The Vikings tells the story of two half-brothers who don't know their connection and hate each other. Einar (Kirk Douglas) is the only son of Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine) born in wedlock and is lightly mocked by his father for believing he's so attractive that he should shave his beard to show off his beauty. Slave, Eric (Tony Curtis), puts paid to this by setting a bird on his face, leaving Einar permanently scarred and setting up a reoccurring rivalry between the two. This is only enhanced by both falling for the same woman - the prisoner, Morgana (Janet Leigh), taken from the British King with the intention of ransoming her back to them.
Douglas and Curtis do Viking rather well. Douglas, especially, seems to revel in the role, capturing Einar's lust for both battle and Morgana very well. While it would've been easy for his attraction to Morgana to seem contrived, Douglas explores the many facets of Einar's character as the film progresses - excellent warrior, obedient son, forlorn lover - without difficulty. Eric is naturally a more reserved character as a slave and someone who faces death several times within the film, but he gets a couple of humorous moments to lighten what is a very battle-heavy film. The battle scenes themselves are well-staged and the setting is perfectly evoked with some beautiful outdoor locations used. The Vikings may not be historically accurate but it certainly conveys a good sense of what the era was like in a manner perfectly suitable for film.
I was a little unconvinced by the casting of Janet Leigh as Morgana but she does quite well in a film surrounded by men. When Eric is stealing her away from Einar in a small boat, her complaints that she can't row in her bodice lead to her bodice being ripped open - one of the most amusing moments in the film. She's also a little feisty and capable of at least trying to defend herself. Perhaps, in hindsight, Leigh wasn't the best choice for the role but I do adore her and could easily watch her performance again.
The Vikings is both interesting and thrilling. It may not appeal to those who don't like their historical with a dose of Hollywood alongside but the leads give good performances and it's worth watching the battle sequences alone. However, it certainly isn't for everyone and the scenes of men being threatened with hungry wolves aren't for small children - they unnerved me quite enough!