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Sweeping Fifties Epic.
jpdoherty18 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
United Artists THE VIKINGS (1958) is one of the great epics of the fifties. Based on the book "The Vikings" by Edison Marshall it was produced by Jerry Brasler for Bryna Productions (Kirk Douglas' own company which he named after his mother).Beautifully photographed in Technirama and Technicolor by ace British cinematographer Jack Cardiff more than 4000 multinational performers and technicians worked on the giant production. Filmed on actual locations in the mountains and fjords of Norway the picture is well remembered for its scenic beauty and authentic sets. The splendid screenplay was put together by Dale Wasserman and Calder Willingham and Richard Fleischer directed with a deft hand an all star cast. The picture is also notable for the fine polished narration spoken by an uncredited Orson Welles.

Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine) is the savage Viking chieftain who with his Viking horde rape and pillage along the English coast. On one such raid he rapes an English Queen who later gives birth to a boy they call Eric (Tony Curtis). But his existing son Einar (Kirk Douglas) is unaware he has a half brother and grows to hate Eric especially after the Vikings attack an English ship and abduct the princess Morgana (Janet Leigh) whom both sons desire. Sometime later Eric rescues the princess from the Viking camp and in a small boat makes a dash for England with Ragnar and Einar in hot pursuit. During the chase Ragnar's ship goes aground in the fog but Eric saves him, pulls him aboard and takes him to England as well where the treacherous king Aella sentences Ragnar to die in the dog pit. Later Eric returns to Norway to muster Einer and his men to attack the English castle where Morgana is being held and to avenge Ragnar's death. The picture ends in a marvellous set piece as the Vikings take the castle after a blistering well staged battle and Eric and Einar battle it out to the death in a terrific sword duel atop the dizzying castle parapets.

Performances are superb from the entire cast. Douglas himself is a standout in his own production. His facility for knockabout action is a joy to behold. His prowess and unerring skill at stunts is well revealed in THE VIKINGS exemplified in the taking of the castle sequence. Here Douglas, under fire from rocks and arrows, charges and leaps across the open moat grabbing onto the axe handles which his men had already thrown and embedded in the underside of the raised drawbridge. Then using the axes to grip he clambers up and over to let the bridge down. It is a stunning and spectacular piece of stunt work! Again in an earlier scene Douglas can clearly be seen doing what is known as Dancing The Oars whereby he hops from oar to oar outside the ship for the amusement of the camp. Excellent too was Tony Curtis! Here was the emergence of Tony Curtis the ACTOR which manifested itself in Burt Lancaster's "Trapeze" (1956), with Lancaster again in "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957) and then in "The Defiant Ones"(1958). Gone were his pretty boy days at Universal International the studio he started with and where he would become their top pinup male star alongside a young Rock Hudson and Jeff Chandler. Also a standout in THE VIKINGS is Ernest Borgnine giving a powerful portrayal of the Viking leader Ragnar - a part he was born to play. Others in smaller roles are good too such as Alexander Knox as the Friar, Frank Thring as the sly and dubious Aella, James Donald as Egbert the English traitor and Janet Leigh (Mrs. Curtis at the time) as the princess.

My only problem with the movie is the staid and laboured music score by Italian composer Mario Nascimbene a composer who never really distinguished himself in anything he did. Despite the haunting and echoing motif that sings out the two words of the film's title on a giant elephant tusk the colourless tinny sounding score is quite insipid and uninspired. It is surprising that a composer the calibre of Miklos Rozsa or Dimitri Tiomkin - two men who could score such epics in their sleep - were not approached to work on Douglas' picture. Their involvement would have added immeasurably to the film giving it a greater buoyancy and density. However, the score not withstanding THE VIKINGS is still a great movie and remains one of cinema's finest blockbuster epics.
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Memories from Childhood
audunka30 January 2000
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.
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Vicious Violent Villainous Viking Vows Vengeance In Valhalla
ShootingShark6 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Viking leader Ragnar and his rambunctious son Einar kidnap Morgana, a princess betrothed to the English king. When she is rescued by Eric, a slave, Einar pursues them to England in a jealous rage. Who will win her heart, and will Einar and Eric discover the secret bond which unites them ...

