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on 5 April 2013
The old Hollywood 'Silents' have a magic charm that 'talkies' lacked. A good buy for movie fans! At a good price.
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In this good natured costume romp, Rudolph Valentino plays a Russian officer who deserts rather than make love to Catherine the Great (see their scenes together and you'll know why) and returns to his hometown to have his revenge on the man who cheated his father out of his land and who keeps a bear in his wine cellar because, well, that's the sort of things bad guys do, I guess. Disguising himself as a French tutor, his plans are complicated when he falls in love with his arch-enemy's daughter (Vilma Banky). You can guess the rest, but what the heck, it's great fun and eagle-eyed viewers may even spot a young Gary Cooper somewhere in the crowd.

Lavishly designed by William Cameron Menzies and stylishly directed by Clarence Brown, Valentino's flair for comedy is well to the fore here. His innuendo-laden comic scenes with Louise Dresser's matronly Catherine the Great are hysterically funny, the dialogue and title cards often very amusing ('Revenge is sweet, but sometimes a woman is sweeter'), with some delightful early exchanges between hero and heroine, and if the end is too contrived even for this light a concoction, the whole cast have fun, and so will you.

Unfortunately the UK DVD is overcropped and has a few intermittent racking problems - while the frame line is never visible, the framing adjusts downwards slightly in several shots. Although mastered from a reissue print, the score is not the one credited on the print to Michael Hoffman but a library track synth affair laid on with little relevance to what is happening onscreen - thus action scenes get light romantic cues while romantic or comic scenes get dramatic crescendos.
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