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>
The only really good bit turns out to be not that good.
The Long Ships is a rather unremarkable Viking adventure, barring one scene that involves an eye-wateringly nasty method of execution called 'The Mare of Steel'; I haven't seen this film since I was a child, but I can still vividly recall how the poor vikings were sent to their gruesome death, sliced down the middle while sliding down the Mare's large and wickedly sharp blade.
Except that this isn't what happens, as I have just found out by at long last revisiting the film. Over the years, my memory has been deceiving me: the scene in question is extremely tame, only one person, a Moorish guard, riding the Mare, his demise not in the least bit graphic, making the film as a whole quite the disappointment.
The humdrum story sees ruffian Rolfe (Richard Widmark) leading a group of scrawny Viking warriors on a quest to find a fabled bell made of solid gold. Also looking for the bell is Moorish king Aly Mansuh (Sidney Poitier), who isn't about to let the pale northerners steal his prize.
Poorly executed action scenes rub shoulders with moments of embarrassingly bad slapstick comedy (the raucous vikings' wild antics—drinking, brawling and raping—are played for laughs), leading to an uneven film that lacks the rousing sense of adventure to be found in the earlier Hollywood viking epic The Vikings (1958).
A usually reliable cast do little to distinguish this mediocre romp, Poitier clearly not taking matters seriously judging by his ridiculous James Brown hairdo, Widmark and Russ Tamblyn (as Rolfe's younger brother Orm) failing to put any swash into their buckling, and Brit comic actor Lionel Jeffries camping it up in black-face as an effete eunuch!
And don't even get me started on the film's many goofs, which include the massive bell being towed on a raft (which would sink immediately under the weight of all that gold), Rolfe seemingly able to swim from the Barbary coast to Scandinavia, and the small matter of who has been ringing the bell all this time and why (the rocky outcrop on which it is found being totally deserted).
My rating: 5 deafening golden bell bongs out of 10. Moderately entertaining, but mostly for the wrong reasons.
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