As the title suggests, this is the definitive Viking picture, chock-full of looting, pillaging, plundering, drinking, whoring, fighting and sailing with a fair bit of royal kidnapping, ritualistic sacrifices, castle-storming and mystical rune-casting thrown in as well. There are one or two lulls in the script, but there's so much to enjoy it hardly matters; the action sequences are terrific, particularly the final battle (shot at Fort-La-Latte on the coast of Brittany) and the cast throw themselves into the physical scenes, like the sequence where Douglas dances on the oars. The cast are an odd bunch and shouldn't really fit these roles at all - royals Leigh and Thring aren't British, and Norsemen Douglas, Borgnine and Curtis aren't remotely Scandinavian - but somehow they do, and the unusual switch of having the leading man be a villain is a tremendous touch. The movie also strikes a nice balance between historical depiction of Viking culture and entertainment value, complete with a natty little animated intro narrated by an unbilled Orson Welles. Beautifully photographed by Jack Cardiff and featuring an appropriately overblown score by Mario Nascimbene. Made at the very peak of Douglas' career (following Gunfight At The O.K. Corral and Paths Of Glory), this is one of the best action films of the fifties and a great wholesome bloodthirsty family Saturday matinée. From a book by Edison Marshall.
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The Vikings–-an under-appreciated masterpiece
treagan-220 April 2000
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.
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A Massive Film, still
lamps11 June 2004
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.
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Realistic and brutal depiction of Viking life.
KEVMC24 April 2003
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.
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A good-looking epic in which you can almost feel the harsh climate...
Nazi_Fighter_David3 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The Dark Ages in the cinema have to live up to accepted connotations of pillage, murder and rape—within the limits of the family picture, of course...

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 Eric—whom 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...
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An excellent film with marvelous scenery and terrific acting.
wade155515 March 2005
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.
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"Love and hate are two horns on the same goat."
utgard149 June 2014
Gotta say I wasn't overly impressed with this one. I mean, it looks great. It's got some cheesy appeal. But I really didn't like any of the characters in the story. I especially didn't like the so-called hero of the story, played by Tony Curtis. Also, I'm admittedly no expert on royalty but if a king is killed and his wife is raped and gives birth to a child from that, how is that child entitled to be next in the line of succession? As far as I'm aware, he's not, especially if the king still has blood relations living. Anyway, it's not a big deal I suppose but when you're not that into a movie you tend to mull over little details like that. It's a corny movie with some nice cinematography by Jack Cardiff. There are some laughs to be had at its expense. But if you're looking for a serious epic adventure story about Vikings with characters you can care about, I don't think you're going to find it here.
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One outstanding movie!
ggilles10416 May 2000
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.
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A great film but two things bother me
jeffhill19 March 2002
SPOILER: 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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When male actors were MEN
BigBobFoonman20 December 2010
This film actually holds up very well in today's show-too-much and CGI blanding effect environment.

Douglas, Curtis and Borgnine run away with it all, and Janet Leigh is rather breathtaking.......

Combat scenes are coarse and brutal, not "300" level, but tough nonetheless. Stunt work is top notch.

The quality of the film, the color, the scope, the natural sets are worth purchasing the DVD for alone. The beautiful score is actually one of the most haunting melodies I have heard in my life.

The tension leading up to the assault on the English castle is music for the most part, just unrelenting marching, and the dread on the faces of the castle defenders.....very satisfying movie experience.
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so much fun you'll overlook its minor flaws
MartinHafer6 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is NOT high art. Nope. It's a "guy picture" that will doubtless be looked down upon by SERIOUS cinephiles. However, despite all the silly stuff thrown into it (and this movie has Everything), you find yourself really enjoying the movie. Sometimes mindless adventure is what everyone needs.

The music, though repetitive, is very haunting and will probably become stuck in your brain. The cinematography is great, too, as the director and producer chose to film on location in Norway.

