Russia, 1910. Yegor, a dashing (as well as singing) bandit leader meets Princess Vera at a mountain inn. They end up falling in love, but the relationship is shattered when Yegor kills Vera's brother, Prince Serge, for raping his sister, Nadja, and driving her to suicide. Yegor kidnaps Vera, forcing her to live a life of lowly servitude among the bandits. Vera manages to outwit Yegor, who's captured by soldiers and flogged. Vera begs Yegor's forgiveness. Although still in love with each other, they realize they cannot be together, at least for the time being.Written by
Eugene Kim <email@example.com>
THE first brilliant operetta in the already amazing history of the talking screen is here! More exciting than any picture you have ever witnessed! (Print Ad- Syracuse Journal, ((Syracuse NY)) 15 March 1930) See more »
[Inside a dark cave, seeking shelter from a storm]
Say, where did you get that fur coat?
What fur coat?
Haven't you got a fur coat on?
Why, I got no fur coat.
Well, if feels like a fur coat!
[Running out of the cave]
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The Rogue Song is best described as a lost film, but its complete soundtrack has survived, along with enough short clips and stills for someone to have posted a "reconstruction" on YouTube. Having watched this, I can post a tentative "review."
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.
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