Today it is ecaxtly one hundred years since World War I broke out. This tragic conflict, one of the most terrible in human history, has been depicted on the silver screen many times. One of the first great films (perhaps the first) to emphasize this tragic aspect was The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the film that catapulted Rudolph Valentino to stardom.
Many people still think that Rudolph Valentino was a great actor. To me, it seems that his greatest talent was to look like he is about to burst into tears any minute. Even when he smiles. Well, even I have to admit that he was good at using small details in his facial expression and body language. Be that as it may, many of his films are wonderful; well-produced, epic and still today captivating. The Four Horsemen … is one of his best.
Actually, the War does not begin until about halfway through the movie, and even though it is an imporatant backdrop to the later part of the film, this is a film about people and ideas, less about the war as such. It begins with a wealthy Argentine patriarch and his two sons-in-law. One French and one German. The film is clearly anti-German (at a time when the Nazi party had barely been established, the Germans in the film enbrace many ideas that would later come to be associated with Nazi ideology), and consequently, the French son-in-law and his son are favoured.
After the death of the patriarch, each part of the family moves back to Europe. We now follow the French son, Julio (Valentino) and his life in Paris as a playboy artist and dancer, constantly broke and falling in love with a married woman, thus causing a scandal. But just as things appear to go his way, war erupts and turns everything upside down.
This film is best enjoyed if you like Rudolph Valentino’s acting and good looks (he is said to be a favourite with the gay community), but if you are like me and feel some scepticism, it is still a great movie, well worth the more than two hours watching.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Running time: 2 h 11 min
Director: Rex Ingram
Stars: Rudolph Valentino, Alice Terry and Josef Swickard
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (768×576)
Soundtrack: Acceptable; classical music partly adapted to the images
Sound Quality: Good
Best file format: Cinepack (1.0 G)