Now the plot--it has so much it's almost overwhelming: 1. An opening scene of murder, pillaging and,...yes, rape (though nothing is shown here). 2. Drinking and more drinking and wenching with a giant Viking toga party. 3. A trained hawk being thrown into Kirk Douglas' face. Subsequently, his face appears torn apart and is blinded in one eye. 4. For this crime, Tony Curtis is thrown into a pool where he is to be drowned and eaten by crabs. 5. A traitor helps the Vikings plan an abduction of a sexy princess (Janet Leigh). Once she is stolen, Douglas decides to keep her for himself. 6. Tony Curtis (not eaten by crabs, miraculously) steals Leigh and takes here back to Britain. In chasing them, Ernest Borgnine (the Chief) falls into the water and is taken prisoner by fleeing Curtis. 7. Curtis gives Borgnine to the evil English king. The king will throw Borgnine into a pit of wolves. Borgnine objects, as a REAL VIKING MUST die with a sword in hand. The king declines to assist him, but Curtis takes pity and gives him a sword. Borgnine then willingly jumps into the pit and is mauled. 8. For helping Borgnine, Curtis has his hand cut off by the jerk of a king. 9. Somehow Curtis makes it back to Norway to get the Vikings' help to exact revenge (and help him get into Leigh's skirt). 10. The Vikings storm the castle and all the English are killed. 11. This sets the stage for a final showdown between Douglas and Curtis. They have a rousing fight on the castle parapets. 12. Curtis' sword breaks but Douglas pauses before killing him--as he has learned that Curtis is actually his HALF-BROTHER!!! 13. Due to the hesitation, Curtis plunges the broken sword into Douglas' gut. Before dying, he lets out a cool yell. 14. Douglas' body is placed on a Viking ship and set ablaze (I'd like to go that way). Somehow, in the confusion, the other Vikings forget to murder Curtis for all his treachery. Fade out.

Wow--that's enough stuff for 2 movies! Give it a try and be ready for a fast-paced roller-coaster adventure.

FYI--Despite all the salacious qualities of the film, it actually is exceptional from a historical point of view. No where in the film do Vikings wear horned helmets and their life is typical of many Vikings in the Middle Ages. Heck, it's decent enough that's I've used clips of it in my history classes.
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Rousing fun!
rosscinema15 January 2003
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.
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A wonderful piece of Hollywood history
vaughan.birbeck19 September 2001
Believe it or not the plot of this film has a basis in fact. There was a Viking leader called Ragnar Lothbrok (Leather-breeches) who was put to death in a snake -not wolf- pit by Aelle, king of Northumbria, at York in the year 865. His son 'Ivar the Boneless' raised a Viking army, invaded Northumbria and killed Aelle.

The film builds on this to include an illegitimate half-brother and rivalry over a beautiful Welsh princess to create a story of rousing, full-blooded action.

The film has a great atmosphere which is hard to put into words. You can almost sense the harshness of the climate in a way that makes you feel you are there. The climatic fight scene between Douglas and Curtis is a good example of this. Brilliantly staged on the roof of a castle overlooking the sea, you hear the whistling of the wind and crashing of waves against the shore below. The photography emphasises this sense of height and space to create one of the best film fights I have ever seen.

There are glaring errors, of course. The Anglo-Saxons never had castles like the one here, or ships of the type used by Princess Morgana: these both date from 500 years later.

I learned all this when (inspired by the film) I studied the Viking era at University. Between you and me, the film was a great deal more fun!
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A Ticket to Valhalla
Bob-4516 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
THE VIKINGS, the most entertaining film of 1958 was also the biggest moneymaker (the film stayed in the top twenty all time moneymakers until 1966. The only explanation I have for why this is rarely shown is this genre is no longer popular and some slightly dated elements of the film (the chorus during a key scene is downright laugHable). Exquisite music and cinematography, solid performances by Kirk Douglas, Ernest Borgnine (wonderfully over the top) and James Donald, and terrific stunt sequences made this a standout film. Director Richard Fleischer (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA) handles the gore quite discretely. Only one scene shows any real blood flow (as the director once pointed out in an interview). This movie, highly criticized for its violence at the time, is tamer than the average XENA episode. Still, it packs a wallop. Special mention must be made of Kirk Douglas stunt, in which he gracefully tip toes from oar to oar as a long ship returns from a raid. The music is as memorable, unique and beautiful as any from the Sergio Leone westerns.


