on 13 April 2016
VALENTINO [1977 / 2016] [Limited Edition Dual Format] [Blu-ray + DVD] Rudolf Nureyev is Rudolf Valentino! A Film by Ken Russell!
Controversial British director Ken Russell [‘Women in Love’ and ‘The Devils’] tells the story of one of the silver screen's greatest legends, in this flamboyant and sexually-charged film.
Starring world-famous ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev alongside Seymour Cassel and Felicity Kendal, ‘VALENTINO’ traces the adored actor's journey from humble beginnings as an Italian immigrant in New York, where he worked as a gigolo, to Hollywood, where he seduces famous lovers and ascends to stardom. Despite such towering success, tragedy beckons however, as Rudolph Valentino falls preys to the mass-hysteria of his audience, the blood-thirsty press and his own indulgent lifestyle.
Previously unavailable on Blu-ray, ‘VALENTINO’ is an enthralling biopic from one of Britain's most distinctive and celebrated filmmakers.
FILM FACT: The film topped the British box-office for two weeks, but was not a hit in America. Upon its release, the film ‘VALENTINO’ was a critical failure. Ken Russell later described his decision to make the film as the biggest mistake of his career.
Cast: Rudolf Nureyev, Leslie Caron, Michelle Phillips, Carol Kane, Felicity Kendal, Seymour Cassel, Huntz Hall, Alfred Marks, David de Keyser, Linda Thorson, Leland Palmer, Lindsay Kemp, Peter Vaughan, Anthony Dowell, Penelope Milford, Emily Bolton, Robin Clarke, William Hootkins, Don Fellows, John Justin, Anton Diffring, Nicolette Marvin, Jennie Linden, Percy Herbert, Dudley Sutton, Simon Hoskins, Penny Baker, Barbie Denham, James Berwick (uncredited), Harry Fielder (uncredited), Anthony Forrest (uncredited), Yolande Palfrey (uncredited), John Ratzenberger (uncredited) and Ken Russell (uncredited)
Director: Ken Russell
Producers: Harry Benn, Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff
Screenplay: Ken Russell and Mardik Martin
Composer: Ferde Grofé Sr. and Stanley Black
Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Dolby Digital Stereo Audio, English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio [Original] and 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio Isolated Music and Effects
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 128 minutes
Region: Region B/2 and PAL
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists / British Film Industry
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘VALENTINO’  Ken Russell paints Hollywood’s golden age with a flamboyant flourish and a dark heart. Back in 1977, controversial British director Ken Russell conceived this wildly colourful biopic of the adored silent screen legend Rudolph Valentino, starring the world’s most celebrated dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, in the title role. The film begins with the pandemonium that greeted the news of Rudolph Valentino [Rudolph Nureyev] untimely death at the age of 31. In a faux newsreel sequence, grief stricken female fans mob the funeral home, where his body lay in state, the female fans are seen crashing through the windows in excess sorrow. After order is restored, one by one several important women in his life come to pay their respect, which are pursued by relentless newspaper photographers, and tell the Rudolf Nureyev story in flashbacks.
Featuring colourful cinematography by the brilliant Peter Suschitzky, evocative art direction, stunning costumes, and a stellar cast, it’s another energetic and outrageous entry in the director’s Twenties Quartet of films that include ‘Isadora’ , ‘Women in Love’  and ‘The Boy Friend’ . At the period that is set in 1920s America, it is about the breaking of dreams, presenting a vivid picture of the free-for-all life of New York and Hollywood during those golden years between the two World Wars.
Rudolph Valentino came from a poor Sicilian family. But tracing Rudolph Valentino’s humble beginnings as an Italian immigrant in New York, where he worked as a gigolo and dancer in a fashionable ballroom, to Hollywood, where he seduces famous lovers and becomes an international star, Ken Russell’s film flashes over Rudolph Valentino’s life through the five women mourning his untimely death at the age of 31 years of age in 1926. Rudolph Valentino occasionally yearns to jack it all in to buy an orange-grove in California and live there peacefully. Inordinately proud of his Diploma in Agriculture, this orange-grove is his dream which he never relinquishes throughout his life.
Needless to say, he never gets there. Hollywood takes its terrible toll on him, as it seemed to do on so many others who came after him. What is it about that place? It frequently seems to be as toxic as it is glamorous and exciting. Poor Valentino spent the whole film battling nasty rumours of effeminacy and homosexuality and they appeared to hurt and affect him dreadfully. The press built him up into a sex god and movie hero and then tore him to shreds. You know, the way they do. It's a familiar story by now.
