Vincente Minnelli

T. it.: I quattro cavalieri dell’Apocalisse; Sog.: dal romanzo “Los cuatro jinetes del Apocalipsis” (1916) di Vicente Blasco Ibáñez; Scen.: Robert Ardrey, John Gay; F.: Milton Krasner; Mo.: Adrienne Fazan, Ben Lewis; Scgf.: George W. Davis, Urie McCleary, Elliot Scott; Cost.: René Hubert, Walter Plunkett, Orry-Kelly (abiti aggiuntivi per Ingrid Thulin); Modelli dei quattro cavalieri: Tony Duquette; Mu.: André Previn; Eff. Spec.: A. Arnold Gillespie, Lee LeBlanc, Robert R. Hoag; Int.: Glenn Ford (Julio Desnoyers), Ingrid Thulin (Marguerite Laurier), Charles Boyer (Marcelo Desnoyers), Lee J. Cobb (Julio Madariaga), Paul Henreid (Étienne Laurier), Paul Lukas (Karl von Hartrott), Yvette Mimieux (Chi-Chi Desnoyers), Karlheinz Böhm (Heinrich von Hartrott), Prod.: Julian Blaustein per Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 35mm. D.: 153’. Col.


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes


By coincidence, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse opened in New York City two days after L’Année dernière à Marienbad. Bosley Crowther in the New York Times promised viewers of Resnais’ conundrum “the extreme and abnormal stimulation of a complete cinematic experience”. Minnelli, using different ends and means, offered another extreme experience. You watch a master stylist in the act of camouflage, lavishing his arts of colour design and decorative fancy on material short of reality and heart.

The English translation of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s Spanish novel topped American best-seller lists in 1919, with its half-romantic, half-gritty story of cousins fated to fight on opposite sides in the First World War; the 1921 movie version, with Valentino, only prolonged its popularity. By the late 1950s MGM was in remake mode; it first laid plans for a new Apocalypse in 1958, while Wyler’s Ben-Hur was taking shape. With recent First World War subjects a flop, the studio insisted on updating the story to the Second World War, where it fitted badly. Casting helped to turn some characters into the director’s puppets, perfect for forming a striking composition or blending into a special effect. Glenn Ford was not the 1960 equivalent of Valentino (Minnelli wanted Alain Delon), but he was a name, and under contract. Ingrid Thulin, as the love interest, offered her own challenges; most of her lines were dubbed by Angela Lansbury. “If the picture was to be made,” Minnelli recalled, “I decided it should be as stunning visually as I could make it.” Through the year-long shoot he didn’t stint himself. He styled the film as a symphony in red; the colour even washes over injections of black-and-white newsreel material. All chances for atmosphere are indulged, from misty moonlight walks along the Seine to an Argentine fiesta quite as gaudy as Carmen Miranda. And everything is posed in CinemaScope: the perfect shape to catch the Horsemen (Conquest, War, Pestilence, Death) thundering symbolically across the screen.

“He expresses admirably the poetry of things,” wrote the critic of Le Monde. He could have added that Minnelli, unlike Resnais in Marienbad, actually made a baroque extravagance that one can understand.

Geoff Brown


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