Original Title: The Vikings
Country: United States
Director: Richard Fleischer
Release: 1958
Genre: Action, Adventure
Language: English

IMDb | Rotten Tomatoes

Two brothers with very different lives fall in love for the same woman during the Vikings expeditions on England.

The Inspiration

Ragnar Lodbrok was a legendary Viking that raided England and Francia during the 9th century, at least what the legend says. Academics dispute if Ragnar was an actual historical figure or not because there are few documents to corroborate it.

In the Historical Dictionary of the Vikings¹, Katherine Holman says that Ragnar seems to be a mix of many historic figures with “literary invention”. However, it’s important to add that, “literary invention” does not describe it well someone, or something, that is undeniably a mythological figure.

¹Holman, Katherine (2003). Historical dictionary of the Vikings

Ragnar Lodbrok (Ernest Borgnine)

To quote Robert Johnson (the psychologist, not the Bluesman) 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

With that in mind, I would say that this mythological figure of Ragnar Lodbrok is a natural manifestation of the Old Nordic culture. To understand him as such, we can look at the many religious figures of every culture.

Religiosity does not mean that we are talking about the mystic or supernatural things, but the psychological phenomenon that originates religions and the most various myths.

King Aella (Frank Thring)

King Ælla of Northumbria was real and 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 the history.

The Ragnar son’s in this movie, Eric and Einar are pure fiction, but according to the history Ragnar had many sons who are actual historical figures, like Ivar The Boneless and Björn Ironside.

The Vikings

The plot of 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.

The Vikings

Eric (Tony Curtis) was raised as a slave, however, he is the son of Ragnar Lodbrok (Ernest Borgnine), a legendary Viking King. Ragnar has also another son, Einar (Kirk Douglas), a quite arrogant man. The slave and the prince clash from the beginning, even without knowing that they are brothers.

Egbert (James Donald), a noble British living with the Norsemen, recognize Eric as someone of royal origin and claim him as his slave, saving him from death in the hands of Eric.

Eric (Tony Curtis)

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Northumbria is ruled by King Aella (Frank Thring). King Aella will marry Princess Morgana (Janet Leigh), but before they get the chance, the Vikings raid the Kingdom and kidnap Morgana.

In the Norwegian village where the Nordic reside, Morgana meets the brothers, and both the men fall in love with her. However, Einar tries to rape her, and Eric tries to rescue her.

I think that’s enough to lay an idea about the plot of the movie. The actual plot is slightly more complex than this, but this is a simplified version to fit the review.

Einar (Kirk Douglas)

It’s an old movie with that old movie vibe, but that’s no excuse, the plot is not great and one could describe it as two men fighting for a damsel in distress and to make matters worse, the two men are actually brothers.

Another issue I have with the movie is that the Nordic people are very stereotypical, loud, violent, drunks who think a woman should be tamed by rape. At least the longboats are accurate and the helmets don’t have horns.

I’m not saying I don’t like the movie, because I can appreciate many things about it, but I cannot ignore these flaws, as well.

One of the things to appreciate is the number of stars in the movie. Kirk Douglas, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Curtis, and Janet Leigh, who were married in real life when they filmed the film. I want to mention Orson Welles as well, he does not appear in the movie, but he gives the voice to the narrator.

Princess Morgana (Janet Leigh)

The performances of these and the other actors are good, of course, but there is not much to it, just average if we consider the potential we see of these already veteran actors in many other roles.

Going from actors to their characters, I like Tony Curtis character Eric, but that’s mostly it. Einar, on the other hand, is a very annoying and spoiled man and maybe if another actor played him, I would probably hate him.

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.

Vikings returning to Kvinnherad

As an action movie about war, we expect some battles, and the movie 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.

To me, the merits of The Vikings outweighs the flaws. I tried my best to don’t be so harsh in aspects regarding how old the movie is, but the sole fact that I had to acknowledge and constantly bring this up is already telling. With all that, my final opinion is 6 Moons.

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