Rudolph Valentino’s first love was Bianca [Emily Bolton], the bisexual avant-garde actress Alla Nazimova [Leslie Caron], his ‘starlet’ first wife Jean Acker [Carol Kane], and his spiritualist set designer second wife Natacha Rambova [Michelle Phillips], and finally the screenwriter who discovered him. Felicity Kendal (star of classic British sitcom ‘THE GOOD LIFE’ with the late Richard Briers), in one of her finest roles as film producer June Mathis seems to have been one of the few women who genuinely cared about the movie-star, whose roles in such silent films as ‘THE SHEIK’ and ‘BLOOD AND SAND’ made him a household name across the world.
Rudolph Valentino story is told in retrospect through the eyes of some of the women in his life. Rudolph Nureyev, whose own masculine beauty was described as ‘unbelievable’ by co-star Leslie Caron, certainly looks the spitting image of the screen idol, but his portrayal is as allusive as the real Rudolph Valentino. And that’s all part of Ken Russell’s mad genius as he explores concepts of image versus reality and the indestructibility of the artist in his own visual, visceral way.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ken Russell film without some confrontational imagery, especially if you remember in the film ‘Women in Love’ nude wrestling scene or that crucifix scene in the outrageous film ‘The Devils,’ and there’s much to choose from, including one scene where Rudolf Nureyev is abused by a group of drunks and perverts in a jail cell, which cruelly shows up the ugliness behind Hollywood’s beautiful facade. ‘VALENTINO’ proved to be anything but a break. The long hours of rehearsals and filming were much different from his life as a dancer. Moreover, he never really gave up dancing during the shoot. He used his lunch hour to do warm-ups and when shooting moved to London, spent most of his evenings rehearsing, planning future dances and even performing. That dedication impressed the crew greatly, particularly when they shot on location in Spain, and he got up two hours before his six a.m. call to swim in the ocean.
In the end, ‘VALENTINO’  lost almost its entire $5 million investment. The film almost sunk Russell's career, sending him back to television for three years, until he made a comeback with the controlled delirium of ‘Altered States’ . In later years, he would accept most of the blame for the film's failure, reportedly walking out of a revival screening while saying, "What idiot made this?" The film also dashed Rudolph Nureyev's hopes of moving into a film career, though biographers noted that the break from dancing may have paid off. He delivered some of his best stage performances after making the film. He would also attempt one more theatrical feature, playing opposite Nastassja Kinski in James Toback's ‘Exposed’ . This sumptuously dressed recreation of Hollywood’s golden age deserves reappraisal, and this new British Film Institute 1080p HD Blu-ray disc is the way to go my friends.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The British Film Industry has brought to you a really beautiful presentation of this Blu-ray disc with the films Original Theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully presented in this gorgeous 1080p encoded image transfer. Sharpness is totally excellent throughout, and the colour is quite rich and has totally excellent flesh tones. On top of all that the contrast has been consistently maintained, and black levels are extremely very good and are now surprising of excellent quality, so all in all for a film released in 1977 the British Film Industry has done a fantastic professional job. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The British Film Industry has brought to you three audio presentations that includes 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio, 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio [Original] and 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio Isolated Music and Effects sound mix has fine fidelity, that really plays to this film's strengths. Dialogue is clearly heard throughout without any overlap or conflict between the score or sound effects. There is an appreciable sense of atmosphere to this track that allows most scenes to have plenty of space and dimensionality. Where there is a slight issue with the mix is that it's actually a bit on the quiet side of things. The mix is stable and consistent throughout so you shouldn't need to adjust your volume once you have it at a comfortable volume, it's just that you're likely going to need to have it louder than you normally would for any other film.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Presented in both High Definition [1080p] and Standard Definition.
Special Feature: Isolated Music and Effects Track.
Theatrical Trailers  [1080p] [1.78:1] [4:44] Here we are presented with two Original Theatrical Trailers for the film ‘VALENTINO,’ and they are both very good presentations.
Original TV Spots  [408i] [1.33:1] [2:30] Here we are present with four Original TV Spot Adverts for the film ‘VALENTION.’ Unfortunately the quality of these trailers is of very poor quality.
