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Before ‘Vikings,’ Try Watching ‘The Vikings’

The History channel (or as I call it, the Occasionally Historical Channel) just sent out the first five episodes from “Vikings,” its new dramatic series, which will premiere in March.

Vikings2While I haven’t watched them yet, the title and packaging got me thinking about “The Vikings,” the 1958 movie starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, which, to my surprise, a lot of people around my office had never seen.

If you haven’t, it’s worth checking out, as much for its failings as its merits, or the fact Douglas and Curtis were reunited a few years later in the classic “Spartacus,” where they also engage in a memorable sword fight.

The movie is hugely soapy and crazily violent, with both of the key characters experiencing major injuries (an eye, a hand) before it’s all over; Ernest Borgnine fabulously chews through scenery as the Viking leader; and Janet Leigh (looking about as good as she ever did, which is saying something) plays the woman both of the leads want. But it’s a ton of fun, an old matinee-style lark like they don’t really make anymore; and it has a sensational score by Mario Nascimbene, which I’ve been humming since the damn DVD arrived.

While I’m not sure whether it’s authorized, the whole movie appears to be available on YouTube, but you can find the introductory segment — where Douglas’ character and other Vikings memorably dance on the oars of their boat — here. (As a footnote, I had a chance to interview the director, Richard Fleischer, more than 25 years later when he directed “Conan the Destroyer,” and he patiently endured a lot of questions about his earlier movies that, as I recall, never made it into the actual story.)

As I was surfing for clips from the film, I noticed someone online joked that it seemed like “The Vikings” was on every Saturday when he was a kid, which is sort of my memory too.

It’s a happy memory, mostly. But I’m hoping that sharing it will at the very least get the damn theme out of my head.

 

 

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