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Flicker Alley presents
Valentino Collection (The Young Rajah / Stolen Moments / A Society Sensation / Moran of the Lady Letty) (1918-1922)

"Well—I don't think I'd feel good in the belly of a shark."
- Ramon Laredo (Rudolph Valentino)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: September 27, 2007

Stars: Rudolph Valentino, Marguerite Namera, Carmel Myers, Dorothy Dalton
Other Stars: Charles Ogle, Edward Judson, Wanda Hawley, William Boyd, Albert L. Barrett, Aileen Savage, Zasu Pitts, Walter Long
Director: Philip Rosen, James Vincent, Paul Powell, George Melford

Manufacturer: Elektrofilm
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, drug use, racial stereotyping)
Run Time: 03h:01m:47s
Release Date: September 11, 2007
UPC: 617311673290
Genre: romance


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BB+B+ B+

DVD Review

Although Rudolph Valentino is still considered a byword for exotic cinema romance, all too few of his films are readily available. This Flicker Alley collection of four features (several of them fragmentary or cut-down versions that do not survive in complete form) lets fans see Valentino both before his rise to stardom in 1921 and at the height of his popularity.

The Young Rajah (1922) is lost, but this compilation recreates a semblance of the picture from the surviving three reels (roughly one-third of the original length), two trailers and a collection of production stills. The result is somewhere between the reconstructed London After Midnight and Greed, with enough present for the reconstructors to have something substantial to work with, and luckily the more interesting portions survive with their exotic splendor.

Valentino plays the improbably-named Amos Judd, the adopted son of Connecticut socialite Joshua Judd (Charles Ogle). Amos is revealed to actually be the son of a Rajah overthrown by a usurper, and Amos also bears a hereditary birthmark, the fingerprint of Krishna, that gives him the ability to foretell the future. While off at Harvard, he finds romance with Molly Cabot (Wanda Hawley), but before they can be married he has a vision of his own murder by the usurper, determined to eliminate the Rajah's line. The content is fairly progressive, with Molly at first declining to marry Amos due to the color of his skin, but having a revelation that he is morally superior to his rival Horace Bennett (William Boyd). The supporting cast tends to overact wildly, in contrast to Valentino's coolly understated performance. The production design lets out all the stops, with the elaborate costuming designed by Valentino's second wife, Natacha Rambova. Although it has elements of silliness, the theme of fatalism carries the picture forward with gusto, and the reconstruction helps make an otherwise incoherent fragment.

Just before his star-making performance in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Valentino essayed the role of a villain in Stolen Moments (1920), another lost film. A three-reel cutdown version rereleased in 1922 does survive, however, and is presented here. Valentino plays Brazilian novelist Jose Delmarez, a thorough cad who is interested in seducing Vera Blaine (Marguerite Namera). When he suggests that she come with him to Brazil to live in sin, she recoils and instead marries her guardian, attorney Hugh Conway (Albert L. Barrett), apparently finding that somewhat creepy resolution to be morally preferable. But Delmarez secrets away her love letters and an inscribed book of poetry just in case. Having ruined the name of Inez (Aileen Savage), the daughter of a Brazilian government official, Delmarez returns to the United States and uses the material to attempt to blackmail Vera back into his arms. But when Delmarez turns up dead, with scratches on his face, the police and now-district attorney Conway are determined to find the woman responsible.

This is pretty standard-issue melodrama that doesn't satisfy very well. The characters are all one-dimensional and don't seem to have any lives beyond their scripted actions. Furthermore, the heavy cutting (nearly half the picture is missing) makes it difficult to follow in several places, and nearly everything seems far too abrupt. This was probably a better film in its entirety, but it's still interesting to see Valentino play the rascal.

A Society Sensation (1918) is a fun little two-reel trifle from Universal starring the now-forgotten Carmel Myers as Margaret, daughter of a fisherman who is convinced that they're part of the British peerage. Her father sends her off to live in San Francisco high society, where she manages to save Richard Bradley (Valentino) from drowning in the bay. Although romance blooms, Bradley is unable to make his feelings known. When word comes that she is not really a duchess, Margaret sadly returns to her fishing village, and is pursued by Jim, an oafish fisherman who is determined to show her she's not too good for the likes of him. When Bradley comes by in his yacht, Margaret's father believes he has come to kidnap Margaret, and things deteriorate from there.

Although it's rather brief and not exactly deep in content, A Society Sensation has a lot going for it. Myers has an expressive face and charm to spare, and she more than holds her own with Valentino. She makes for an unusually strong female lead, not only saving Bradley from drowning but also rescuing him in the climactic fight scene not once but twice, including fending off a threatening old geezer with a straight razor. Zasu Pitts also has a small but memorable role as the homely girl who loves Jim, offering some comic relief to the proceedings.

The final film on the collection is one not unfamiliar to Valentino fans, though it is presented here in an upgraded version that restores the original Paramount intertitle text. Moran of the Lady Letty was Valentino's followup to The Sheik, which he hoped would present him in a more he-man role. Loosely based on one of Frank Norris' first published works, it was a predecessor to Jack London's The Sea Wolf, with its theme of a forcible trip to the sea bringing out the manly man in the effete socialite. Valentino stars as playboy Ramon Laredo, who is shanghaied aboard a smuggling ship captained by the animalistic Kitchell (Walter Long). At first abused by the semi-piratical crew, he eventually gains their respect and begins to enjoy his life at sea. When Moran (Dorothy Dalton), daughter of the captain of the Lady Letty, is left for dead by the crew of that ship after a coal fire, Kitchell comes across the derelict ship and determines to sell Moran into slavery. The only thing standing in the way is Ramon. It's a solid little adventure tale that borrows significantly from the London version of the story, and with Valentino's star status Dalton hardly gets any screen time of her own. There's no particular chemistry between the two, however, and the action seems fairly perfunctory. Rescuing Moran seems to be more a matter of Ramon being a decent fellow rather than really being in love with her. Norris' tragic ending is reworked to satisfy the 1920s romance crowd to boot.

