Fox // 1941 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Matt Dicker (Retired) // July 24th, 2013
One glance at the cover art, with its arresting black and white image of Tyrone Power mid-bullfight with a crimson red cape, tells you all you need to know about this release from Fox: they have a put a lot of care into producing this Blu-ray. Though the film has been denied the full treatment of a release full of bonus features and a stereo remastering, what is on the disc is beautifully produced and a generous effort on behalf of a good if unspectacular movie best remembered for its beautiful visuals and rich colors.
Juan Gallardo (Tyrone Power, Witness for the Prosecution) dreams of becoming a great matador as he grows up poor and illiterate in Seville. After achieving a small degree of success in the bullfighting ring, Gallardo returns to Seville to shower his newfound wealth on his family and to marry Carmen (Linda Darnell, A Letter to Three Wives), the object of his affection since childhood. As his fame continues to grow and he becomes the greatest matador in Spain, Gallardo is drawn to Dona Sol (Rita Hayworth, Cover Girl), a wealthy temptress who leads Gallardo away from his family and dedication to bullfighting. As Manolo (Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life) begins to emerge as the next great bullfighter as Gallardo's fame dims, Gallardo must contend with losing everything important to him and fight one last bullfight to prove his greatness.
Though he had not a drop of Spanish blood in him, Tyrone Power was the actor Hollywood turned to when they needed a well known face in a Spanish role, casting him as a Spaniard in such films as Captain from Castile and The Mark of Zorro. In casting the bullfighting film Blood and Sand, it only made sense that director Rouben Mamoulian would turn to Power to play the star matador Juan Gallardo, particularly since the two had worked together the previous year on The Mark of Zorro.
Blood and Sand, a straightforward rise and fall story, would succeed or fail based largely on the performance of the actor in the lead role, and Power is more than credible as the star bullfighter. Power explodes onto the screen with a burst of magnetism from the moment he appears, and he is entirely convincing as the star matador. Power, who was sometimes dismissed as relying entirely on his looks, has long been underrated for just how engaging of a star he was, and Blood and Sand is one of the best examples of Power as a sort of proto-Clooney.
The plot of the film is definitely on the thin side, but the modern appeal of Blood and Sand comes less from the plot than from the lovely Technicolor visuals. I can take or leave most of the Technicolor work done in the early 1940s. At its worst it could be an oversaturated nightmare without any subtly or distinction, but at its best there is little that compares, and the 1080p transfer brings to life Mamoulian's direction and the color cinematography that won Ernest Palmer and Ray Rennahan the Academy Award. It is a shame this movie was made before the widespread re-adoption of widescreen aspect ratios, but even in 1.37:1 there is plenty of room for the beauties of Technicolor to shine through. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 is perfectly clean and as good a rendition as one could hope for without a full remastering. Blood and Sand is the type of film that would have greatly benefitted from a fuller audio experience, but the sound is clean and free from any problems.
Aside from the visual beauty of the film, the film's biggest assets are the performances of Anthony Quinn and Rita Hayworth. Quinn, just five years into his film career and still relatively unknown, is compelling as the young matador challenging Gallardo's greatness, and though Powers has solid chemistry with Hayworth, Quinn's chemistry with the actress is downright steamy. Hayworth is stuck with a dud of a character, a temptress with zero depth, but as usual she makes the most of it and makes it easy to see why someone would stray from Linda Darnell, no easy feat.
There are also a few nice moments of Power as matador in the film, and thankfully Mamoulian spares the audience from the less appealing aspects of bullfighting. These scenes are too delicate, however, void of the danger and fear present in the sport.
A less impressively produced Blu-ray would have made Blood and Sand an easily forgettable Tyrone Power romance, but Fox's careful preservation of this film highlights all of its best qualities.
Blood and Sand is an enjoyable movie with solid performances and a
decent story, but the striking visuals make this film worth watching. Fox has
done a commendable job in preserving these visuals for the Blu-ray release, and
the film is faithfully captured in its Technicolor beauty.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1941
MPAA Rating: Not Rated