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Valentino, 1977


Ken Russell Valentino

A biography of the silent film actor Valentino ("The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"). The film starts with Valentino´s funeral and the mass hysteria at the time, then continues as a series of flashbacks in the style of Citizen Kane.

Ken Russell Valentino

Valentino is a club dancer who gets in trouble with the mob and with the entertainment industry. His foreignness is used against him (whoever heard of a dago playing a dago) and his appeal to women causes resentment and allegations of homosexuality. His reputation grows as a cinema star and as a lover. Women adore him but continually men insult him (pink powder puff).

Finally he is tricked into a boxing match with a journalist who turns out to have been boxing champion in the marines.

In genuinely exciting scenes Valentino is continually pummelled to the ground, till eventually his opponent grabs him, barely conscious, and dances him round the ring. He is only saved by the bell.

In true Rocky fashion after the bell Valentino comes out and unexpectedly has found strength and turns the fight round, grabbing his opponent and dancing, up to the knock-out. Valentino has saved his honour.

Ken Russell Valentino

At his funeral an actress comes to his coffin and faints. The cameramen have missed it, so she revives, goes to the coffin again and faints again, this time front page news.

The film is edited well with fast pacing but a good control of the story. It is however too long, 30 minutes shorter would improve it.

The imagery is good.

Ken Russell Valentino Ken Russell Valentino Ken Russell Valentino

The film was a major commercial failure.

people Nureyev stars but he is not really an actor and probably his ego stopped him giving up totally to Russell's direction. He starts well but the film is a bit too long and the accent starts to grate. He was originally brought in to play the small role of the dancer Nijinsky.

Cinematography is again by Peter Suschitzky and editing by Stuart Baird. Shirley Russell does the costumes.

The script is by Russell and Mardik Martin, who also contributed to Mean Streets, New York New York and Raging Bull for Scorsese.  The basis is a pulp fiction biography of Valentino by Brad Steiger.  An example of Russell's vision is the scene at the beginning of the book and film where the screaming fans break through the glass of the funeral parlour.  In the book the windows are then boarded up with planks of wood.  Russell's film changes the planks of wood to coffin lids.

Lindsay Kemp the dancer plays the mortician.

Ken Russell Valentino
Russell appears briefly as the director

best image Boarding up the broken windows with coffin lids.

The vulture on a stone in the desert filming scene.

best scene

When Valentino gets revenge by seducing in a dance Mr Fatty´s girl.

Ken Russell Valentino

When the mobster beats up Valentino and the girl shoots the mobster. Three scenes developing the plot pass in ten seconds.

themes The film is framed in a Citizen Kane structure, starting with newsreel footage and an exquisite performance, the film progressing in flashbacks that tell the story, and ending with Valentino collapsing and an orange rolling away, Rosebud fashion.

The period fans in the cinema are identical to those in Lisztomania. There is a very unconvincing madhouse scene which is a cheap copy of Glenda Jackson's harrowing scene in The Music Lovers.

Ken Russell Valentino

The child wears a sailor costume.

Ken Russell Valentino

There are films within a film, as well as the childrens swing.

Valentino film within a film

films Other films released in the same year include Star Wars, Close Encounters and The Spy Who Loved Me.


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