A bit of interesting trivia. DELL Comics used to publish comic books of some movies just being released. According to the DELL Comic, Eric (Tony Curtis) was supposed to be "Eric the Red," and the film was supposed to end with scenes or narration (by Orson Welles) of Eric's travels. Instead, the film ends with a wonderfully touching Viking funeral. The images still linger in my mind. Beautiful! A technical note: the film was shot in Technarama, a wide screen process which uses two frames of film to produce the image. It is the widescreen version of Vistavision, which produces such a beautiful, crisp image, it is still used for optical effects on films such as STAR WARS EPISODE ONE.
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Vikings is Smart Stuff
cumbyroddy3 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The movie The Vikings is a great example of a work of popular culture that transcends the basic formula of the genre and becomes something greater than anyone really may have intended. Through the sheer act of craft, the film makers have made something more than the sum of its parts. The central theme of The Vikings is transition,transitions from a primitive society to a more civilized society. The transitions include the love theme (physical spiritually), but also the areas of religion and science. Religion shows a movement from the Vikings' warrior god, Odin, who rewards mortals with Valhalla if they die with a sword in their hands, to the Christian god of love and forgiveness (Einar "lays down his life" for his brother). Katalla is the priestess of the old, and Father Godwin personifies new ("You are the watchdog of my fury" says Aella, although the Einar's only line to him is "Take your magic elsewhere, holy man"). The transition from a world of ignorance to one of knowledge/science involves the symbols of the fog and the compass. The fog is an archetypal symbol of ignorance, the inability to see. People still say that they "were in a fog" when they mean that they did not know where they were. The compass is the plot element that suggests the world of knowledge that is looming. The Vikings are trapped and helpless in the fog. Eric, through Katalla and Sandpiper, is the brother of knowledge, the one who can see through the fog. The Vikings deals with the theme of love in a very transitional moment—from tough, biological, physical love to a love that merges the physical with the spiritual ("If our hands are touching, our souls must be touching"). The central object of love is the character, Morgana, loved by both brothers, Einar of the old world and Eric of the coming world, and wanted by the calculating and loveless Aella. The key scene that defines the Viking view of love is Einar's and Ragnar's discussion of women and love. Einar asks if his mother loved Ragnar, and Ragnar replies in a reverie, "Did she love me? I've got her bites and scratches all over me. Ah! What a woman!" Love for these men is physical lust. Contrasted with that is the beautiful scene between Morgana and Eric when they stop on the way back to Aella's castle. Morgana tries to explain to the man raised as a Viking slave that physical love is not enough, that the touching of the souls is necessary. Eric replies that if their hands are touching their souls must be touching, that the spiritual lies in the physical, that the one is the manifestation of the other. Eric here plays a role that he plays throughout the movie; he is the synthesis between the antithetical worlds of Ragnar and Aella. However, it is Einar who shows the true nature of brotherly love. He dies, allows himself to be killed, so that his brother can live. The answer to Eric's question, "Why did he hesitate?" is central. He waits for Eric to kill him because he knows that Eric is his brother, and perhaps because he knows that Morgana loves Eric more, and so he does it for her. This may seem out of character for such a warrior, but Einar has shown "non-warrior" reactions before and always involving love. His love of his father is clearly evident in their every scene together ("And all hail Ragnar's beard"); but he also shows a love of Morgana that is as much love as a Viking prince can offer—they forgo the ransom so that he might have her. Einar's final sacrifice for his brother and for the woman he loves has the archetypal Christian quality of the hero who dies so that others can live and thrive and make a better world. His Viking funeral that ends the film is a funeral for the old way of life and for the old way of seeing and thinking.

The use of archetypes runs throughout the film. Eric is the "hidden prince," the man whose royalty is not in his robes but in his character (Ragnar recognizes this just before he condemns him to the crab pool). The brothers, Einar and Eric, are the archetypal brothers like those who date back to Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Cain and Abel, or Castor and Pollox. They often represent the hunter and farmer or the physical and spiritual sides of a person. This pattern continues with Einar (the warrior, the physical side, power) and Eric (the more thoughtful, the insightful, the owner of the compass). The brother archetype leads us to other archetypal symbols. A theme of dismemberment runs through the movie. Einar loses an eye; Eric a hand; the two father figures, Ragnar and Aella, are torn apart completely like the old worlds they represented. The eye is an ancient symbol of vision, understanding, and knowledge. Einar's loss represents his lack of intelligence or understanding. Eric is missing a hand, the archetypal symbol of power. The scene that shows this complementary need of the two brothers occurs when no one will sail with Einar to attack Aella; however, when Eric joins in the leadership—brawn and brain—is complete. The tower, used by ancients and Christians to symbolize the inaccessible (or virginity when it shelters a maiden), holds the princess and must be climbed by the invading male warrior, and every Freudian can enjoy the symbolism of the battering ram scene (this is, after all, a very entertaining movie).

