director Richard Fleischer and caused them to hold each other responsible during the following years. With bad weather, injuries to actors and even a strike by Norwegian oarsmen to contend with, it was a far from easy shoot. Casting those issues aside, one tends to think that Douglas' ire was warranted, for Fleischer was clearly the wrong choice for the piece. He chooses to go for a more genial, almost comic book approach, which sadly loses what earthy grit and grime feel the film needed once Orson Welles' splendid opening narration had set things up for a bodice ripping sword slashing epic.
The director isn't found lacking with his action sequences though. With the likes of Fantastic Voyage, 20000 Leagues Under The Sea & 10 Rillington Place on his CV, he clearly was a director of worth. Here he impresses with his construction of the kinetic sword fights, while the attack on Nothumberland Castle (really it's Brittany, France, with Cardiff's camera working the oracle) is brilliantly staged and pumps the pulse rate considerably. Pic is often violent and features some genre moments never to be forgotten (Einar losing his eye, Ragnar and the Wolf Pit, The Running the Oars tradition), while it's also pleasing to find a director overseeing some attentive research that opens up the craftsman side of the Viking hoards.
So all in all it's a fine and entertaining genre picture that's arguably more fun than dramatic gold, a film that was a fave of many who got lost in its charms all those years ago. The flaws and minor frustrations are obvious when one revisits with older and wiser eyes, but regardless one should crack open the mead and enjoy the sheer grizzled guts of it all. 8/10
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