A Drowsy Adventure
As Rolfe (Richard Widmark) sits in the square of a Moorish town telling them the tale of a gold bell known at "The Mother of Voices" which is three times the size of a tall man he is arrested and taken to the Islamic ruler Aly Manush (Sidney Poitier). Having heard of the legend Manush wishes for Rolfe to lead him to his quarry only for Rolfe to escape and make it back to his homeland where he has some explaining to do as he lost a ship and crew which he departed with two years earlier. With knowledge of the bell's where abouts; Rolfe, his brother Orm (Russ Tamblyn), along with their hostage, the King's daughter, set sail in the King's burial ship which they stole to find the bell. They are not the only ones as the King's warships are after them whilst Aly Manush is also seeking the bell.
In a western or a war movie Richard Widmark could always deliver an effective performance be it as a hero or a tortured soul but in a Viking movie Widmark is completely out of place. It's not only that he doesn't look like a Viking or sound like one but it seems like the only thing he can do is try and play his character large and whilst I didn't notice I wouldn't have been surprised if he slapped his thigh once or twice as it is that sort of performance, the sort which Howard Keel was an exponent of and who would have been a better choice than Widmark for this movie.
In fairness Widmark is not the only issue when it comes to casting and unfortunately Sidney Poitier seems to have taken his lead from Widmark to play his part large but in doing so makes the character ridiculous. And then there is Russ Tamblyn who in truth probably comes out of "The Long Shops" with his name in tact because he plays his part in such an ordinary, non descript way that whilst he fails to make an impact he doesn't end up coming across as out of place.
But the casting is not the only problems where the rot lies for "The Long Ships" as this story of adventure, daring do, mutiny and so on doesn't do a great deal capture your attention or feed your imagination. It kind of plays out in front of you with the actors spouting their lines of dialogue but never really getting entertaining. Not only that as there are some pieces of seriously ropey editing which really let it down such as a scene where four times in a row we see the Vikings fire on some attackers knocking down a good 50 men and their horses but when the attackers retreat there can only be a dozen men and horses on the floor. Basically it is trying for epic status but never achieves it.
What this all boils down to is that "The Long Ships" fails to do it for me and ends up a movie of mistakes and missed chances with the wrong actors cast in the main roles and a desire to be an epic when it clearly isn't.