Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 21st, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1977
Director: Ken Russell
Writers: Ken Russell, Mardik Martin
Cast: Rudolf Nureyev, Leslie Caron, Michelle Phillips, Carol Kane, Felicity Kendal, Seymour Cassel, Linda Thorson, Leland Palmer, Peter Vaughan, Penelope Milford, William Hootkins, Jennie Linden, Percy Herbert, Bill McKinney, Richard LeParmentier, Anthony Forrest, John Ratzenberger
BluRay released: February 29th, 2016
Approximate running time: 128 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Stereo English, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: BFI
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK)
Valentino was co-written and directed by Ken Russell whose other notable films include, Women in Love, The Music Lovers, The Devils and Tommy. Key collaborators on Valentino include screenwriter Mardik Martin (Mean Streets, Raging Bull), cinematographer Peter Suschitzky (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dead Ringers) and costume designer Shirley Russell (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Reds).
The narrative mostly consists of flashback’s, where one of Valentino’s many former lovers recalls their life with him. And though this type of storytelling is reminiscent of films like Citizen Kane. This is where the similarities end, since this film adds an ingenious twist in the way they information is presented. Instead of having a monotone protagonist that remain the same throughout. Each person as they recall Valentino present a man that is distinctively different then the way the others remember him.
From a production stand point there is not an area where this film does not deliver and then some. The production design does a remarkable job recreating the era in which this film takes place. Also pacing is never an issue as this film does a great job letting each new revelation sink in before moving on to the next revelation. Another strength of this film are its stylish visuals. With this film’s signature moment visually being a scene where Valentino has recently returned from a Mexico and he is arrested for illegally crossing the border. In this scene the sheriff antagonizes Valentino who has been put in a cell with sexual deviants.
Performance the cast are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s most surprising performance coming from Rudolf Nureyev’s, in the role of Valentino. Other notable cast members include, Michelle Phillips (Dillinger) in the role of Natasha Rambova and William Hootkins (Flash Gordon) in the role of silent film icon Fatty Arbuckle.
Far too often biographical films are sanitized version of the reality from they are based on. With too much of focus being shifted towards the superficial aspects of the events being retold. Fortunately, there are filmmakers like Ken Russell who refuses to take this all to familiar approach. And nowhere is this more glaring then how he presents the events which unfold in this film. Instead of just filling in the blanks of someone’s life. He is more concerned with capturing the essence of the man.
Valentino comes on a 50 GB dual layer (41.6 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this releases transfer is the same one used for Kino Lorber’s recently released Blu-Ray release for Region A. The image looks crisp, colors are nicely saturated, black and contrast levels remain strong throughout. Also Grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with three audio options, a LPCM stereo mix in English, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM music and effects track. All of the audio mixes included with this release are in great shape. Range and depth wise things sound very good, dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. And though the differences between the mono and stereo mix are minimal. With the slight edge goes to the mono mix. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, original T.V. spots (2 minutes 30 seconds), original trailers (4 minutes 45 seconds), Valentino stills and collections gallery, textless opening and closing credits (4 minutes 14 seconds), The Funeral of Valentino (8 minutes 44 seconds), three interviews – ‘Tonight: Rudolf Nureyev on Valentino and Ken Russell’ (9 minutes 33 seconds), “Dudley Sutton Remembers Ken Russel and filming Valentino’ (21 minutes 24 seconds) and ‘Lynn Seymour Remembers Rudolf Nureyev’ (8 minutes 40 seconds), ‘The Guardian Lecture: Ken Russell in Conversation with Derek Malcom’ (88 minutes 18 seconds) and an audio commentary track with film critic Tim Lucas.
Topics discussed in the interview with Rudolf Nureyev include, why he took on the role of Valentino, working with Ken Russell, his thoughts about his co-star Michelle Philips, his acting / dancing plans for the future and his hectic work scheduled. Other topics covered include Russia and his mother who still lives there.
Topics discussed in the vintage interview with Dudley Sutton include, the first time he encountered Ken Russell, how he background prepared him for his career as an actor, working on The Devils and the controversy that has surrounded the film to this date, Valentino and his portray of a sex manic named Willie, Ken Russell’s filmmaker process and other production related topics.
The extra titled ‘The Guardian Lecture: Ken Russell in Conversation with Derek Malcom’ is an audio recording that plays over the film like an audio commentary track. Topics discussed in this extra include, the differences between making films in Hollywood verse the UK, the advantages of working with nonunion crew’s, the American ratings system for cinema and how he has director’s cut for the majority of his films outside of America, directing theatre productions, film project’s that never came to fruition and what his favorite film that he directed.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary track with Tim Lucas include, how Valentino was one of the few films that Ken Russell had complete control / director’s cut, background on the characters and information about the cast, the screenplay and how Russell worked on it for a year, a quick overview of Ken Russell’s legacy as a filmmaker and key sequences are discussed in depth.
Rounding out the extras is a sixteen-page booklet with an essay about the film titled ‘Valentino’ written by Paul Sutton, cast & crew information, a bio for Ken Russell and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Valentino gets a solid release from BFI.