13 December 2005 | Snow Leopard
Interesting Drama, Highlighted By Naldi & By One Of Valentino's Better Roles
Although in many ways "Blood and Sand" looks rather old-fashioned now, it's still an interesting drama. It gives Rudolph Valentino one of his better roles, and it is also highlighted by an effective supporting performance from Nita Naldi. The subject matter has some substance to it, and it still holds up well enough despite being handled occasionally in a somewhat heavy-handed manner.
In playing the bullfighter Gallardo, Valentino gets a character with some depth to it. The story follows him as he first struggles to achieve fame and respect, and then struggles in dealing with the side-effects of fame, fortune, and popularity. Naldi's role is memorable, and from her first appearance she makes her manipulative vamp character physically desirable but an obvious source of danger. Valentino does a good job playing off of her, and even without the benefit of spoken dialogue it is easy to see the struggle and self-reproach taking place inside of him.
The themes have a significance that go beyond the original setting. In itself, the criticisms of bullfighting and of what it reveals about human nature, while generally quite valid, are put forth without any subtlety. The inter-titles and the obvious parallels between Gallardo and the notorious criminal Plumitas repeatedly emphasize the same points that the action itself could have made well enough on its own. But that's one of the few weaknesses of "Blood and Sand". And the more general point, its depiction of how easy it is for crowds to be thrilled with violence, is well-taken.
The one other noticeable shortcoming is that the bullring scenes are now often unconvincing. It is laudable, of course, that the film-makers were willing to sacrifice realism so as to avoid being cruel to the animals, so this particular aspect of the movie should be evaluated generously. Present-day technology would certainly have made it much simpler to achieve both goals.
Although the style might make it mostly of interest to those who are already silent movie fans, there is still more than enough of interest to make this worth seeing. The story is simple, but it has some worthwhile aspects. Naldi provides something striking to look at, and Valentino gets to show what he can do with a role that has some possibilities to it.