Monday, October 05, 2009

The Eagle

Kotka / Musta kotka. US (c) 1925 Art Cinema Associates. D: Clarence Brown; SC: Hans Kraly, from the story Dubrovski (1832) by Alexander Pushkin; titles: George Marion, Jr.; DP: George Barnes; ED: Hal C. Kern; AD: William Cameron Menzies; COST: Adrian; ass. D: Charles Dorian; CAST: Rudolph Valentino (Vladimir Dubrovski), Vilma Banky (Mascha Troekouroff), Louise Dresser (The Czarina), Albert Conti (Captain Kuschka), James Marcus (Kyrilla Troekouroff), George Nicholls (judge); 6572 ft /23 fps/ 77 min, print: Photoplay Productions. Hi-Fi presentation of the 1985 score by Carl Davis. With e-subtitles in Italian. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 4 Oct 2009. - Beautiful definition of light in a restored edition (1998) by Photoplay. There were some signs of nitrate decomposition from the source. - There were at least three breaks in the synchronized music presentation. - From the GCM Catalogue: "The Eagle is a must for Rudolph Valentino fans. Dubbed “the pink powder puff” by American men jealous of his power over women, Valentino returned to the screen after a 2-year absence, and proved himself as much of a swashbuckling action hero as a great lover.
Nominally based on an unfinished Pushkin story, The Eagle was really an adaptation of The Mark of Zorro, the setting moved to Catherine the Great’s Russia. Valentino plays Dubrovski, a lieutenant in the Imperial Guard who attracts the attention of the Empress herself. Spurning Catherine’s advances, he must flee the court to avoid the royal wrath. Returning to his home, he finds his father’s estates have been seized by the war lord Kyrilla. Dubrovski swears revenge. Disguising himself as the Black Eagle, he fast becomes a saviour to those suffering under Kyrilla’s despotic rule. True to type, Dubrovski/Valentino even finds time for romance with his enemy’s feisty daughter, Mascha.
The film showcases some of the best talent available in Hollywood in the 1920s. Director Clarence Brown introduced a number of technical flourishes, including a spectacular tracking shot across a huge banqueting table. George Barnes’ camera work is masterful, giving the film a sinister atmospheric feel. William Cameron Menzies’ sets are in the sumptuous style of the late 20s. All of this is shown to perfection in this beautiful print, struck directly from the original camera negative.
Historical authenticity was ignored, especially in costume design, so as not to alienate Valentino’s fans. Photoplay Magazine said, “Valentino changes his personality three times in his new picture, and each one is a dashing and fascinating Valentino.” Unusually, his sense of humour is given full rein in The Eagle. He proves himself to be as adroit at side-stepping the amorous advances of his Empress as he is at leaping onto a moving horse. His leading ladies, the beautiful Vilma Banky and the matriarchal Louise Dresser, are perfect foils for the spirited fun. – Kevin Brownlow, Patrick Stanbury." - Wonderful parody of the age of Catherine the Great.

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