Valentino’s The Black Eagle

 DATELINE: Surprisingly Fun Silent

 Valentino Yes, Valentino!

You may well think that we’ve lost what’s left of our wits when we chose to watch a silent movie that is not The Artist of a few years back.

No, we picked one of the lesser well-known works of Rudolph Valentino: it’s called The Eagle, based on an old Russian novel by Pushkin. For those unfamiliar with Russian classics, it’s a Robin Hood tale about a wayward young officer who runs afoul of Czarina Catherine when he rebuffs her advances.

Taking to the hills, the young man becomes an outlaw bent on vengeance for loss of his family estate. It all becomes complicated when he falls for the beautiful daughter of his enemy. All this is done with aplomb and humor, sumptuous sets and delightful underplaying.

Valentino does not dance a tango here, but a minuet. And, the director is one of the greats of Hollywood, Clarence Brown who is best known for The Yearling, twenty years later. He was an actors’ director, especially good with child stars.

Brown could always coax great performances, and Valentino is a surprise with a comedic touch. The ridiculous legend does not do him justice. And, Vilma Banky is the swanky belle with the odd name. She too is perfection. Minor roles, like the Czarina and the chaperone of Vilma, are older women with deft touches in their acting.

A silent of this kind of movie might have failed had we heard Valentino’s accent and voice, but what a shame that we never had the chance.

If a silent film comes your way, this may be the one to sample.

 

 

 

 

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The Eagle: Too Gay or Not Gay Enough?

DATELINE: Blue Man Group?

blue man group Whose Slave Is it?

Back in 2011, Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell commenced a series of roles in which they seemed to be walking on the wild side of homoeroticism. In one of their early incarnations, they went gladiator school for us.

The Eagle has over 400 Amazon Prime reviews—and only two picked up on the bromance tell-tale marks.

Like the Mechanic with Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent and probably Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, the Eagle is about two men in an intense bromance—with all the bedroom scenes on the cutting room floor. You may gnash your teeth, or breath a sigh of relief.

You are left with a Roman Empire story about a handsome soldier and his slave-boy. Uncle Donald Sutherland knowingly buys the lad for his nephew Marcus. Later, Esca (Jamie Bell) reveals he has taken an oath of honor never to leave Marcus (Tatum). It’s about as close to nuptials as you lay it on in Ancient Rome.

The two go on a spiritual journey to recover the Roman Eagle lost by Tatum’s father in a battle in northern England where the Briton savages reign beyond gay Hadrian’s wall.

When they arrive, we have a switcheroo: in the land of beautiful men covered in blue dye, Bell is the master and Channing the slave. How their bromantic fortunes bounce.

The savage blue Britons also dance magnificently, the best we have seen English men dance since, well, Billy Elliot.

A few critics disbelieved Tatum and Bell were lovers in the script, as there were not enough smoldering looks to convince them that something was afoot. Since there are no closets in Rome or Britain of the age, we are unsure whether they were hiding there.

With intense battle scenes and violence, we have here a seminal bromance movie that will warm the cockles of your heart. It’s also the best Roman slave movie since Spartacus.