December 06, 2009

Excesses Aside, 'Vikings' Proves Good Fun

Richard Fleischer's 1958 Odin-fest The Vikings should have been a piece of Hollywooden trash.

Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis as Norse half-brothers? Hardy-har-har. Ernest Borgnine as a Viking leader? Excuse me while I laugh into the recesses of my horned helmet.

But lo--a funny thing happened while Trudi and I were watching this film last night: It actually was...believe it...entertaining.

To a certain degree.

Yea, verily, Trudi fell asleep during the epic castle siege toward the end...probably the best-mounted scene in the flick, though it did appear to "borrow" quite a bit of the imagery and techniques from Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, which still, in my opinion, has the greatest battle sequences in the history of film. But then again, Trudi doesn't like battle scenes. Boring, she says.

I agree...if you're watching snoozers such as Troy or Alexander.

Look, The Vikings is no great film. It's not exactly The Seven Samurai in terms of characterization. There's too much forced rowdiness from Kirk and the gang, and some of the dialogue--especially the Christian-pagan love scene between Curtis and (supposedly) English princess Janet Leigh--is a wee bit silly. Plus, the plot, which revolves around the rivalry between the slave Curtis and the Viking heir Douglas, is convoluted to the point where it diminishes the capacity to care for the characters as much as one should.

But I was kind of surprised by the excellence of the production design, as well as some of the photography (though some murky night shots were slightly off-putting). And despite the fact that some of the costumes probably weren't around in the Dark Ages (hey, Kirk, is there any film in which your sleeves aren't cut off?), there wasn't a horned helmet in sight.

At least they got that right, huh?

Anyway, most of the time I had fun watching this movie--it was spirited entertainment, and I didn't take it too seriously. Trudi, on the other hand, had a different kind of experience, as she was able to catch some Zs during the proceedings. I can't say I blame her, however; a masterpiece this wasn't. But for some good, old-fashioned, ludicrous fun, I'd say this was a good pick.

Onward and upward...

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