In 1865, three escaped Confederate POWs are coerced into joining an offshoot of Quantrill's raiders who are planning to rob a Union gold shipment concealed in a civilian wagon train going from Santa Fe to St. Louis.
There is a legend about a great bell, called "The Mother of Voices," made of pure gold, three times the size of a man, made by monks many years ago... This is the story told in the marketplace by a Viking called Rolfe. This information finds its way to the Islamic ruler Aly Manush, who is obsessed with finding the bell. But Rolfe claims not to know where the bell is, and escapes, back to his homeland, to convince his father and brother to give him a ship and crew to replace the one he lost - or to help him steal the Death Ship which belongs to the king - because he does know where the bell is...Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
Prince Valiant Versus Othello, Best Two Out of Three Falls
In reading some of the other reviews I learned that The Long Ships was based on a rather serious work of medieval fiction. That's certainly did not come out in this film which has all the appearances of something that Vince McMahon might have directed.
I'm guessing that Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier and the rest of the cast wanted to do something that paid well without too much strain on the talent. In addition, Poitier for the only time in his career, got to play a villain. He hams up his part as a poor man's Othello with real relish.
There's a little Captain Ahab in Poitier's Othello impersonation as well. He's a Moorish prince obsessed with finding a legendary golden bell. When he hear's of Richard Widmark spinning tales in the market place for pin money he has him summoned.
Widmark escapes by diving out a window from a height and the next thing you hear from him is that he's washed up on Viking shores. I'm not sure the writers didn't want you to think he swam from Morocco to Norway either. Any how he tries to get a ship from dad, Oscar Homolka. The only ship available is the ship Homolka built for the Norse king. To insure the Norse king doesn't kill his Homolka, younger brother Russ Tamblyn kidnaps his daughter who he has a thing for in any event. And back they go to find the bell.
Richard Widmark is not known as a player who's best at comedy, but he seems to get in the spirit of the lightheartedness. Russ Tamblyn who was finding less and less employment as a dancer got to show a lot of athleticism in dueling sequences. The guy who seemed to be really enjoying making this film however was Oscar Homolka.
Jack Cardiff directed this film and he's probably best known as the United Kingdom's premier color cinematographer. The Long Ships has some of his best work and it also has a stirring musical score.
I saw this film in theaters as a teen and over forty years later I still enjoy this rollicking medieval romp.
Vince McMahon couldn't have staged it better.
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