Special Feature: Tonight: Rudolph Nureyev on ‘VALENTINO’ and Ken Russell  [480i] [1.33:1] [9:32] Here we are witness to a rarely seen archive interview produced by the BBC as part of their current affairs series “Tonight” in which Rudolph Nureyev talks to writer and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy about the making of the film ‘Valentino’ and working with director Ken Russell. Ludovic Kennedy asks Rudolph Nureyev about the rumours that he did not get on with the director Ken Russell, which he is very reluctant to comment anymore on the said comments. Ludovic Kennedy also asks Rudolph Nureyev was he very nervous about his speaking parts in the film ‘VALENTINO,’ especially not being a trained actor. Ludovic Kennedy also asks Rudolph Nureyev his thoughts on his future career, especially his punishing schedule as he embarks on his work schedule in America. Originally broadcast on the 3rd October, 1977.
Special Feature: Dudley Sutton Remembers Ken Russell and filming ‘VALENTINO’  [1080p] [1.78:1] [00:00] This is a newly filmed interview with the colourful British actor Dudley Sutton in some sort of private cinema, talking about knowing the director Ken Russell when Dudley worked on the film ‘The Devils,’ and talks about ken Russell when he was very popular 1960s decade, and the first film that Dudeley appeared in was the very strange film ‘The Leather Boys’  which was directed by Sidney J. Furie, and Ken Russell liked his character in that film and that is why he wanted Dudley in the film ‘The Devils’ and he says Ken Russell and himself got on very well together, but has no idea why this was so. Dudley talks quite animated about his work on ‘The Devils’ and how he felt the male crew were like over the top misogynous dinosaurs when it came for the female cast when taking their clothes off, which Dudley hate that side of the male crew attitude when it came to the women, but nowadays a lot more women are involved in the film industry and things have got more civilised. But what I loved about Dudley is that he tells some really hilarious stories with working on films and I really laughed out loud, as he is a very outrageous funny man and will put a smile on your face and I can tell you it is really adult humour. After working on ‘The Devils’ film, Dudley got no more work and was quite angry, especially as Ken Russell went onto to make a lot more films after the notorious ‘The Devils’ film. But when Ken Russell was offered the job to direct the film ‘VALENTINO’ Dudley got a call from ken Russel to offer him a part in that film, even though it was only a small role in that film, and talks quite extensively about the scene in the prison cell, that is totally hilarious and again very adult humorous comments. Dudley also comments on how he was very keen to meet Rudolph Nureyev and how strange Dudley found him as a person when not being filmed. Dudley talks with great affection with working with the comic genius Norman Wisdom, who taught Dudley all about comic timing that Dudley never learnt at Drama School. We hear Dudley talk about Ken Russell and when Ken Russell wanted to be able to finance a film he wanted to direct, especially when Ken wanted proper built props and not ones made out of plywood, like he had built in ‘The Devils’ and ‘VALENTINO.’ But what I really liked about Dudley, is his great enthusiasm for Ken Russell, who he feels is a genius director and also comments how Ken Russell is not popular in America in general, but in Italy they think Ken Russell is the No.1 Director and love all of his films. Dudley informs us that for some unknown reason, no one will employ him for characters parts anymore in the British film industry and especially the BBC, but he gets loads of acting work in American and European films. So all in all this special feature interview with Dudley Sutton is a total joy to watch and hear his hilarious comical adult funny anecdotes, and especially on his acting career over a 60 year period and this is a definite watch.
Special Feature: Lynn Seymour remembers Rudolf Nureyev [Audio only with still]  [1080p] [8:40] The much-admired Canadian ballerina and choreographer remembers her friend Rudolph Nureyev. Recorded at the National Film Theatre in 2003, as part of the film season “Rudolph at the NFT.” Lynn Seymour talks with great affection with working with Rudolf Nureyev throughout the 1960s period, but to me it sounded like Lynn Seymour was reading from some kind of personal memoirs biography. Lynn Seymour met Rudolf Nureyev just after he defected from Russia and felt he had hit the UK just at the right time and became a huge success with the audiences who enjoyed watching ballet, especially for his very athletic performances. But we find out that when he was working in Russia, they treated him very badly, but when he defected to the West, his outrageous personality was let loose on the public and the English ballet fraternity withed they could also be outrageous like Rudolf Nureyev. When Lynn Seymour worked with Rudolf Nureyev together in London particularly, they found performing with the English ballet establishment too rigid and when Lynn Seymour and Rudolf Nureyev would go against the English ballet establishment and they did not like their forth right comments. Although it is a very short audio recording, Lynn Seymour certainly packs in a lot of insightful information on Rudolf Nureyev and especially the work she did with this ballet superstar and still misses Rudolf Nureyev very much still today, as Rudolf Nureyev was a great dancing partner, but also felt Rudolf Nureyev was a very dear and loyal friend.
