Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Gilbert, Eleanor Boardman, Roy D'Arcy, Lionel Belmore, Emily Fitzroy, Estelle Taylor, Robert McKim, William V. Mong, Virginia Brown Faire
Written by: Dorothy Farnum, Alexander Salvini, Bernard McConville, Charles Fechter
Directed by: King Vidor, Emmett J. Flynn
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 185
Date: 03/18/2013

John Gilbert: Bardelys the Magnificent & Monte Cristo (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Swords and Kisses

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Gilbert (1897-1936) wasn't as strong a swashbuckler as Fairbanks, nor as strong a lover as Valentino, but he had a little of both qualities, and he was quite good in his own right. He was a major star in his day, but he died young, from the bottle, and today if he's known at all, he's known as one of the parade of men with whom Garbo wiped the screen. (He can be seen in Flesh and the Devil and Queen Christina). Now a new two-disc DVD set from Flicker Alley hopes to set the record straight. It contains two films originally thought lost and newly restored, and though they're very different films and each showcases the star in a different way, they're both vastly entertaining. Monte Cristo (1922) is of course based on Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo," and it's a full-blooded adventure, a deeply-felt telling of one of the greatest revenge stories. Gilbert plays the double-crossed Edmond Dantes, wrongly imprisoned for 20 years and thought dead; instead he comes into a fortune and brilliantly exacts his revenge. The film feels a bit truncated in its second half, but I'm not sure if this is a result of the filmmaking or of the condition of the single, worn print that served as the basis for this new restoration. Better still is Bardelys the Magnificent (1926), which boasts the celebrated King Vidor as its director, as well as a much snappier pace and lighter tone. Gilbert plays the title character, a happy womanizer who accepts a bet that he can't woo a particularly difficult female conquest; of course there's the usual mistaken identity and genuine romance, but told with never-ending bravado and good cheer. One major section of the film has been restored using stills. Flicker Alley's superb set also comes with a commentary track for Bardelys the Magnificent, a featurette with Gilbert's daughter, photo galleries and other goodies.

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