In all, a solid collection of seldom-seen and lesser-known Valentino that will gratify his fans and pique the interest of those not yet familiar with the silent romantic star.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The features are run at a natural speed. The Young Rajah, unsurprisingly is in rather rough shape, but when you're dealing with the only source material extant one can't be too picky. The stills used for the reconstruction are beautifully detailed, which only makes the soft, worn and blown-out condition of the surviving footage all the more lamentable. Stolen Moments looks some better, but it's still rather dupey and lacking in fine detail. The brief 00m:40s clip of the only surviving 35mm footage of the film, contained in the Scrapbook section, looks superb, but once again the source material is very limiting.

A Society Sensation looks by far the best of the pictures on disc 1; detail is quite good and there's little blooming. That helps since much of the mood and the comedy are conveyed in facial expressions that might be lost in less attractive source materials. Moran of the Lady Letty looks reasonably good, with decent detail and texture throughout, with the wear one would expect on a picture of its vintage. In some sections highlights (especially on faces) are blown out, and there are some issues with combing and aliasing in spots that make one wonder whether this has been flagged properly for progressive playback.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)no


Audio Transfer Review: Jon Mirsalis contributes solid piano scores for the first two films, generally appropriate in mood, though he makes the slightly odd selection of tango themes for the Brazilian character in Stolen Moments. His deft and relaxed style vanishes into the background so that the viewer is hardly conscious of it at all. The recording is clean and has excellent presence. Bob Mitchell's organ score for A Society Sensation is rather noisy, with pops and clicks throughout. Finally, Robert Israel contributes a nice piano and violin score for Lady Letty, though it does rely a bit heavily on a single Rachmaninoff Prelude and becomes a bit monotonous after a while. The recording is nevertheless excellent.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring When Love Grows Cold
8 Featurette(s)
Packaging: M-Lock
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Newsreel footage clips
  2. Audio materials
Extras Review: An attractive booklet includes production notes and photos as well as details regarding the set and the restorations. Each feature includes a "scrapbook" section that collects promotional materials, stills and other ephemera, while The Young Rajah and Stolen Moments include short snippets of the unrestored film. Stolen Moments includes what appears to be either a pressbook or a program from the original release, and the handy synopsis fills in a great many holes in the cut-down version and helps explain the highly confusing finale.

There are also several vintage shorts that feature behind-the-scenes footage of Valentino. A Trip through Paramountown (10m:35s) is an effects-laden promotional short that includes Fred Niblo directing Blood and Sand and Cecil B. de Mille directing the orgy sequence from Manslaughter. Dorothy Dalton also appears in multiple roles. Screen Snapshots (11m:18s) including on-set horseplay during the filming of The Sheik and a glimpse of von Stroheim directing Foolish Wives, with an amazing number of cameramen all cranking at once. There are some brief clips of Valentino modeling a beard he wore briefly in 1924 to the horror of barbers everywhere, and a meeting with cowboy star Roy Stewart. Character Studies is a charming little short featuring ex-child star Carter DeHaven as he purportedly impersonates Keaton, Lloyd, Arbuckle, Valentino, Fairbanks, and to top it all off, Jackie Coogan! THere's also a set of bios of over 20 members of the cast and crew, with a hidden tidbit of Marguerite Namara singing the song Morenita. The trailer for When Love Grows Cold (1925), which is all that remains of one of Natacha Rambova's starring roles, is also included.

The movie world was stunned by Valentino's early death at age 31 in 1926. The In Memoriam section is devoted to Valentino's funeral and the cult that arose around his departure and memoral. Three songs from the period are included: "Rudolph Valentino—The Great Director Has Called You," "There's a New Star in Heaven To-Night," and "We Will Meet at the End of the Trail" (the latter with words and music by Jean Acker, "Mrs. Rudolph Valentino," who had been married to him for a single day). A featurette, Valentino Forever (7m:14s) offers funeral footage and stills, and information about the parade of "Ladies in Black" who annually visit his tomb to place roses for him. There's also a 1961 audio interview with Ditra Flame, who claims to be the original Lady in Black. Whether she's credible or not is up to you to judge. There's audio interference from what sounds like a radio program on the last five minutes or so.

A small set of photos documents the Aspiration memorial statue dedicated to Valentino. It's accompanied by a 1940s featurette (9m:51s) about Valentino's film career, with candid footage of the actor (with Fairbanks, Hart and Jolson, among others) as well as coverage of his funeral. Round About Hollywood (1931) offers a two-strip Cinecolor tour (7m:22s) of Hollywood sites, including the Aspiration memorial. There's even a gala premiere at Grauman's Chinese (with Bessie Love, Edward G. Robinson and Gloria Swanson in tow). One of the earliest color documentaries of Hollywood, it's a fascinating little program.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

While this might not be the best starting place to find out what the Valentino hubbub is all about, these are nonetheless fascinating and often charming pictures that will please fans of the the actor. The panoply of extra material is first-rate, with enough to keep the viewer busy for hours.

 


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