Almost twenty years after Paramount released its smash hit silent version of Vincente Blasco Ibanez’s Blood and Sand, 20th Century Fox produced a sound and Technicolor remake. For their production, Fox hired the most painterly of directors (Rouben Mamoulian) and cast as their smoldering leading man, Fox’s top matinee idol Tyrone Power to compete with the memories of the silent version’s Rudolph Valentino in one of his most popular roles. The result was a big box-office hit and an Oscar for the film’s majestic and vivid cinematography.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 5 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/09/2013
Fiery, impetuous Juan (Rex Downing, Tyrone Power as an adult) dreams of only two things: becoming a world famous matador and coming back to Seville to marry his childhood sweetheart Carmen Espinosa (Ann Todd, Linda Darnell as an adult). It takes ten years of inching his way up the toreador ladder in Madrid for Juan to even get noticed, but his wild, unbridled technique in the ring wins the crowds’ favor and within two years he’s at the top of the game as the most celebrated bullfighter in Madrid. Despite a happy marriage to Carmen, Juan’s head is turned by the brash, sophisticated Dona Sol (Rita Hayworth), and he deserts his home life to live openly with her despite warnings of her fickle nature and her tendency to discard lovers as soon as the next rising star makes an appearance.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
The original 1922 Blood and Sand ran a compact eighty minutes, exactly right for such a slim story, but Jo Swerling’s screenplay pads the slender tale into over two hours, and despite the gorgeous color and the stunning looks of its three leads, the film sags in the middle once Juan achieves tremendous success in the bullring and is riding high. The film’s first twenty-two minutes show us Juan’s early years where the cocky youth sneaks into corrals to fight bulls and cracks a smarmy critic (Laird Cregar) over the head with a bottle for saying something negative about his late father, a former celebrated bullfighter, and the tug-of-war between Juan’s noble wife and his vampish mistress couldn’t be more predictable. On the other hand, director Rouben Mamoulian has used the work of Spanish artists like Goya and El Greco to aid his painterly approach to the film’s expert use of light and shadows: its chiaroscuro-like motifs and striking color cinematography that remain the movie’s most salient feature. He also does a good job blending Tyrone Power’s studio bullring work with actual bullfighting done on location (he even gets some point of view shots from the bull’s eyes that are most effective).
You’ll look hard and long to find a feature film with three more gorgeous leading players; the fact that they give solid if unexceptional performances is quite beside the point. Tyrone Power does well as the man-child at the mercy of his whims and quite in over his head once he starts mixing with the swells of Madrid. Linda Darnell is full of earnestness as the loving wife who never gives up hope that her husband will return to her. Rita Hayworth on loan from Columbia (and it must have been galling to Darryl Zanuck to have to pay Columbia five times her normal salary in order to borrow her when he could have had her under his own studio contract had he not dismissed her from Fox in 1937) is all flashing eyes and teeth as the “other woman.” She looks magnificently wild tossing her red hair around (though she does about as poor a job miming guitar playing as it’s possible to imagine; one wonders why something wasn’t said to her about it) and proves to be a glib rather than swaggering home wrecker. The film’s best performance is given by legendary silent screen star Alla Nazimova as Juan’s loving but sensible mother. Herself a renowned stage actress, the microphone held no qualms for her, and she’s magnificent throughout. Laird Cregar’s viperish journalist is a bit over-the-top as he practically orgasms during various bull fights, and Lynn Bari as Juan’s self-involved, leech-like sister likewise pushes too forcefully for effect. Much better are J. Carrol Naish as a once-celebrated matador now reduced to serving as Juan’s valet, John Carradine as Juan’s friend Nacional who actually dislikes bull fighting but enjoys the fame it brings him, and Anthony Quinn as Juan’s once friend-now rival Manolo de Palma whose star rises as Juan’s begins to fade. George Reeves makes a brief appearance as one of Dona Sol’s castoff lovers.
The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully presented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Fox’s engineers have done a masterful job resuscitating as much as they can the Technicolor look to the film since the original three-strip negatives were discarded decades ago. They’re not always successful: flesh tones can sometimes appear a little chalky, and color while solid sometimes seems less than lustrous. But sharpness is excellent throughout, and contrast is usually beautifully consistent. Black levels can be superb at their best, and shadow detail is strong, most important in a film that emphasizes its shadows. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix will surprise you with its vivid fidelity. Dialogue is always easy to understand and has been mixed perfectly with the film’s sound effects and Alfred Newman’s stalwart score with all working in perfect harmony with the others. What’s more, age-related artifacts like hiss, crackle, pops, and flutter do not pose much of a problem.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: Richard Crudo, a celebrated director of photography, offers a rather disappointing commentary track. Don’t expect to be given any biographical information about the players, director, or a production history of the film. He analyzes the film purely on the basis of its cinematography and lighting, but along the way he offers up several notable mistakes in facts and a lack of knowledge about other aspects of the history of color cinematography. For example, he states In Cold Blood was the last winner of the black and white cinematography Academy Award before the two were combined into a single category; actually Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf the previous year was the last winner in the separate black and white category; In Cold Blood was nominated – but lost – when the two categories were combined the following year (Bonnie and Clyde won). He calls Black Narcissus a 1950s film. He doesn’t seem to know the history of Technicolor’s Natalie Kalmus and her contract stipulation to have her name in the credits of all Technicolor films, nor does he seem to know that it was a requirement for studios then to hire a Technicolor cameraman like Ray Rennahan if they used Technicolor whether they used the cameraman or not.
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Blood and Sand looks and sounds as good as it possibly can in this latest Blu-ray release in the Fox Studio Classics line. While the audio commentary is a disappointment and the lack of other bonus material for a film this notable is a letdown, the transfer itself is certainly worthy of praise.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: