The Long Ships (1964)


This amusingly cheesy matinee style viking film features Richard Widmark and his brother Russ Tamblyn – sporting a very fetching pair of hot pants! – seemingly having loads of fun as Norsemen on the pillage in pursuit of a legendary golden bell, also coveted by Moorish prince Sidney Poitier.

Poitier actually cuts quite a dashing figure in his period robes and armour, but looks a little uncomfortable playing the action man. The main problem with the film is not in it’s inherent silliness, that’s all part of the fun. In fact some of the early scenes on board ship are unintentionally hilarious! It’s in casting these pirates as the “good” guys; I actually felt far more affinity towards Poitier and his Moors than Widmark’s men, who came across as brutish testosterone-soaked thugs. This is underlined by the unbelievably tasteless harem scene where rape is presented as some kind of comic lark, very much in the vein of a Carry On film. This shockingly misjudged – although mercifully brief – sequence seriously marred my enjoyment of the film, which up until that point I’d considered harmless fun.

If you can ignore the dubious morality of it all, it’s an enjoyable boys own adventure in the mould of Jason And The Argonauts, but that particular scene did leave me with a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth.


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