[box cover]

The Vikings

The Summer Event Movie has changed little in the last 50 years: If you put big stars in an action-adventure yarn, throw in a little romance, and make sure to have a big battle at the end, the crowd is more than likely to go home happy. And though studios are now more likely to be adapting comic books and TV shows for these projects, they used to come from literary sources that gave them a hint of respectability. 1958's The Vikings is straight from this school of filmmaking: It's based on the novel by Edison Marshall and is shot in Technirama three-strip Technicolor with three of the biggest stars of its time. The Vikings is just as good — or bad, depending on how you look at it — as the majority of the recent studio "tentpole" films crafted around the sensibilities of 13-year-old boys. Taking a page of history as its starting point (with narration by Orson Welles), the movie tells of how Vikings pillaged the English and were feared for their brutality. Most feared is Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine), who killed the king and raped his wife. And though an English successor comes in the foppish Aella (Frank Thring), the rightful heir is the son born of the unholy union of the queen and Ragnar, and who could very well be the chosen one — or something like that. Cut to 20 years later and Ragnar has a son of his own in Einar (Kirk Douglas), a proud man known for the good looks that are ruined when a slave's bird claws one of his eyes out. Told by the Vikings' seer that a slave named Eric (Tony Curtis) shouldn't be killed, he then goes under the bidding of an Englishman who's come to help the Vikings kidnap the king's bride-to-be Morgana (Janet Leigh). Succeeding in their plot, it turns out that both Einar and Eric have fallen for the lady, and Eric turns out to be that missing heir. As directed by Richard Fleischer (best known for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), The Vikings is a solid piece of matinee theater that features quite of bit of mutilation for what must have been seen as a kid's picture. Douglas loses an eye, another character is thrown to the wolves, while another loses his hand (all of this bloodlessly) — but then again, what better entertainment for young boys than a violent adventure yarn? The film drags in spots and is altogether innocuous, but seeing how Hollywood hasn't cranked out too many Viking pictures over the years, this one succeeds perhaps more because of its freshness and the wonderful cinematography of Jack Cardiff. MGM's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen, and — outside of some evident reel changes — the transfer is a great restoration. Audio is in the original mono (DD 2.0), while extras include a trailer, and a 30-min. interview with Fleischer. Keep-case.

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