Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

THE EAGLE (1925)

Directed by Clarence Brown. With Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Banky, Louise Dresser. Valentino's penultimate film, as he died the following year at age 31, after making THE SON OF THE SHEIK. He plays here Lieutenant Dobrovsky of Catherine the Great's Imperial Guard. The man-eating Czarina (Dresser) spots him and makes advances ("Do you want to be a General?") . Dobrovsky flees the palace. Furious Catherine declares him a deserter punishable by death.

At the same time, the young officer gets a letter from his father's deathbed. The older man has been cheated and expropriated by his false friend and wealthy landowner Vladimir Kyrilla. Dobrovsky rushes to his home, swears revenge, forms a troop of bandits whom he leads as the masked Black Eagle.

He falls for Kyrilla' s daughter (Banky) and, taking the place of French tutor Monsieur Le Blanc, lives in the household.... (The impersonation and the girl's non-recognition of the Black Eagle are impossibilities! )

The film is inspired by a Pushkin story -- but with enormous changes in the script by Ernst Lubitsch's collaborator Hans Kraly, who turned it into a mixture of Robin Hood and Zorro adventure-romance-comedy-drama. The Pushkin story is extremely simplified.

The movie is fairly interesting, partly for film-historical reasons. Though Valentino is quite appealing, this picture still does not explain (on acting grounds alone) the cult for the man.

With a copyright of 1985, Britain's Thames Television along with British and American (E. Rohauer) film historians, came up with a reconstructed video version. It has been shown on the PBS series "Great Performances."

The visuals are excellent as is the score. The score is by Carl Davis., an American composer in the U.K. . He has consistently written the best, most intelligent scores to accompany reissues of old silent movies. The music here is half-serious, half-pastiche of Tchaikovsky, Rimski-Korsakoff, Italianate and Mozartean compositions, and above all, Prokofiev.

It improves considerably the old, silent version and, though the film has to run at sound speed (24 frames per second) there are no detectable accelerations. I suspect that the original print, though silent , was shot at a speed closer to 24 than to 18 f.p.s.

Both in the Pushkin story and the film, the hero is called the Black Eagle. "Black" was dropped from the title because Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. had announced the production of his own THE BLACK PIRATE, which came out in 1926. (Edwin Jahiel)

. NOTES: The Assistant Director was Charles Dorian, kin to AMC's Bob Dorian? For all practical purposes, Hungarian-born Banky's career came to an end when sound pictures came in, as she had an accent