Michelle Phillips & Penelope Milford in “Valentino” [1977 UK/USA]

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Ken Russell’s 1977 biopic of dancer/silent film star Rudolph Valentino is a mixed bag, artistically speaking – there are flashes of brilliance, while some scenes are rather pedestrian. However, the costumes and art direction contribute heavily towards making this a sumptuous film.

Rudolph Nureyev, playing the eponymous part was perhaps underutilised for the fine dancer that he was – the choreography should have been even more spectacular (baring one number at the beginning of the film which amply displays his virtuosity in Tango). His Italian accent sounded ridiculous – Nureyev is after all Russian. A lot of effort had gone into set design, which is great to look at, but also a bit overdone – which may be because a lot of these were recreations of the Hollywood sets used in the Valentino’s original films. I haven’t seen any of Rudolph Valentino’s films, and therefore unable to verify.

Set in 1920’s New York, it follows parts of his career, but focusing mainly on his reputation as the Latin Lover. While ‘the Sheik’ had enjoyed huge popularity among his female audience, some men thought he was plain gay. He goes out of his way to prove his machismo, which apparently also contributes to his early death – he was only thirty one.

Anyway, the film didn’t do much for me, but it has a couple of copious nude scenes involving Michelle Phillips who plays his third wife Natasha, and Penelope Milford who plays Lorna, one of Valentino’s co-stars – which is the only reason for this post.


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