The Vikings (1958)

Director: Richard Fleischer
Writers: Calder Willingham (screenplay), Dale Wasserman (adaptation) Edison Marshall (novel)
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Ernest Borgnine

The vikings may not be historically accurate or even accurate compared to the novel, but it is a grandiose epic featuring a stellar cast with some fantastically shot scenes. Despite the inaccuracy and miscasting it is still a fantastic film even by today’s standards with people involved who had a love for their craft.

Einar (Douglas) and Eric (Curtis) are brothers that are unaware of their blood bond. Einar is a viking prince, son of Ragnar (Borgnine) while Eric is a slave, the result of Ragnar’s previous pillaging of England. Aella (Thring) is wanting to unite the kingdoms and is promised to marry the Welsh princess Morgana (Leigh). Ragnar and Einar get wind of this and plan to kidnap the princess (of which both brothers then proceed to fall in love with) in the name of the mighty Odin.

Douglas is at his best here and while perhaps too handsome to play the part, play the part incredibly well he does. Curtis (who was married to Leigh at the time) is also excellent as the royal born slave. Top acting honours in this film though have to go to Borgnine as the Viking chief. He is truly excellent and it is perhaps one of his best roles. Leigh is subdued I thought but then her part is relatively small, given the film is more about the brothers rivalry over her, rather than Morgana herself.

Directing is great, but then from Fleisher one would expect nothing else. The sets, locations and photography are nothing short of breathtaking. The final fight scene is one of the greatest duels ever committed to film between two of the biggest leading men around at the time. It is the stuff of dreams and the score for this scene only goes to highlight how epic it is, unfortunately though the rest of the score is not what it could have been. The script is also good, helped along by the performances of the main actors, though at times some of the dialogue does seem rather forced and stilted.

The final shot is pure cinematic gold and sums up everything about this epic. While maybe looking a little dated now, a lot of modern films still fail to live up to the standards of some of the older greats. Despite its many faults, this is still an excellent movie filmed on a grand scale and is well worth a watch if it has passed you by, especially if you are fan of the middle-ages or sword and shield type stuff.


The Sage’s Rating:

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