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Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Rudolph Valentino had shot to stardom a year ago on Metro’s THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE/’21. So, Paramount knew they had a sure thing with a second Vicente Blasco Ibáñez adaptation, especially with June Mathis repeating on scenario. And to some extent, they did. But the career move from Metro also meant swapping director Rex Ingram for Fred Niblo, and cameraman John Sietz for Alvin Wyckoff, a drop from inspired to professional. The story’s less inspired, too, charting the quick rise of Rudy’s poor country lad from rural corridas to big city bullfights before a rapid fall when he ignores his loyal, little wife (Lila Lee) for a cruel, sophisticated woman of the world (pop-eyed Nita Naldi). Niblo slavishly copies Ingram’s formal compositional style, but his frame goes static; and he lets Valentino indicate thwarted passion with looks of indigestion. Still, pretty entertaining stuff, especially in the yummy looking 2001 KINO edition (109") with its cleverly compiled Spanish-tinged background score.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Check out the clever, if hardly seamless, editing of stock shots & bullfight actualities with the fictional footage. It saved Paramount tons of bucks and made the reputation of film editor (later director) Dorothy Arzner.

DOUBLE-BILL: Rouben Mamoulian’s 1941 remake is also about one-half of a good film. With exceptional use of color & movement in the early childhood scenes. But it too falls apart once wicked senorita Rita Hayworth turns up to steal Ty Power from saintly Linda Darnell. (Though it does replace this film’s deadly philosopher with Laird Cregar’s lively bullfighting critic. See Write-Up below.)

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