Inspired by the novel The Viking by Edison Marshall, The Vikings was lensed on location in Norway under extremely adverse weather conditions.
Adding to the difficulty was the fact that star Kirk Douglas and director Richard Fleischer never quite found a common ground, and for years thereafter would hold each other responsible for the film's falling short of its potential. Still, the finished product is quite a feast for the eyes and ears.
Douglas, the son of Viking leader Ernest Borgnine, carries on a film-length feud with slave Tony Curtis, who, though he does not realize it, is actually his illegitimate son. This personal battle comes to a head when Douglas and Curtis both lay claim on captured English princess Janet Leigh.
The scene everyone remembers in The Vikings finds Borgnine, at the mercy of wicked monarch Frank Thring, defiantly throwing himself into a pit of ravenous wolves.
Launched into distribution with one of the splashiest ad campaigns in United Artists' history, The Vikings proved an enormous success; it inspired the 1959 TV series Tales of the Vikings, which utilized the film's props, costumes and scale-model ships. In 1964, The Vikings served as the inagural presentation of ABC's Sunday Night Movie series.