Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


VALENTINO (1977). Director: Ken Russell.

Ken Russell takes the life of Rudolph Valentino (Rudolf Nureyev) and gives it the usual camp-grotesque treatment that he favors. Leslie Caron overacts (or was directed to overact) as Nazimova; Michelle Phillips (of The Mamas and the Papas) is barely adequate as Natasha Rambova. Other familiar faces in the cast are Anton Diffring as a cabaret owner; Linda Thorson ("Tara King" of TV's The Avengers) as a dance hall hostess; Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys as Jesse Lasky; Carol Kane as an actress-friend of Fatty Arbuckle's; Seymour Cassel as an agent; John Ratzenberger of Cheers as a reporter. Russell himself plays Rex Ingram. Hall and Kane are quite mediocre. Some of the bad acting probably has to be attributed to Russell's lack of flair with actors. The picture really only comes alive when Rudy dances; especially good is Valentino's tango with Nijinski (Anthony Dowell) early in the picture. Nureyev has charisma and charm and sometimes even hits the mark with his acting, but a different director could have brought out a better performance. This is even worse than the 1951 Valentino. There is no attempt at characterization to speak of. Worse, it's actually quite boring. Russell wants so bad to be hip, but the dumb, homophobic humor works against it, as does just about everything else. The climactic boxing match never actually happened, which is true of most of the picture. NOTE: To read a fascinating, illustrated article about the real Valentino, click here.

Verdict: Turn it off after the tango. Another freak show from one of the worst film directors ever. *.

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