One of the real charms of the film is that it is this gem, this treasure where none was expected. The Vikings is that most delightful of films—the formula genre movie that transcends its own limitations and becomes something wonderfully entertaining and unforgettable.
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Rugged pillaging in the offering.
Spikeopath24 April 2009
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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An exciting, rugged, unusual film presented with zest and thoughtfulness.
randy200118 May 2000
When I was a kid, I loved this film. I saw it again as an adult and was surprised by how well it held up. It may not be technically correct in some details, but I really believe it captures the spirit and flavor of the times it depicts better than most films of this genre. The plot is intricate, the script is well-written, the acting is delightful, the direction absolutely solid. The characters are complex and the actors were not afraid to represent people who are flawed, but for that very reason you end up liking them all the more. Beautifully filmed and with an evocative musical score. From the very beginning of the credits, you know you're going to love it. It's the kind of action film that they do not make anymore. Why is this film NOT available? That is a shame when there are so many less worthy films around.
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Better than Spartacus
marciodecarvalho6 October 2001
Ask Kirk Douglas which one was his best epic movie ever, both as an actor or as a producer, and he will say 'Spartacus', of course. Stars, rich budget, awards, and so. But I fully disagree. 'The Vikings' is his best contribution for the epic genre. A classic - I dare say 'a masterpiece' - yet to be discovered. It has such a panache, such a drive, very rarely found. It is moody and atmospheric as it can be, it is lighthearted when it fits - the vikings having fun on the oars, for instance. Yet, it is extremely bloody and violent for the 50's! Douglas, Curtis, Leigh, Borgnine and the excellent Frank Thring are giving their best here. Productions values are wonderful, and the action scenes are great. Einar's climbing the axes to open Aella's fortress to the last viking raid is a stunning, heart-pounding sequence rarely seen before or after this wonderful movie. Mario Nascimbene's stirring, moving score is a landmark in his whole career and one of the bests soundtracks ever in the genre. The opening sequence, explaining in animation - in Orson Welles voice - the viking reasons to raid Europe, was a novelty then, and very beautiful.

'The Vikings' is a movie to be seen again, and again. Once you see it, you won't forget it. Kirk Douglas has his masterpiece since 1958, and maybe never realized so.
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Viking Life
mycatslyone1 June 2005
I love this movie! Kirk is at this showy best, Tony is underplaying his part, which fits here & Borgnine is a big hoot! Janet Leigh is, of course her usual pretty self. She's quite thin but beautiful. Her & Curtis are such opposites in view that it works, even in real life.

Borgnine is the father to both Kirk & Curtis but doesn't know about Curtis. It's not revealed until after Borgnine jumps to his death into a pit of ravenous wolves. Curtis is just a slave & he & Kirk instantly dislike each other when they meet. Kirk is after Leigh after she's been captured for a ransom & Curtis wants to free her. He does which makes Kirk hate him even more & he goes after him across the sea.

The authenticity of the Viking ships & way of life is amazing. This film is a great adventure! A must-see!
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Superb score
ken-miller18 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The striking thing about The Vikings, other than its superb score and wonderful location photography, is the fact that it doesn't try to make its leads 'likeable'. The characters seem to act far more 'of their time' than many protagonists do in other period adventures, imbuing The Vikings with a more authentic feel. Interestingly, though Douglas' character is definitely not portrayed as a nice kinda guy, one is still left feeling emotional as his longship is turned into a funeral pyre at the end.
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This triumphant celebration of the Norsemen
roffey195225 September 2002
I was shocked into writing by hearing the criticism of all the things that make The Vikings such a special film to me. The music --I heard it as a kid and rate it as hypnotising as Wagner`s Nibelung music/ The brutal no-hold barred humour where women are not treated as if they`re made out of cut-glass / the ripped out eye and the wolves and most of all the ensemble acting where everyone creates that world that has gone for ever.
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A superb film and What a great performance by Kirk Douglas. Way to go!
ed5625 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Vikings tells the epic story of king of Vikings Regnar (Ernest Borgenine) and his son Einar (Kirk Douglas from Spartacus) and their fights with England. The film is truly daring (has some shocking violence) considering it was done (1958) and also is very fascinating unlike other epics were done in it's period. Maybe not all the way credible and has a bit flaws but it has enormous performance from Kirk Douglas. he looks really scary with his destroyed eye and scarred face (he has been gouged out by a hawk in a memorable sequence). The weakest point in this film is the disappointing performance from Tony Curtis. In the female role Janet Leigh shines and looks great. The scenery is breathtaking. Overall this film will not lose your attention from the beginning till the final showdown at the English castle. Recommended
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