The Rogue Song
- 1h 44min
In tsarist Russia, a princess falls for a dashing bandit leader, but their romance proves a stormy one.In tsarist Russia, a princess falls for a dashing bandit leader, but their romance proves a stormy one.In tsarist Russia, a princess falls for a dashing bandit leader, but their romance proves a stormy one.
Let's get the (many) negatives out of the way first. This is an early musical, so you'll need to adjust to the slow pacing, awkward transitions, clumsy acting, and lethargic direction (courtesy of Lionel Barrymore, more suited to ham acting than directing). And it's an operetta, not the most popular or well-loved musical form around nowadays. Nor are the songs first rate.
But none of this matters too much, because the heart and soul of The Rogue Song is Lawrence Tibbett, who joyfully breathes fire into the film. Despite the limitations of early film sound equipment, Tibbett's voice remains one of the most powerful to ever boom from the screen. He's in magnificent form and clearly having a ball (he loved making the film and showed a personal print to friends for decades). His zest informs his acting too--forget all those stuffy, stick-up-the-ass opera stars who infected so many other early musicals, this guy is larger-than-life in the best way. Tibbett's shattering baritone throbs with a vitality that rescues the otherwise humdrum score, turning "The White Dove," "When I'm Looking at You," and the title song from limp operetta fodder into passionate statements of intent.
The Rogue Song has a couple of other attractions too. As adapted for the screen, the plot has some pre-code kinkiness--there's murder committed by the good guys, a horny countess, and a sensational scene of the hero flogged shirtless while singing away like a madman. There's also Laurel and Hardy, popping in between major scenes to add brief comic relief. Their material is hardly top-notch, but they add tonal balance to an otherwise heavy film.
The Rogue Song has many of the usual faults of early musicals, but they fall away at the sound of Lawrence Tibbett's voice.
- Nov 15, 2018