This film entertains in the tradition of the old Saturday matinee about high adventure, far-off lands, secret treasures, and swordplay. Although the production was nominated for a British Academy Award for costumes, it is a gigantic golden bell called the Mother of Voices that is the center of attention. Rival warriors Rolfe the Viking (Richard Widmark) and Aly the Moor (Sidney Poitier) both covet it, but only Rolfe knows its location -- an eminence on a distant shore. After Aly captures Rolfe and his men with a huge army, the reluctant partners cast off to claim the prize. But, of course, they don't plan to share it. The film, though short on aesthetics, is long on lavish spectacle, derring-do, and mortal combat. One hapless Moor gets to ride the razor edge of the mare of steel, an execution device, as a demonstration to Rolfe and his men that they had better behave while in Aly's charge. Widmark portrays the Viking leader as lusty and proud while Poitier invests his character with restrained nobility. Both men gain the sympathy of the audience, making it easy to root for them as they become raiders of the lost bell. Finding the bell and hearing it peal spellbinds the adventurers; they realize for the first time the true worth of the solid-gold treasure, as tall as three big men. But beholding it is one thing; moving it is another. Thus, the conflict shifts from man against man to man against bell. A rousing musical score accompanies the action, and the cinematography makes the most of the scenery. Oscar Homolka is entertaining as a Viking slob, and agile Russ Tamblyn makes a sprightly warrior.
by Mike Cummings review