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The Eagle (1925)


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An amazing adventure stars italian lover Rudolph Valentino who disguises himself with a zorro mask to avenge his family's name. As a young officer in the russian guard, he's summoned before the czarina (Louise Dresser) after neglecting his guardpost to go and flirt with pretty Vilma B?nky. Dresser provides a clinic in screen acting, giving Valentino the total once over in her private chambers, looking him up and down and imagining the possibilities. She tries to liquor him up, and the accompanying scene is wonderful with them both dumping the shotglass contents away to preserve their wits in the clinches ...

 

He refuses her advances and is now in exile. He returns home to discover his family's fortune wrongly confiscated by mean ugly Kyrilla (James Marcus) and begins exacting his revenge. When Valentino (now as the "Black Eagle") learns that Mascha (B?nky) is Kyrilla's daughter, he cleverly assumes the role of a french tutor to get inside his nemesis' house, a well acted scene. He's also in total pursuit of the lovely Mascha despite her fronted girlish resistance. She fights him hard tooth and nail the whole way, unsure of his identity, but the dazzling eyes and flirtatiously forceful intrusions of Valentino wear her down before long. To ensure the audience is gratified as well by the dark lovers incredible screen presence, he doesn't wear the mask too much in the film ...

 

This movie was great. Usually not the one fans first recommend, but nevertheless it satisfies. A strong effort with the quasi-siberian sets and costumes which blend influences from old world russia with 1925 avant garde europe. Clarence Brown (Garbo's director) guides the piece with his usual reserved flair for dramatic close-ups in intimate quarters, backdropped by Menzies arching atmospheres and sumptuous dimly lit photography. The story is also engaging and interesting though pretty standard fare. A re-working of the zorro legend primarily with sheikiness. Fairbanks' film "The Black Pirate" was being produced simultaneously so some effort was made to re-script some of that for "The Eagle" and Goldwyn was now anxious to get Rudy back into something widely appealing after taking nearly two years away from Hollywood embarking on a european tango tour with partner Natacha Rambova. I'm sure drednm can shed some interesting light on that. Unfortunately there is no dancing with the hungarian B?nky which I was hoping for ...

 

Solid performances from the stars, and kudos for a solid presentation of the film. That so, so helps. It's a nicely restored Thames version with Carl Davis music ... Excellent ...

 

And thanks Jeffrey ...

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Benji,

 

I have no idea why this Thames presentation from the Image Laser-disc, is not available on official DVD? The version that has been released on DVD from Kino, is not nearly as good! It has a Lee Erwin Theater Organ score I believe? The print itself is nowhere near as good as the Thames edition. Erwin's score is passable, but nothing like the brilliant Carl Davis arrangement.

 

As I placed Vilma Banky in my Top 10 list of Silent Screen Beauties, I think this is one of the films that clearly illustrates that she probably is very deserving of the ranking. Not many of Her films survive, so it is difficult to get a accurate reading of the lady as an Actress, but she gives a very fine performance in this picture.

 

I think THE EAGLE was released after COBRA, earlier that same year, but I will have to check and see? I still consider Rex Ingram's THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE as far and away, Valentino's best film, but it would have been interesting to have seen him make more movies with Clarence Brown as Director. Brown seemed to put a real spark in Valentino, that perhaps wasn't always there.

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Sparks Fred Niblo somehow didn't get in "Blood And Sand" which almost put me to sleep ...

 

B?nky's very best beauty shots I thought were unquestionably in "Son Of The Sheik". In defense of kino, I also really liked the Killiam Collection tinted print with the Jack Ward score. It's a different print too I think, from the Image Entertainment issue. But B?nky is enrapturing in her golden desert-girl

diadem, denishawn dancing in the smoky dark, twirling and twirling ever faster and faster; a beautiful thing to behold. She's a good kisser too for Valentino. The Nita Naldi pairings weren't as memorable as I recall ... I should watch those again ...

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TCM played this a while back, I think. It was very enjoyable--the interplay between Valentino and Banky was great, especially the scene where he's escorting her up the road and they exchange banter. Very modern, witty dialogue (well title cards, anyway.)

 

One Valentino I'd like to see is "Son of the Sheik," with Valentino in a double role as the Sheik and his son. It is supposed to be very witty and modern as well, and Valentino's performance was supposed to have a sort of ironic flair. Is this film available? Does TCM play it? Anyone know?

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traceyk65,

 

TCM has aired THE EAGLE, but not the Thames version with the Carl Davis score. The Kino version that they have showed is rather a battered print by comparison. Apparently, they do not have the rights to the Kevin Brownlow-David Gill version?

 

As for THE SON OF THE SHEIK (1926), this was a United Artist's picture, and was Valentino's final film. The picture again Co-star's luminous Vilma Banky, along with Big Karl Dane who rose to stardom as "Slim" in King Vidor's THE BIG PARADE, the previous year.

 

While is has been shown on TCM, the more recent THE SHEIK/SON OF THE SHEIK Special Edition Image DVD release is much better than what TCM has run of the film. It also has two scores, a fine vintage re-lease track from the early 30's, and a more modern sounding score. You just select which ever one you prefer to listen too.

 

If you want to see a very good Silent film in almost totally pristine condition, stay tuned for THE MATING CALL in about a half-hour from now!

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I like "Son Of The Sheik" especially because it's a very exciting movie. The pacing is quick and Valentino is fabulous in it, and the dual role scenes are amazingly superimposed. If you haven't seen "The Sheik" yet, which turned out to be surprisingly good also, don't do as I did as see them out of sequence because although the films were produced by different studios, the second one is very much a sequel ... Agnes Ayres even returns ...

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