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

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Rudolph Valentino
THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921 silent film). Director: Rex Ingram. Tinted edition.

Madariaga (Pomeroy Cannon) is a lusty and very wealthy rancher and entrepreneur in Argentina who has two daughters. One of them has three sons by a German husband, Karl (Alan Hale), while the other is a Frenchman, Marcelo (Josef Swickard), who was a deserter. Madariaga has a special fondness for his grandson, Julio (Rudolph Valentino), Marcelo's spoiled and womanizing son. After the death of his grandfather, Julio moves to Paris with the rest of his family while Karl takes his own family back to Germany. Julio embarks upon an affair with a married woman named Marguerite (Alice Terry), whose much older husband is Laurier (John St. Polis of Mr. Wong, Detective), but her feelings for her lover change when her husband goes off to war. Argentinian, Julio is determined to stay neutral while WW1 rages around him, and his father finds his country estate ravaged by Germans, including his own nephew and a crude Lt. Colonel (Wallace Beery) who tries to rape a maid. By their actions, both Marcelo and Julio eventually find redemption. Based on a best-selling 1919 novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez, Four Horsemen is a strong and absorbing, fast-paced film beautifully directed by Ingram and with fine photography by John F. Seitz. Strong characterizations and dramatic presentation make this an excellent picture even without Carl Davis' rich and excellent modern score, but the music -- with themes by Liszt -- adds immeasurably to its impact. There are perhaps too many shots of the phantom horsemen riding across the skies, as well as shots of the fire-breathing dragon-like "beast," and the Christ figure at the end is a little much, but this also has many powerful sequences. (One that sticks in the mind is two crying children clinging to their dead mother in the rubble.) Alice Terry and the older actors are all quite good, while Valentino [Beyond the Rocks] gets across his initially superficial character without raising a sweat. This is a sweeping historical epic that is not for one minute dull. Remade in 1962. Alan Hale [Stella Dallas] was the father of Alan Hale Jr. of Gilligan's Island infamy.

Verdict: A silent masterpiece. ****.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill, so wonderful that many silent classics are now available to watch, when at one time we could only read about them. It's easy to see why Valentino became a star with this film, he really has a huge and palpable screen presence.

William said...

He developed into a good actor as well. He was one of the first stars to have an almost hysterical fan base!