Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Vikings (1958)

"Gorgeous 1080p Presentation of an All-Time Classic"

Richard Fleischer's epic, colourful, action-packed version of life among the Vikings (well, as he and especially Kirk Douglas decided to present it) gets a UK Blu-ray release courtesy of Eureka.

Medieval England. During a raid to Northumbria, Viking chieftain Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine) rapes Queen Enid (Maxine Audley), who ends up giving birth in secret (I think) to Eric. She has no other children and as her husband is already dead, sneering villain Aella (Frank Thring) takes the throne.

Time passes, enough for Eric to grow into Tony Curtis who is now a slave to Ragnar's family, which includes Ragnar's other son, Einar (Kirk Douglas). Naughty Egbert (James Donald) is willing to sell out the English and draw maps so the Vikings can kidnap Aella's intended, Morgana (Janet Leigh), and ransom her for lots of money. Needless to say, both sons (who don't know that they are brothers) fancy Morgana and the initially successful kidnap attempt goes a bit wrong, leading to a great big fight that's just great.

THE VIKINGS is a classic. Cleverly and imaginatively directed by Fleischer, with beautiful photography from Jack Cardiff, dramatic European locations and some fine production design, it's a film that, despite its epic status, moves a lot faster than some of the more sluggish school history book-style epics of the period. Highly popular father and son viewing, this was certainly where I learned that a Viking can only get into Valhalla if he dies with a sword in his hand. 

The Vikings as a whole are portrayed as a jolly bunch who spend most of their time laughing uproariously at pretty much anything, especially if it involves violence. Plus you get the delights of Janet Leigh playing a Welsh princess, Kirk, Tony and Ernest as Vikings, and plenty of well-staged battle sequences that are still immensely entertaining.
          Eureka's Blu-ray includes A Tale of Norway, which is a 28 minute archival making of presented by the director. You also get a new talking head piece from Sheldon Hall where he talks about the production, how and where it was made, and amongst other things takes apart that lovely three-minute single take at the start of the film just in case you haven't realised how brilliant it is. Trailer, reversible sleeve, booklet with posters and more, make this worth getting, but most of all get it because it's THE VIKINGS on Blu-ray! How can anyone say no to this, and risk not getting into Blu-ray Valhalla?

Richard Fleischer's THE VIKINGS is out on UK Blu-ray on Monday 16th October 2017

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