The Viking (1928) was the first feature-length Technicolor film that featured a soundtrack, and the first film made in Technicolor's Process 3. It stars Pauline Starke, Donald Crisp and LeRoy Mason. The film is based on the novel The Thrall of Leif the Lucky.
Lord Alwin (LeRoy Mason), Earl of Northumbria, is captured in a Viking raid and taken to Norway as a slave. There he is bought by Helga (Pauline Stark), an "orphan of noble blood" under the guardianship of Leif Ericsson (Donald Crisp). He proves a troublesome slave, and Leif's sailing master, Egil the Black, prepares to kill him for his insolence, but Helga stops him. When Alwin challenges Egil to a swordfight, Leif is impressed by his courage and permits it. Alwin manages to break Egil's sword, but spares him. Helga then gives Alwin to Leif.
Leif, with the support of King Olaf, the first Christian king of Norway, sets out to search for lands beyond Greenland, which was discovered by his pagan father, Eric the Red. Back in Greenland, Eric kills one of his men after he discovers the man is a Christian. When Leif stops there to pick up supplies, Eric gives his blessing for his marriage to Helga (unbeknownst to her). However, after it is revealed that Leif is himself a Christian, Eric disowns him and refuses to give him any supplies. Fighting breaks out after Leif instructs Alwin to take the supplies anyway. In the confusion, Helga stows away on Leif's ship.
Leif has no choice but to take her along. During the voyage, she and Alwin confess their love for each other. Unaware of this, Leif informs her that he will marry her on the "second change of the moon". Egil, in love with Helga himself, foments a mutiny among the crew, who fear sailing off the edge of the world. When Egil prepares to stab Leif in the back during the wedding ceremony, Alwin leaps in the way and is wounded. Leif kills Egil, but is enraged when Helga reveals that she loves Alwin. He raises his sword to kill the unconscious Alwin, but his Christian faith stops him. Just then, land is sighted, and the mutiny dissolves.
Leif steps ashore bearing a makeshift cross. He has a stone tower built and makes friends with the natives. When Leif leaves for home, Alwin, Helga and a few others remain behind. A narrator then claims that the stone tower still stands in Newport, Rhode Island.
- Donald Crisp as Leif Ericsson
- Pauline Starke as Helga [Nillson]
- LeRoy Mason as Alwin
- Anders Randolf as Eric the Red (as Anders Randolph)
- Richard Alexander as Sigurd
- Harry Woods as Egil (as Harry Lewis Woods)
- Albert MacQuarrie as Kark
- Roy Stewart as King Olaf
- Torben Meyer as Odd
- Claire McDowell as Lady Editha (as Claire MacDowell)
- Julia Swayne Gordon as Thorhild
Because of the technical limitation of their previous process with printing sound, the film is also the first time a feature film used Technicolor's dye-transfer process. (The previous Technicolor Process 2 used two printsâ"one red, one greenâ"cemented base-to-base.) The film was considered the finest use of color cinematography at the time of release. The film still survives and remains an example of early color film. The film was based on the novel The Thrall of Leif the Lucky, itself based on Viking history, written by Ottilie A. Liljencrantz.
In 1938, Technicolor president Herbert Kalmus later wrote,
- There seemed to be two principal troubles with The Viking, both of which I suspected but without certainty. First it came out among the very last silent pictures in 1929, and second, whiskers. Leif Ericson, the Viking hero true to character had a long curling mustache, whereas American audiences prefer their lovers smooth-shaven. At times the whole screen seemed filled with Viking whiskers.
The film critic for the New York Times agreed, noting that "the figures often look as if they had stepped out of an opera comique," and, "The make-up of the players is often more than a trifle overdone, especially when the villain reveals on close inspection his mouse-colored eyelids."
Early sound and color technology
The sound was recorded in the Movietone sound-on-film system originally developed by Fox Film Corporation, with color by Technicolor in their new dye transfer process, now known as Process 3.
The film was produced by the Technicolor Corporation, but was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, after production chief Irving Thalberg became impressed with the technology. The film carries the MGM Leo the Lion logo in color. In 1930, MGM reissued the film as a color sound musical film titled The Private Life of Leif Ericson. The sound film survives today as well as the silent version.
- The Viking at the Internet Movie Database
- The Viking at the TCM Movie Database
- The Viking at AllMovie
- Technicolor - a history of the colour process, including information about The Viking.