THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921)
Article 4717 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Rex Ingram
Featuring Rudolph Valentino, Josef Swickard, Alice Terry
What it is: War movie
The two daughters of a wealthy Argentine rancher each marry a European; one a Frenchman and the other a German. After the death of the rancher, the husbands take their respective families back to their European homes. Then World War One breaks out, and they find themselves on opposite sides…
Given that this is a movie about WW1 rather than about the apocalypse, it’s no surprise that the title is meant to be interpreted metaphorically rather than literally. Nevertheless, the movie does give the horseman a visual representation, as well as the Beast that spawns them, and therein lies the fantastic content of this movie. To add to that content, we have the appearance of a ghost at one point (though it may be one character’s imagination), and there’s also the chance of some mystical content; a specific character may be a Christ figure, or possibly Christ himself.
As for the movie, it’s quite understandable why the Apocalypse would be invoked to represent the nastiness of World War 1, which was one of the most brutal and senseless wars in recorded history. The movie is most famous for having made a star of Rudolph Valentino, who is well cast as the libertine son of the Frenchman who finds he can no longer stand aloof from the conflict when he is on the verge of losing the woman he loves. The movie mostly focuses on his character as well as that of his father, who fled from France when he refused to serve in the military during a previous conflict; the movie focuses on the life lessons they must learn. It’s an excellent movie, well acted by all, and it has several memorable scenes. There are several other familiar names in the cast; Alan Hale plays the German father, Wallace Beery plays a German soldier, and Noble Johnson pops up as Conquest, one of the four horsemen. This one is recommended.