Original Title: The Vikings
Country: United States
Director: Richard Fleischer
Genre: Action, Adventure
Updated on 28.April.2020
Hello, there! I’m dos Santos, welcome to Ulven Reviews. Where you’ll find reviews of movies and series from all over the world and from all eras.
Today’s movie is The Vikings, an American action-adventure movie from 1958 directed by Richard Fleischer. Two brothers with very different lives fall in love for the same woman during the Vikings expeditions in England.
The plot of The Vikings has some similarities with the Series Vikings (2013-), because the two share the same source of inspiration, however, one can easily see the two independently.
Eric (played by Tony Curtis) was raised as a slave, without knowing he is the son of Ragnar Lodbrok (played by Ernest Borgnine), a legendary Viking King. Ragnar has another, very arrogant, son, Einar (played by Kirk Douglas). The slave and the prince clash from the beginning, even without knowing they are brothers.
Egbert (played by James Donald), a noble British living with the Norsemen, recognize Eric as someone of royal origin and, to save him from death in the hands of Eric, claim him as a slave.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Northumbria is ruled by King Aella (played by Frank Thring), who is promised to marry Princess Morgana (played by Janet Leigh). But the Vikings raid the Kingdom and kidnap Morgana before their wedding.
Back in Norway, the two brothers fall in love with Morgana, adding one more element to their beef. Their approach to the woman is also very different, Einar tries to rape her, while Eric tries to rescue her.
Among all these intrigues there’s also Viking raids, murder, vengeance. So, you got your action-adventure movie.
Ragnar Lodbrok, according to the legend, was a Viking King that raided England and Francia in the 9th century. His existence is disputed by academics because of the lack of documents to corroborate it.
In the Historical dictionary of the Vikings, Katherine Holman* says that Ragnar seems to be a mix of several historical figures with a dash of literary invention. What Holman calls literary invention, I see as a natural process in the creation of a myth.
*Holman, K. (2003). Historical dictionary of the Vikings.
I got the perspective I hold today about this matter while studying Carl Gustav Jung and Joseph Campbell. Robert Johnson (the psychologist, not the Bluesman) summarized it marvelously in She: Understanding Feminine Psychology (1989):
Myths are a special kind of literature not written or created by a single individual, but produced by the imagination and experience of an entire age and culture and can be seen as the distillation of the dreams and experiences of a whole culture.Johnson, Robert A. She : Understanding Feminine Psychology. New York, Harper Perennial, 1989
From this perspective, the mythological figure of Ragnar is a manifestation of the Old Nordic culture and experiences as a society, passed from generation to generation. The same process occurs with religious icons, mythical heroes, and so on.
Important to note that I’m not talking about mystical or supernatural things. I’m actually talking about the psychological phenomenon that originates religions and the various mythologies from across the globe.
King Ælla of Northumbria was a real, historical figure who ruled over the English kingdom in the 9th century when the Vikings raided the land. He is mentioned by the Anglo-Saxon and Norse accounts of history.
Eric and Einar, the sons of Ragnar in the movie, are pure fiction. But according to the legend, some historical figures, like Ivar The Boneless and Björn Ironside were Ragnar’s sons. These two are present in the 2013 Series.
Back to the 1958 movie, the story is decent but has some typical elements that I don’t love. Like the damsel in distress turned into a romantic relationship, for example.
A lot goes on in the plot, too many little elements here and there, and it’s far from straight forward. However, it doesn’t get messy or confusing at any moment, just slightly tiresome from the excess of small components.
It’s a fast-paced and fun movie, full of drinking in parties, fights, and battles. This action-adventure tone remains throughout the film, and even the sad moments have that bad-ass vibe to it.
Talking about parties, the Norsemen are too stereotypical for my taste. Loud, violent, drunks who think a woman should be tamed by rape. But at least the longboats are accurate, and the helmets don’t have horns.
Probably the best thing about the movie is the number of stars, it’s like The Avengers of the ’50s. We have Kirk Douglas, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Curtis, and Janet Leigh. The last two were married in real life when the film was made. And there’s also Orson Welles, who doesn’t appear in the movie, but he gives the voice to the narrator.
By the way, Kirk Douglas passed away two months ago at the age of 103. I decided to keep this video in the correct order, instead of anticipating it for the views. So this is my tribute to this incredible man, and we’ll see and honor him several more times in the future.
All the performances are excellent, including everyone in the supporting cast I didn’t mention. However, with so much talent, the three main characters, Eric, Einar, and Morgana, are the ones who stand out more.
My favorite is Eric, he’s the typical hero from the Hollywood Golden-Age, a stoic, honorable and altruistic man. Einar, on the other hand, is an annoying and spoiled man-baby, very hatable character, with a very likable actor in Kirk Douglas.
Morgana is the generic damsel in distress who has to be saved and fall in love with the hero. Janet Leigh does what she gotta do as a talented actress that we know she is, but the character didn’t captivate me so much.
A good portion of the movie is set in a Norwegian municipality called Kvinnherad, with a gorgeous nature surrounding the action of the scenes. Of course we have to give credit to the film’s cinematography that used the beauty of the place well.
As an action movie about war, we expect some battles, and the film delivers it as well as it could, considering the time. Today, after many movies and series with amazing battles made in every way possible and with all the technology available it’s easy to dismiss the achievements of old movies, but I’m sure they made the best with what they had at the time.
With an excellent portrayal of the Viking age and some decent emotional moments, the merits of The Vikings outweigh its flaws, but the film didn’t age very well. So I’ll give The Vikings 7 Moons.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget to be as aware and knowledgeable as possible about History. Bye!