The Vikings (1958) | This rip-roaring adventure is an epic must-see – and could have influenced Game of Thrones

The Vikings (1958)

One of the big hits of the 1950s, The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, gets its first time Blu-ray release from Eureka Entertainment, as part of the Eureka Classics range.

Prince Einar (Kirk Douglas) is the son and heir of Viking chieftain Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine). Slave Eric (Tony Curtis) is his unknowing half brother, the bastard offspring of Einar’s father and an English queen. When the Vikings kidnap princess Morgana (Janet Leigh), who is betrothed to the English King, Aella (Frank Thring), Einar and Eric engage in a bloody dual to win her hand…

The Vikings (1958)

The melodramatic tale at the heart of this searing Norse opera from director Richard Fleischer certainly takes a back seat to the glorious visuals. Shot in ‘Horizon Spanning’ Technirama and Technicolor, these come courtesy of cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who makes maximum use of the spectacular locations: Hardangerfjord in the Norwegian Fjords and Fort la Latte in Britanny.

The film-makers also go to great lengths to recreate an authentic Viking village, as well as long ships, armour and weapons; even the horses are the same breed that early Vikings rode; while the hand-to-hand combat scenes featuring clashing broadswords and axes aplenty, as well the occasional eye-gouging and hand-chopping, are expertly staged.

As our chain-mail and leather-clad macho heroes, Douglas and Curtis provide some gutsy Testosterone-fuelled performances, and a joined by a great supporting cast, including Janet Leigh (Curtis’ real-life wife) and Ernest Borgnine (looking like he needs a good wash and shave), as well as Aussie actor Frank Thring – best-known for playing Pontius Pilate in Ben-Hur (and also as the villainous Dr Stark in TV’s Skippy), and Till Death Us Do Part‘s Else Garnett (aka Dandy Nichols) as Leigh’s maid.

While any similarity to actual history is purely coincidental, this epic slice of Hollywood adventure is a must-see and helped kick-off a whole sub-genre of imitators, including Mario Bava’s Erik The Conqueror and even spawned a TV series (produced by Kirk Douglas).

The Vikings (1958)

Intentional or not, there are also some interesting parallels with Game of Thrones. In the Viking saga, Odin is held as the one true god, just as the Lord of Light is in Thrones; there’s also a Red Witch character in soothsayer Kitala (played by Eileen Way, who cropped up in the 1960s Doctor Who movies); and both Jon Snow and Eric are bastards denied their royal birthright. There’s even a pit of hungry wolves – remember Ramsay’s hunting dogs?

Incidentally, there’s a recurring melody in the film’s music score that is not too dissimilar to a key theme in the original Star Wars. And, I don’t know if it’s just me, but the youthful Curtis bears a striking similarity to Dominic Monaghan of Lost and Lord of the Rings fame.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation
• Original stereo PCM soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
• Video interview with film historian Sheldon Hall
A Tale of Norway (28 mins) –featurette about the making of the film, presented by Richard Fleischer
• Original theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on December 28, 2017, in Adventure, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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