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I just caught this on TCM and it's the first time I've seen it since my teens. Either my maturity has given me a better appreciation for it or it has gotten better over the years, now that we're bombarded with so much garbage. I've carefully read all the comments here, and there's a common thread. Most take exception to the casting of Glenn Ford and classify the film as one of Minnelli's lesser efforts. It's not that I'm Glenn Ford's greatest fan, but I think he gives one of his finest performances here and is one of the movie's strengths. One doesn't have to be 21 to be a playboy; what he portrays, quite convincingly, is a mature dilletante. Minnelli's direction is typical of his late melodrama period that started with The Bad and the Beautiful. His style is jittery, baroque, and light years away from his airy musicals. The Four Horseman ranks right up there with some of his best later work, like Home From the Hill, Some Came Running, and The Cobweb. He has a particular flair for car scenes which started with his first Gothic, Undercurrent, in 1946. He gets one of the finest performances I've ever seen out of that limited actor, Charles Boyer. His scene with the gifted Paul Lukas where they mourn the deaths of their children is powerful and touching beyond words. The great disappointment, as everyone has noted, is the legendary dubbing of Ingrid Thulin by Angela Lansbury. What I find most peculiar is that I think Lansbury did not loop ALL of Thulin's dialogue, some lines sound like the voice of Thulin that I remember from The Damned and Return from the Ashes. The obvious question is: Why did M-G-M hire her if there was a problem with the voice? Didn't they test her before contract signing? In any case, the dubbing is unfortunate; her looks and performance are exquisite. My recommendation: SEE THIS GOOD, OLD FASHIONED, REALLY BIG MOVIE. P.S. Check out the magnificent, huge Andre Previn score.
Vincente Minnelli brought his aspiring "Four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse" to the events of World War II... The new version tries to
be 'more' than a war or anti-war film...
The quality of the Argentinean family with its members fighting on both sides (French and German), revealed great nationalism in their habits of thought and expression... They arouse love and ideal even in their attitudes, interests and actions to each others... They put everything at the stake, specifically two important talents, Julio (Glenn Ford) and Heinrich (Karl Boehm), trapped in this entertaining remake of "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."
Karl Boehm, the ambitious Colonel Heinrich, member of the S.S. envies his cousin's independence... The dinner sequence makes it evident: When Heinrich sees his charming cousin, spending pleasant time with a beautiful woman, he warns General Von Kleig (George Dolenz), not to abuse excessively his rank as Commander of Paris in his own private interest...
The film describes the awakening of a wealthy high-living Franco-Argentinean to his duty to France after his sister is killed by the Gestapo and his father implored him to act and do what he never did... Julio finds his manhood as a member of the French resistance during War World II.
This film has many fine qualities, some oddball aspects, and some things
interest because of how they relate to other work by the creative artists.
For example, Minnelli returns to Paris location shooting as he did in
'American in Paris' and 'Gigi', but this time to re-create wartime Paris
what it was like to be part of the Resistance, as well as what life was
among the privileged Parisian collaborators who lived the good life under
Nazi rule. In spite of MGM glamour and production values that must have
a fortune, Minnelli and his screenwriters often succeed in portraying the
anguish of that time, the moral crisis of privileged neutrals, and the
courage of those who resisted. Credit must go to a splendid cast of
Hollywood veterans and some talented newcomers. Paul Henreid shows up
playing, what else?, a resistance hero. Ingrid Thulin's Swedish accent
have been too much for MGM's money men - they had her dialogue dubbed by
Angela Lansbury, and pretty effectively too. One of the greatest pleasures
of the film is Andre Previn's score. If you like your movie music big,
complex, intrusive, and romantic, you'll agree that this score is one of
great overlooked gems of Hollywood soundtracks.
What's bad about the movie? Glenn Ford for starters, not too believable as an Argentinian playboy. But that may just be a matter of taste.
I cannot understand the low rating of this film. I'll rather think most of the viewers haven't had the opportunity to watch this movie and the few who had, have not been able to appreciate the admirable qualities of this film. If you have not seen Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, don't wait any longer. I have it in my video library and have watched it several times.