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Tim Lucas: This 2015 newly produced audio commentary with Tim Lucas, is an American film critic, biographer, novelist, screenwriter, blogger, and publisher/editor of the video review magazine “Video Watchdog.” Here Tim Lucas introduces himself, where he reads out a statement from a comment Ken Russell made when he directed the film ‘VALENTINO,’ where he was not going to portray Rudolph Valentino in an accurate way, but more in a romantic scenario, and he sure did that when he made this very unique and interesting bio picture, whereas if he had made the film of the true Rudolph Valentino, Ken Russell felt it would be a much more boring film. But over the 21 weeks filming Ken Russell became weary of the process and of course as reported that when he saw the finished film, Ken felt he had failed, but I totally disagree, as I feel the film is an artistic triumph and I would be very proud if I had made the film, as I feel it is a beautiful portrayal of Rudolph Valentino. We find out that Rudolph Nureyev was originally going to be the Anthony Dowell character, but was switched at the last moment, and Rudolph Nureyev was really keen to be in the film, as he loved all of ken Russell’s films. Ken Russell was very pleased with Rudolph Nureyev performance, as Rudolph was a very keen to make his character of being Rudolph Valentino look good and realistic. Tim Lucas insists on telling us that you should view the film ‘VALENTINO’ more than once, as it has so much information to take in after just one viewing and I agree with Tim Lucas 100%. The only thing I was slightly unhappy with Tim Lucas is that he rattles off so much information on all aspects of Ken Russell and other information about the film and the historic facts about the actors in the film, it becomes a bit overwhelming to take in in one go. But I must admit that some of the in-depth information you are given is quite interesting and very fascinating, which makes watching the film an eye opener. So if I included all the information that Tim Lucas reveals, I would have no room to include all the other special features on the Blu-ray disc, so I definitely recommend you to listen to Tim Lucas and also be slightly overwhelmed in all the in-depth information you will hear, so happy viewing.
Special Feature: The Guardian Lecture: Ken Russell in conversation with Derek Malcolm [Audio only]  [1080p] [1.85:1] [88:16] An onstage interview with director Ken Russell at the National Film Theatre and the interview is conducted by the film critic Derek Malcolm on 3rd February, 1987. This is part of the regular Guardian Lecture series events and while the conversation is going on, we get to view the film ‘VALENTINO’ again. Derek Malcolm asks Ken Russell why he decided to start making films in the UK again and Ken Russell informs us it all came about because of Virgin Vison approached Ken Russell, who felt they had a lot of faith in him, especially at that particular period in time, and they sent him two scripts and one of them was for the film ‘VALENTINO.’ Ken talks about the difference in making films in Hollywood, compared to making films in the UK, especially after making ‘VALENTINO,’ because at the time the situation was very jaded and stuck in a very restrictive working atmosphere, whereas in America they have a very flexible work ethic, especially the filming goes over schedule time wise. Ken Russell talks about the making of the film ‘GOTHIC’  and the brilliant cinematographer Mike Southon, who originally started out working for the BBC. Ken Russell talks about the infighting he had with the heads of a particular studio and the film preview situation especially in America and especially if they do not like the Director and even if the film cost a lot of money and they decided to preview ‘The Devils’ film in a cinema in a Mall in downtown San Diego where uptight women lived, and of course it was a total disaster and of course ken Russell had a massive bust up with the studio executives and walked out on them. But because of a brilliant powerful American film producer named Dan Melnick got involved with ‘The Devils’ film and organised another preview at a cinema in Westwood in California where students hang out to see films and it was a massive success, but despite this, the heads of the studio said it was too long and because Ken Russell had no control in America, they butchered ‘The Devils’ film and ruined it, but luckily when viewed in Europe they saw the full film and was an immediate success. Ken Russell talks about the film ‘Crimes of Passion’ and the battle with the American Censors and would only give it an “X” Certificate, because of their narrow minded attitude, and of course ruined its chance of success in America, where as in Europe and especially the UK, it was given an “A” Certificate, and that is why it was a big hit is Europe and the UK. Ken Russell gives great praise to the British Film Censors and the more mature attitude towards his films and especially the nude wrestling scene in ‘Women in Love’ and also with certain sexual scenes in the film ‘Crimes of Passion,’ and with some creative artistic editing made ‘Crimes of Passion’ even more erotic that Ken Russell thought possible. In Ken Russell’s early youth he was given a Pathé projector for a present and saw all the early German silent films, and would also do film shows in the Second World War to friends and neighbours and was big hit with everyone. Ken Russell talks in great detail with his work with the BBC and working on the “MONITOR” TV series over a 10 year period, and found it quite stimulating and gave him a good working practice in directing films in his later life. When we get to the question and answer session with the audience, and as usual with these National Film Theatre recordings, you can only just about hear the audience asking Ken Russell the questions and some of the replies Ken Russell gives to the audience are totally fascinating, but someone asks Ken Russell what modern film has made the greatest impression on him and that film was ‘The Stunt Man’  and gives great to the brilliant director Richard Rush and I second that praise for such a brilliant film. So ends another fascinating interview session was totally brilliant and very funny and I could listen to Ken Russell all night long and gets a five star rating from me.
