Moorish ruler El Mansuh (Sidney Poitier) is determined to locate a massive bell made of gold known as the “Mother of Voices.” Viking explorer Rolfe (Richard Widmark) also becomes intent on finding the mythical treasure, and sails with his crew from Scandinavia to Africa to track it down.
Reluctantly working together, El Mansuh and Rolfe, along with their men, embark on a quest for the prized object, but only one leader will be able to claim the bell as his own — if it even exists at all.The film was very loosely based on the Swedish novel The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson (1941-1945), retaining little more than the title (of the English translation) and the Moorish settings of Orm’s first voyage. It was also intended to capitalise on the success of recent Viking and Moorish dramas such asThe Vikings (1958) and El Cid (1961), and was later followed by Alfred the Great (1969).
After a costly misadventure moving the Mother of Voices from its clifftop down to the sea, the expedition finally returns to the Moorish city, Aly Mansuh triumphantly riding through the streets with the bell in tow. As the group reaches Mansuh’s palace, Aminah suddenly cries aloud that “The Long Ships came in the night” and is immediately shot down by a spear. A group of Vikings come leaping out from behind the silent townspeople. These Norsemen are King Harold’s men, out to rescue the princess, and the climactic battle ensues. It ends when the bell falls over and crushes Aly Mansuh. The Moors are defeated and the Vikings victorious. The film ends as Rolfe tells King Harold about the “three crowns of the Saxon kings.”