In 1926, the tragic and untimely death of a silent screen actor caused female movie-goers to riot in the streets and in some cases to commit suicide – that actor was Rudolph Valentino. Ball-room dancer Valentino manipulated his good looks and bestial grace into a Hollywood career. His smoldering love-making, tinged with a touch of masterful cruelty, expressed a sexuality which was at once both shocking and sensual.
I am mesmerized by this film
First saw it on HBO (many times) about 1980. Just love the Ken Russell 'exaggerated' feel and look. Made me look into the life of Valentino, where I was disappointed to find that Ken Russell had really 'exaggerated' Rudy's life. I didn't see it again until 1998 on a trip to Canada, in a somewhat edited version. I just watched it on the True Stories channel, I fell in love with it again. Ken Russell's version of the cause of Rudy's death is much more interesting than the actual cause of Valentino's death. I taped it and expect to watch it a few more times.
Grotesque yet fun...
Who knows if any of this is true, but director Ken Russell's take on the life of Rudolph Valentino is a lot of fun. Opening at Valentino's infamously raucous funeral, the film is told in flashbacks by various people who knew him. That's where any similarity to CITIZEN KANE ends. Russell is a master of opulence and it's clear that no money was spared. The sets and costumes are spectacular, but they're nearly overshadowed by Russell's casting choices. Michelle Phillips plays Valentino's wife Natasha, Leslie Caron is the great Nazimova and one time Dead End kid Huntz Hall is Paramount chief Jesse Lasky. Bizarre casting to be sure, but all three are surprisingly good. Caron in particular seems to be having a really good time. In hindsight, the casting of Rudolf Nureyev as the world's "greatest lover" seems ironic, but he isn't bad. It is too bad he has to speak. There are times he's incomprehensible. The direction is fairly straightforward, although Caron's funeral scene entrance and Valentino's jail house encounter are vintage Russell --- they're nearly operatic. Carol Kane and Seymour Cassel are in it too.