Thursday, 28 March 2013

No.84 : The Vikings

The Vikings at the IMDb

Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis star in this 1958 campy historical romp which my cynical eye believes not to be 100% factual.

It is England in the Dark Ages and the Vikings are raiding and ruffling the ladies’ clothes. The king has been killed and his Queen is been pensioned off by the new pretender to the throne. The Queen confides in the Bishop that she was impregnated by a Viking and the child will be the rightful heir. The Bishop sends the infant off to Italy so a bunch of priests can look after it - a likely tale! The boy is given a rare jewel to prove his lineage - well DNA testing is about 1200 years away.

Meanwhile the Vikings return home with much revelry and a fey Englishman who has fled the land after being correctly accused of helping the raiders. They go for a tour of the grounds and after Kirk’s falcon fails a test he’s upstaged by a slave who has the better bird. A fight breaks out and Kirk ends up one eye down. The slave, who turns out to be Tony Curtis under a beard, is condemned to the traditional ‘death by crabs’ - and not in a good way!

A seeming intervention by the Gods saves Tony from his nippy fate and he is claimed by the English traitor - possibly because of that rare stone he wears around his neck - remember that? A bit of digging reveals the infant was saved from the priests by the Vikings without them knowing his true identity. The Vikings soon set off for England again with a plan to kidnap the King’s bride to be - a rather fetching Janet Leigh. They get there and back in five minutes and after a bit of squabbling over who gets first dibs Tony frees the wench and they make off in a stolen longboat.

The low speed chase results in Kirk crashing his boat and Tony rescuing Ernest Borgnine, the Viking leader whom he takes prisoner. He also takes a fancy to Janet especially after getting a hot look at her sexy back when she reluctantly pitches in on the rowing. Tony delivers the Viking chief to the evil King but after helping him have hero’s death in the wolf pit he forfeits a hand to the malevolent monarch. Tony heads back to the Fjords and the eyepatched Kirk and soon the two join forces to gets some revenge and steal the girl. Will the two save the girl and who gets her fair hand? Will the crown be restored to the rightful heir and will an early episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ save some sibling slaughter?

I wasn’t looking forward to this raid on the dressing up box but it was a lot of fun with plenty of action. It is of course hard to see beyond the two Hollywood stars hamming it up as Norsemen but they have so much fun in the roles that you soon forget your misgivings and sign on for the ride.

The cast is uniformly great but I especially enjoyed Frank Thring as the evil king. His overacting made Dr Evil look low key but he is so malevolent and hammy that he’s a joy to boo. Leigh is lovely if somewhat bland and Borgnine was almost unrecognisable as the rapist Viking Chief.

The production was lavish with some cracking locations and a cast of thousands, most of whom got killed by a variety of gruesome methods - axes, big rocks, arrows you name it. The fate and destiny elements were well signposted with a wise woman on hand to keep us right lest we have fallen asleep. The big ending battle was well executed with a couple of inventive ways employed to get into the impregnable castle. The closing scenes were more of a shock but I’m all for a few last minute surprises.

At two hours the film never drags and despite the action switching from England to Norway like they are a bus stop apart the customs and battles seemed well researched and authentic - unlike Tony’s false handless arm!

THE Tag Line : Vi-King of the Castle!

Rating : 77%

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