A film that's always been held in a great deal of affection here in Spain (and not just because it's a Blasco Ibañez story, nor because hearing it dubbed into Spanish relieves us of Angela Lansbury). As far as I'm concerned, and pace the other reviewers, Glenn Ford's utterly convincing portrayal of Julio is by far the best thing about it. So what if he's a bit long in the tooth? a great many real-life playboys are, and his maturity makes the romantic dilemmas posed by the plot all the more poignant. From start to finish he's seriously, dangerously likeable, which he certainly needs to be in order to win the love of a beautiful, intelligent and patriotic Frenchwoman over her heroic Resistance husband. The romance actually convinces, against the odds, and saves a movie that might otherwise easily have been a ghastly flop.
After all, what else is there? Andre Previn's music is impressively dramatic but there is a worrying lack of restraint in the score, both in the overblown intro and the pretty but intrusive "love theme" cue, complete with solo violin, which insists on being heard every time the hero and heroine so much as glance at one another. The "four horsemen" vision manages to stay just this side of Monty Python (with the aid of swirling clouds), but doesn't save the opening scenes of the film from lurching full-pelt into overplayed melodrama (the death of the patriarch Madariaga: one too many thunderclaps for a start), and doesn't tie in too well with what was eventually left in from Blasco Ibañez's tale (pestilence? famine? where?). The plot is 100% predictable, and the rest of the acting is competent without being memorable.
I must admit, though, I was impressed by the very Minnelli-esque sequence which took Ford's eyes staring at a scene of dancing and frivolity between Nazi officers and collaborationist women, superimposing the two and mixing in newsreel-style war footage; likewise, Henreid's heartstopping portrayal, in one scene, of a man almost broken by torture, emerging from a Gestapo jail; and the finely judged acceleration at the end towards the story's predictable but satisfying climax. Not a film I will want to make a habit of seeing, but would certainly stand a second and maybe even a third viewing.
In Argentina, the family man Julio Madariaga (Lee J. Cobb) is the
patriarch of his family and considers his farm the paradise on Earth.
One of his daughters, Luisa Desnoyers (Harriet MacGibbon), has married
the Frenchman immigrant Marcelo Desnoyers (Charles Boyer) and they have
one son, the playboy Julio (Glenn Ford), and one daughter, the gorgeous
student of Sorbonne Chi Chi (Yvette Mimieux). His other daughter, Elena
von Hartrott (Kathryn Givney), has married the German Karl von Hartrott
(Paul Lukas), and they have three sons: Heinrich (Karl Boehm), Gustav
In 1938, Heinrich returns from Germany for a family reunion and when he tells that he has joined the SS, the displeased Julio Madariaga has a heart attack and dies. When France is occupied by the Germans, the family reunites in Paris and Franz is the Nazi administrator in France. The alienated Julio has a studio where he paints, and has a love affair with Marguerite Laurier (Ingrid Thulin), the wife of the owner of a newspaper Etienne Laurier (Paul Henreid) that is fighting in Belgium. Meanwhile Chi Chi joins the French resistance and is arrested. Julio uses the influence of his uncle Franz to release her. However, Chi Chi has an argument with Julio for his neutral position. When Chi Chi is tortured to death by Gestapo, Julio joins the resistance, using his relationship with the Germans to get inside information.
"The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse" is an epic romance with the awakening of a playboy in times of war. The cinematography, art direction and costumes are amazing, but unfortunately the screenplay is shallow and the film is miscast in the lead role. Glenn Ford is never convincing as a French-Argentinean, and too old (46 years old) to be a playboy and son of Charles Boyer (63 years old). Further, it is ridiculous the actors and actresses speaking in English forcing accents in French, German and Spanish. I have never had the chance to see the 1921 original film to compare with this remake by Vincente Minnelli. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Os Quatro Cavaleiros do Apocalipse" ("The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse")
Vincente Minnelli had it right, he wanted Alain Delon for the role of
French/Argentine Julio Desnoyers and he would have been perfect in the
part. However MGM insisted on an American, but why Glenn Ford. Back in
the late forties he was laughable in the part of Don Jose in The Loves
of Carmen with Rita Hayworth. Did anyone at MGM screen that before
signing him up for this expensive remake of the silent classic The Four
Horseman of the Apocalypse?
