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Is it not enough to lead my son into wild ways without teaching my daughter the tango?
Will you have the boy grow up like those glass-eyed, carrot-topped sharks of your sister's?
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In some respects THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE suffers from being known as the film that made Rudolph Valentino a star; consequently, it is usually regarded as a Valentino vehicle rather than as a powerful film of World War I on an equal footing with the more widely acclaimed THE BIG PARADE and WINGS. Even so, HORSEMEN's deeper message far surpasses either and in an artistic sense leaves WINGS in the dust and is at least the equal of PARADE.
The film is not really a Valentino vehicle per se, for Valentino's role is equaled by the roles played by Josef Swickard and Alice Terry; consequently it has an ensemble nature quite unlike most other Valentino films. Based on the once famous but rather heavy-handed Ibanez novel, HORSEMEN tells the story of an extremely wealthy Argentine rancher whose two daughters marry European men, one from France (Swickard) and one from Germany (Alan Hale.) When the rancher dies, dividing his estate between his daughters, the women return with their families to Europe, one family residing in Germany and the other in France. The German family's sons quickly rise to high status, but the French family has a more difficult time, with father Swickard becoming increasingly materialistic and spoiled son Valentino emerging as a womanizer who provokes a scandal by a torrid affair with the wife (Alice Terry) of his father's closest friend. Just as these various plot lines reach a climax, World War I explodes around them, reducing their personal concerns to so much trivia and placing the two families on opposing sides.
Interestingly, the performances in HORSEMAN bridge the gap between the very broad efforts of most early silent film and the considerably more subtle playing of the late silent era. Swickard gives a notable performance, Alice Terry is quite charming, and Valentino--still an unknown--plays with considerably more restraint than in later films and is all the better for it. The cinematography is superb, and the film contains a number of scenes--the Valentino tango and the vision of horsemen riding through the sky, among others--of considerable power, and the overall film with its strong anti-war message is still very compelling and packs a wallop. Considerably superior to the later remake; recommended to silent film fans, war-genre fans, and Valentino fans alike.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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