Blood and Sand (1922)

“In a man’s life there is sometimes a good love and a bad love.”

Synopsis:
An aspiring bullfighter (Rudolph Valentino) marries his childhood sweetheart (Lila Lee), but breaks her heart by having an affair with a vampish noblewoman (Nita Naldi).

Genres:

Review:
This enormously popular Rudolph Valentino vehicle (directed by Fred Niblo, and based on a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez) was purportedly one of Valentino’s personal favorites, but hasn’t held up all that well for modern audiences. Other than some refreshingly candid Pre-Code sadomasochism (with Naldi biting Valentino’s hand in an act of aggressive erotic pursuit), the cliched storyline is largely uninspired, and the bullfight scenes come across as patently inserted external footage. Meanwhile, pedantic attempts to convince audiences that bullfighting is a bloodthirsty sport worthy of condemning (“The wide world over, cruelty is disguised as sport to gratify man’s lust for excitement”) is insufficiently explored, and ultimately just feels hypocritical, given the clear valorization of Valentino’s character. Remade by Rouben Mamoulian in 1941 with Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Rita Hayworth.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some surprisingly candid pre-Code sensuality

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look simply to see Valentino in one of his best-known roles. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Blood and Sand (1922)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    Simple, somewhat sappy tale – which unfortunately hasn’t managed much shelf life beyond the ’20s.

    Poor Valentino; an icon held firm by the period. I keep thinking he means well in his performances, but there’s not much to hold onto here.

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