BLOOD AND SAND
starring Rudolph Valentino and Nita Naldi
We foresee a highly popular career for this screen version of Vicente Blasco Ibanez's novel, "Blood and Sand." There are several obvious reasons. One is the presence of Rodolph Valentino in his most decorative role since his Julio in "The Four Horsemen." Another is the color and swiftly unswerving movement of the story.
Ibanez wrote "Blood and Sand" as a lasting indictment of the bullfight and its cruelty. As far as the film is concerned, however, we fear that the Spaniard's message has gone to the Dead Letter Office. The bullfight, as the silversheet catches it, is highly attractive. The film follows the original tale fairly closely, tracing the harum-scarum peasant lad who grows up to be the matador idol of Spain, and who comes to know fame and temperamental vanity. His haunting love for his wife becomes hopelessly tangled in a mad, consuming passion for a philandering young woman of birth and wealth, and he comes to know the fickleness of the public before his dies, mangled and broken, a hero toppled from his pedestal. As the toreador breathes his last, from the bullring drift the cries of the populace cheering a new hero.
All this is told admirably. Mr. Niblo's direction is sane and now and then stirring. There are flashes of a glowing Zuloaga background. Valentino's matador is rife with sex and passion, with a breathless touch of brutality here and there. Indeed, it is this note of savagery recurring through "Blood and Sand" that lifts it, stark and palpitating, above the sugary, milk and water tales of our screen.
Valentino's torreador lacks subtlety, but it is as real in many ways as Joseph Schildkraut's Liliom of the footlights. We place it well in advance of his Julio. And Nital Naldi's Dona Sol is quite unforgettable.
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