Friday, October 16, 2009

Blood and sand (1941)

Now I'm pretty tolerant when it comes to old movies. There's not much that I won't watch. But it had to happen - at some stage a film was going to come along that I couldn't handle. Yes, I think I've met my match. Someone at work bet that I wouldn't be able to get through watching the first ten minutes of this film. Well I got through it and watched this film until the bitter end but - oh! - the agony! I was too sick to fight it.

I actually sought out this film. I got it from Moonee Valley library because it was supposedly a Rita Hayworth film. It even won an Oscar for best cinematography. But I'm telling you, keep away from Blood and sand if you can.

The plot: poor boy rises to fame as a matador and is torn between the love of his sweet wife and that of a bad and beautiful woman. Fame is fickle, bull fighting deadly and money, the entourage and the love of the public soon disappear. Yes, this is a Morality Tale. The cast: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell and Rita Hayworth. The tagline: Love flamed in the shadow of death!

Now Tyrone has very very white teeth. His role is particularly unsophisticated - like that of a rather stupid soccer player rising suddenly to glory and public adoration. So I'm not sure if he's rather good at playing a simple soul or if he's just a ham. This was a role previously played triumphantly by Rudolph Valentino so Tyrone has a bit of competition here. Rita is essentially a man eater. She practically purrs with satisfaction and her red red nails are ready to tear men apart (that's just got to be Jungle Red). She's quite shameless and utterly devestating - this turned out to be her breakout role. You just have to watch 51 minutes of Cinema Hell before she appears. Linda Darnell is beautiful and hard done by and features in a truly surreal scene where she has a conversation with a statue of the Virgin Mary - which goes some way to illustrate some of the problems with this film.

The film is adapted from a popular novel and some of the symbolism and 'literaryness' lapse into melodrama and histrionics when plonked onto the screen. There's lots of hot tempered Spaniards with wounded pride and a great deal of praying before candle clustered altars. It's all a bit overblown and simply drags on to its inevitable conclusion. Which is a shame because there could have been some real drama here. The bull fighting - though apalling - is fascinating and there's almost a religous respect for the ritual of dressing in the magnificent matador costume. But what you get is a leaden rather depressingly long film. I was too sick to turn it off.

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