The Vikings was an action/adventure film directed by Richard Fleischer in 1958, produced by and starring Kirk Douglas, and based on the novel The Viking by Edison Marshall. Other actors included Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh , Ernest Borgnine and Frank Thring. The film made notable use of natural locations in Norway, crisply captured on film by cinematographer Jack Cardiff.
The King of Northumbria is killed during a Viking raid led by the fearsome Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine). Because the king had died childless, his cousin Aella (Frank Thring) takes the throne. The king's widow, however, is pregnant with what she knows is Ragnar's child, and to protect the infant from her cousin-in-law's ambitions, she sends him off to Italy. By a twist of fate, the ship is intercepted by the Vikings, who are unaware of the child's kinship, and enslave him. The boy grows into a young man named Erik (Tony Curtis).
His parentage is finally discovered by Lord Egbert (James Donald), a Northumbrian nobleman opposed to Aella. When Aella accuses him of treason, Egbert finds sanctuary with Ragnar in Norway. Egbert recognizes the Northumbrian royal sword's pommel stone on an amulet around Erik's neck, placed there by Erik's mother when he was a child. Egbert tells no one.
Erik incurs the wrath of his half-brother Einar (Kirk Douglas), Ragnar's legitimate son and heir, after the former orders his falcon to attack Einar, taking out one of his eyes. Erik is saved from immediate execution when the tribal shaman says that Odin will curse whoever kills him. He is left in a tidal pool to drown with the rising tide, but after he calls out to Odin, the wind shifts and forces the water away, saving him. Egbert then claims him as his slave. Egbert hopes to find an opportunity to take advantage of Erik's unknown claim to the Northumbrian kingdom.
The enmity between the Erik and Einar is exacerbated when they both fall in love with Princess Morgana (Janet Leigh), who was to marry King Aella but is captured in a raid suggested by Egbert. Using a primitive compass, Erik and Morgana flee to England, with Einar and Ragnar in pursuit. In thick fog, Ragnar's longboat hits a rock and sinks. Einar, in another longboat, believes Ragnar to be dead and grudgingly abandons the chase. Ragnar, however, is rescued by Erik and taken prisoner to Aella.
Aella orders the Viking leader bound and thrown into a pit filled with starved wolves. To give Ragnar a Viking's death (so that he could enter Valhalla), Erik, who is granted the honor of forcing him into the pit, cuts the prisoner's bonds and gives him his sword. Laughing, Ragnar jumps to his death. In response to Erik's "treason", Aella cuts off his left hand, puts him back on his ship and casts him adrift.