Whatever else Glenn Ford was and I'm a big fan, he just doesn't cut it as the second Rudolph Valentino.
So besides a miscast leading man, they had their troubles with the leading lady as well. Ingrid Thulin was trying to break into the international market as fellow Swedes Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman had done before her. Her Swedish accent was way too thick and supposedly she was indecipherable in her scenes. That familiar voice you hear coming from her mouth is that of Angela Lansbury who was dubbed over Thulin's voice. Poor Ingrid still remained a star in Sweden, but never did get any international acclaim.
The rest of the cast is made of various continental types playing French and Germans. The plot of Vincente Blasco Ibanez's original novel is updated from World War I to World War II and changes are made to accommodate the different geopolitical situation in the two wars. Best performance in the film is that of Paul Henreid who plays Thulin's husband who while he's off to war and a POW camp, she's fooling around in Paris with Ford.
Now you can believe she'd have found Valentino irresistible, but not Glenn Ford.
When I saw this during its first-run release, I was already an avid Minnelli fan but had been forewarned by the reviews that this was not one of his best. I recall enjoying it, nevertheless, and much of my pleasure was due to Minnelli's always inventive visual style, the expensive mounting in CinemaScope and Metrocolor, the interesting cast (not all of them well-chosen, especially the deadly-dull Glenn Ford, who was being assigned to what seemed like every other big budget M-G-M picture during that period), the astute use of Angela Lansbury to dub Ingrid Thulin's lines (though I'm sure that Miss Thulin's own voice, even if she had learned her lines phonetically, would have been preferable), and Andre Previn's very expressive score. (Mr. Previn came to disown a lot of his Hollywood work once he concentrated on conducting major classical orchestras, but I suspect he wouldn't have included this one among those he would prefer that we forget.) Tony Duquette's Four Horsemen figures are a striking addition to the lavish mounting of this production. It's not available on DVD (yet, anyway) and it's probably a safe bet that the VHS version is (ugh!) "formatted"...don't bother! You'll be missing the greater percentage of this film's achievement.
When you're watching Minnelli's work today you cannot help but thinking
that he had a strong influence on Luchino Visconti's "la caditi dei
degli" (1969)Actually the two movies begin the same way:a family whose
members are tearing each other part because some of them go nazi.It
does not matter if the scene takes place in Argentina in Minnelli's
work:we find the same madness,the same baroque side and similarities
abound:the old man's death echoes to that of the patriarch of the
Essenbeck family in " la caduit dei degli" .Karl Boehm's character
inspired Helmut Griem's one.And Ingrid Thulin is featured in both
films,although she does not appear in the first thirty minutes,the
The dinner scene remains impressive today:if it certainly inspired Visconti later ,itself takes probably its roots in Frank Borzague's masterwork "mortal storm" (1940),which tackled long before his two peers the subject of the family and nazism.But Minnelli added gaudy colors ,typical of the fifties melodrama ,and special effects -the four horsemen who will come back ,particularly later when chic people are dancing while war is raging outside.Actually this scene is so strong as the rest of the movie seems like a let-down afterward .All that takes place in Paris does not rise above average.The film never recaptures the intensity of its beginning,except for its very last minutes,with the final confrontation between the two cousins -it's difficult to admit,though ,that Glenn Ford and Karl Boehm are relatives.
If a strong beginning and an effective ending make a good film ,you can say that Minnelli's extravaganza is worth a watch.It's not among his best works ,but if critic Georges Sadoul said "the first sequence is sheer aggressive bad taste" ,do not forget that "good taste" does not necessarily make great works.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes, this is a flawed film, but it needs to be said that it's been
quite underrated since its release, and if given a chance, the film has
plenty of rewards for the open minded viewer. Indeed, Ingrid Thulin was
miscast and having Angela Lansbury dub her voice only added additional
strangeness to a role that should have gone to someone like Jeanne
Moreau. Yet, Thulin's performance is not ineffective, and she has a
number of very strong moments. Less successful is Yvette Mimieux, who
could be quite good in certain types of roles. As the daughter whose
passion to make a decision to take the strong political stance her
father and brother will not take, Mimieux didn't have enough screen
time nor the proper dialog to make it believable. Perhaps the fault
here lies with MGM, that forced certain casting decisions on Vincente
Minnelli, but whatever the reason, Mimieux's character was ill defined
and Minnelli was unable to pull from the actress the performance needed
to show her political awakening.
