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Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh star in an epic tale of rivalry set in Viking-era Britain. Massive in scale, scope and ambition, it's a triumphant blend of fighting, drinking and good old-fashioned manly action
A massive box-office hit on its release in 1958, The Vikings blazed a trail for the grand, historical epic. Even now, decades later, it's a remarkably impressive spectacle built around some vast action sequences and equally large performances by a couple of old Hollywood titans.
Narrated by Orson Welles, the story follows Viking king Ragnar (Borgine) and his son Einar (Douglas) as they attempt to kidnap Princess Morgana (Leigh). But Einar falls for her, and then so does slave Eric (Curtis), who also turns out to be the illegitimate son of Ragnar.
Sporting some impressive facial scarring, Douglas gives a gloriously rambunctious performance. Leigh smoulders and displays an unusual amount of flesh for the period while Curtis proves an impressive action man, despite at one point becoming separated from his hand. It's the sheer scale of the thing that's striking however, director Fleischer relocating to Norway, using life-size long ships and guiding the fight sequences as if his life depended on it. Yet despite the dedication to visual authenticity there's never a moment when you imagine the cast are anything other than A-list Hollywood superstars, and that's a large part of the appeal of this fabulously overblown epic.
Verdict Highly entertaining and slightly camp historical adventure full of great stunts, larger-than-life characters and splendidly OTT dialogue.
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