Special Feature: Textless Opening and Closing Credits  [1080p] [1.85:1] [4:12] This particular extra is a very strange viewing experience, because what we get to view is the start of the film that had all the text, but here it is just viewing the start of the film and then it goes to the end of the film, again without the credits and the whole thing is totally silent, so I cannot work out what was the point of doing it and especially including it in with the special features and is the most peculiar and strange this I have ever witnessed.
Special Feature: ‘VALENTINO’ Stills and Special Collections Gallery [Audio only with stills]  [1080p] [9:30] Here we get view newly edited gallery presenting original production stills, publicity material and other ephemera items relating to the film ‘VALENTINO.’ But what is really nice about this presentation is that your get the beautiful music film score in the background.
Special Feature: The Funeral of Rudolph Valentino  [1080i] [1.33:1] [9:00] Here we get to see the actual black-and-white Newsreel footage capturing the dramatic scenes from Rudolph Valentino’s funeral in New York. Newly transferred to 1080p High definition for this Blu-ray release. When you get the insert titles informing you what you are viewing, the quality is totally atrocious, but the actual newsreel you view is in quite good condition. But most strange of all, it is completely silent, what a shame they could not of used the music score for the 1977 film in the background.
PLUS: Beautiful designed printed reversible Blu-ray cover.
BONUS: A beautiful fully illustrated 18 page booklet entitled “VALENTINO – A Film by Ken Russell.” Inside we have a very detail essay entitled “VALENTINO” by Paul Sutton. Other items of interest are “VALENTINO CREDITS;” “SPECIAL FEATURES;” “KEN RUSSELL [1927-2011];” “ABOUT THE PRESENTATION;” “ACKNOWLEGMENTS” and lots of wonderful rare black-and-white images from the film.
Finally, so what can one say about the film ‘VALENTINO,’ well I thought it was totally brilliant and is an absolutely an ambitious production, to say the least. I cannot understand why ken Russell said, “the film as the biggest mistake of his career,” as I think he did a brilliant job all round and cannot also understand why the critics slatted it, as it is a really beautiful film and well executed. As an added bonus it features a talented cast who are worked very hard in the film and I thought Felicity Kendal did one of her best performances so far and it also had an impressive production design, and I thought Rudolph Nureyev did a brilliant job of portraying the life and times of Rudolph Valentino, but I can also see why Rudolph Nureyev never went onto do another films, but the only negative part of the film was the over the top camp performance of the actress Leslie Caron, who acted so appalling and did the worst performance of her life and did not seem like a real character, more like a cardboard cut up with a totally wooden performance. One thing no one has mentioned is that how uncanny that Rudolph Valentino and Rudolph Nureyev have the same Christina Name, very weird. The British Film Industry has brought out the film to a stunning Blu-ray, and especially with a strong A/V presentation, which is far superior to anything produced by the Kino Lorber company in America and of course the British Region B/2 Blu-ray disc release has a host of totally fascinating extras features and the bonus of a beautiful designed booklet. This film ‘VALENTINO’ that has now been released on this Blu-ray release is a must purchase. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom