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Set in the Imperial Court of 18th-century Russia, "The Eagle" is a dashing and romantic adventure in which Rudolph Valentino gives what many consider to be his finest screen performance. Here is a role tailor-made for the legendary Valentino--that of Vladimir, the handsome young Cossack guardsman who is banished after rejecting the amorous advances of Catherine the Great (stunningly portrayed by Louise Dresser) and becomes the "Black Eagle," a Russian Robin Hood dedicated to robbing the rich and giving to the down-trodden peasants.
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''The Eagle'' has a chopped-up script that is annoying, The ending is totally unbelievable. The twists and turns are ridiculous. Someone should have put the screenwriter on trial for story-slaughter. Unbelievably stupid plot.
Rudy took no chances with this film. He got a top flight director in Clarence Brown who would later become Garbo's favorite. He got William Cameron Menzies to design the sets and a wonderful performance from Louise Dresser as Czarina Catherine the Great. Their scene together at the beginning is a delight to watch even on repeated viewings. Vilma Banky makes a great heroine and would work with Valentino again. This movie rather than THE SHEIK or BLOOD AND SAND is the ideal introduction to Valentino.
This DVD version is virtually the same as the old VHS version although the picture is marginally better and so 4 stars instead of 5. While it's great to have the Killiam Collection coming out on DVD, I just wish that some new restoration work had been done on this film. The other two (BELOVED ROGUE & TUMBLEWEEDS) are in better shape although they could use some work as well. Still these are superior to the old VHS copies and are likely to be the best we'll have for awhile. Lee Erwin's old organ score is a good one but it could have been sonically enhanced.
Valentino plays Vladimir, a young Cossack officer who spurns the advances of Catherine the Great. (An amusing reversal especially when viewed along with the Sheik movies) Unfortunately, Vladimir's father wirtes to him begging him to get the Czarina's help. He has been swindled by a friend and is dying. Vladimir can do nothing but go home and watch his father die a broken man. He vows vengeance against Karilla, who betrayed his father, and becomes a sort of Russian Zorro called the Black Eagle.
Another unfortunate twist, Karilla has a daughter and since she is played by the lovely Vilma Banky you can guess what happens. Vladimir is smitten and is now stuck between loyalty to his father and band of followers and his love for her. Banky guesses who Vladimir really is right away (in spite of his disguises) and tries to get him to spare her father. Of course, Vladimir will have none of it and it looks like trouble until Vladimir is caught by the soldiers of the revengeful Catherine.
What happens next? Watch and see!
Valentino handles his swashbuckler duties with an airy charm. (A shame he never played the Scarlet Pimpernel!) His scenes with Louise Dresser's Catherine are particularly good. She is trying to charm him, he is trying to find a polite way out. Dresser thoroughly deserved her Oscar nod and it's too bad that Valentino was not given one as well. The rest of the supporting cast is also very good, Vilma Banky plays her usual role, the nice girl with a temper, and has an obvious chemistry with Valentino.
That said, this DVD, while ok, is not the greatest. The print quality is so-so and points. Bit of dust and lint got in the way of the transfer and can be distracting. The score is pipe organ. There are no extras besides scene selection. All in all, not an improvement on the VHS releases but you may as well buy it if you have an all DVD collection.
Check out this movie to watch the Valentino legend yourself but don't expect too much from the DVD.
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throughout the entire movie, which I assume stands...Read more