The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) Director: Rex Ingram
In returning to the silent era films after a brief respite, we find a monumental epic of cinematic history. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse tells the story of an Argentinian family of diverse roots as they grow and move to France before being split apart on opposite ends of the war, World War I. It is based on the popular novel by Vincente Blasco Ibanez. It is the greatest film completed by Irish director, Rex Ingram. It was one of the first film to gross more than $1,000,000 at the box office and is still in the top six highest grossing films of all time.
The film is notable for its explosive scenes of the battle of the Marne in France during the great war, and also an early scene of tango dancing in which Rudolph (Rudy) Valentino, a relatively unknown actor, became instantly a popular icon and one of Western cinema’s first sex symbols. However, as a young man his publicity got away from him. At one point, Ingram caught the press snapping photos of him behind the lot as he posed on a horse, however the saddle mistakenly on backwards. He appeared in several more films before collapsing due to appendicitis-like symptoms and ulcers that killed him shortly, thereafter.
The screenplay was written by Judith Mathis who had a fascination with apocalyptic symbolism from the Book of Revelation. During the film, the actors spoke French to appear more authentic to lip readers.
The film is a worthwhile endeavor, an early epic classic. However, film lovers should note its length and seemingly endless story-telling. It runs the risk of losing a grip on the modern mind, although it is a good film worth watching for lovers of classic cinema.