On the other hand, Glenn Ford, who was also forced onto Minnelli by MGM, is far better than critics would have you believe. It's true that seeing Ford as an Argentine is a bit much to swallow, but he was a decent actor and had a likable screen persona that was the essence of his Julio character in "Four Horsemen." Julio, as a man who intends to stay neutral throughout WWII, and is someone who does not alter his position until far into the film, needs something to keep the audience interested. I found him quite appealing in his scenes with Ingrid Thulin, as they get to know each other. Although he doesn't do the tango or blow smoke through his nose like Valentino did in the original silent film, Glenn Ford managed to convey the masculine charm but shallow life choices Julio's character demanded and keeps us interested in him until his political conscience awakens.
I have only seen parts of the silent version, and never read Vicente Blasco Ibanez' novel, so I was not comparing the film to anything it could have been but wasn't. I just saw a story that effectively portrayed how war and the Nazi party in particular, destroyed two families and ripped to shreds the love lives of three passionate people. This story was told well by film and players, with the machinations of the Nazi party, life in occupied Paris, and long held family grudges all intertwining in believable and dramatic ways.
Equally impressive were the performances of Lee J. Cobb as Julio's Argentine grandfather, who has a very strong scene at the beginning of the film, but whose presence and legacy is felt all the way to the end; Charles Boyer, absolutely heart breaking as Julio's father; Paul Lukas, as Julio's uncle whose dedication to family or Nazi party is given the ultimate test; and Paul Henreid, as the husband of Marguerite (Ingrid Thulin's character), whose dedication to the resistance becomes not only his undoing, but that of Julio's, his rival for the love of Marguerite.
Aside from that "Four Horsemen" is a giant production shot in Paris, rich with period atmosphere and Minnelli's attention to detail. It's beautifully photographed by Milton Krasner, and has some cleverly inserted and effective montages made up from archival footage of the war, moodily colorized with filters and stretched horizontally to fit the wide screen. I liked the look of these. I don't think dramatic recreations would have been any better.
Like another underrated financial flop that same year, Brando's "Mutiny on the Bounty," Minnelli's "Four Horsemen" has a very downbeat ending, but in the case of "Four Horsemen" the ending is memorably spectacular. I must mention the symbolic use of the four horsemen, shown galloping through a war torn sky on a number of occasions, and used as the image that ends the film. Some have criticized this as being over the top and hardly believable, yet clearly it was never intended to be taken literally (as if anyone besides Lee J. Cobb could see this vision). Cobb's grandfather character describes the figures, which we initially see as brass figurines - from the book of revelations, Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death - that stand before the mouth of a large fireplace in the family's Argentine home. The grandfather sees the devastation of the family coming because of the events taking place in Germany, and his vision of the four riders in the sky only underscores the power of his fear. The vision is repeated for the audience's sake a few times following, and only once is it a bit clumsily handled when we see Glenn Ford's worried eyes over the imagery.
And finally, the score by Andre Previn is one of his best, if not the best. He apparently, considered it his best. It is very much of its time, the early 60s, with strong love themes, romantic sweep and massive orchestration, but it works really well in the film. Previn's music reaches an incredible intensity in sequences showing the four horsemen, only equaled by his underscore for the onset of the German occupation of Paris. The love theme for Julio and Marguerite is lovely, but don't expect contemporary scoring here. Previn wasn't afraid of strings. This is really strong music, but be aware this score comes from a period when scores focused on melody. Contemporary scores often avoid this, so initial exposure to such forceful and upfront music in a film, can be jarring. But, please, give the music and the film itself a try. As long as you go in knowing the film has its flaws, you may find a lot to appreciate.
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