Movie Review

The Eagle

The original matinee idol.
The Eagle Movie Poster

US Release Date: 11-08-1925

Directed by: Clarence Brown


  • Rudolph Valentino
  • The Black Eagle
  • Louise Dresser
  • The Czarina, Catherine II
  • Vilma Banky
  • Miss Mascha Troekouroff
  • Albert Conti
  • Captain Kuschka
  • James A. Marcus
  • Kyrilla Troekouroff
  • George Nichols
  • Judge
  • Gary Cooper
  • Masked Cossack
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: November 8th, 2001
The Eagle is lightweight but highly entertaining silent cinema featuring the incredibly photogenic Rudolph Valentino.

The Eagle is lightweight but highly entertaining silent cinema featuring the incredibly photogenic Rudolph Valentino.

The Eagle is lightweight but highly entertaining silent cinema featuring the incredibly photogenic Rudolph Valentino.

In this one he plays a swashbuckling Russian officer charged with desertion after rejecting the advances of the matronly Czarina, Catherine The Great. He returns to his village in time to watch his now destitute father die. He plots revenge against the man responsible for cheating his father of his fortune and avenges his death by donning a mask and becoming 'The Black Eagle' a combination Zorro and Robin Hood who steals from the wealthy and gives to the poor.

The one thing he didn't count on was falling in love with his enemies beautiful and enchanting daughter (Vilma Banky). Of course this complicates things and leads to an interesting series of events as our hero battles between his hatred of the father and his love for the daughter.

Clarence Brown, who went on to great success with many Greta Garbo pictures and classics such as The Yearling and National Velvet, directs with a masterful eye. This movie is quite exquisite to look at.

Louise Dresser gives a regal performance as Catherine II, Russell Simpson, who is best remembered for his role as Pa Joad in John Ford's brilliant The Grapes of Wrath, has a small role as The Black Eagle's first Lieutenant and film legend Gary Cooper appears in a bit part.

This one is worth seeing for the great chemistry between Valentino and Banky; together they light up the silver screen.

Reviewed on: December 17th, 2011
Vilma Banky and Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle.

Vilma Banky and Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle.

You can definitely see echoes of Robin Hood in this story, but Zorro even more. While the idea is there though, the story isn't executed nearly so well as versions of either one of those have been. Valentino also lacks Fairbanks charm and physical ability. The result is an inferior ripoff of stuff we've seen before and no amount of star power makes up for it.

Louise Dresser is great as the Czarina, but I don't think I would call her regal. She's sexually aggressive in a way that the Hays Code would never allow, treating her officers as her personal harem, promising them promotion in exchange for sexual favors.

It is the Eagle's rejection of her advances that starts the story. When he returns to his home village he meets the man who swindled his father out of his property and this man becomes the villain of the film, but he's no match for the Eagle. They should have kept the Czarina as the villain. She is easily a match for him, signing death warrants like she's signing autographs.

Perhaps it's because they wanted to please Valentino's female fans, but the story spends too much time on the romance angle rather than on the Eagle's revenge plans or criminal exploits. The big moment of tension comes when he is trapped in a cellar with a bear. In another nod to the female fans comes though when he is rescued by the distraction Mischa, his love interest.

The ending is also a bit of a let down. Rather than allowing the Eagle to get his revenge, the script delivers an anticlimactic moral lesson.

At least at just over an hour the pacing moves quickly enough. Still, overall and despite the presence of Valentino and Banky, this one's a bit of a let down.

Reviewed on: December 18th, 2011
Nothing sexual going on here.

Nothing sexual going on here.

I agree Scott, the Czarina is the best character.  This horny old Queen kills any man who does not have sex with her.  It reminded me of Mel Brooks's French King in The History of the World:  Part One.  "Hump or death?"  I like the part when the Czarina has Valentino kneel in front of her and kiss her hand, which is at crotch level.  He starts to stand up but she pushes him back down while throwing her head back as if in the throes of passion.  The innuendo is obvious.

Valentino's charm has always been lost on me.  His feminine/boyish look puts me off.  What is it with women falling for these types of guys?  He was Hollywood's first metrosexual.  He wears his black military hat slightly cocked to one side.  His jacket is often as long as a dress.  When he wears a mask and we can only see his mouth and chin he looks very much like a woman.  The only sign of his masculinity is his long sideburns.

There are some moments of charm, such as when Valentino runs back into Vilma Banky.  He wants to give her a ride while she would rather walk.  When robbing a man on a horse pulling a donkey, the Eagle  lifts him off his horse, takes his money and then sends him riding off on his ass.

Both my brothers made comparisons between the Eagle and Zorro.  Valentino would have made a great Zorro.  Don Diego de Vega often kept people from thinking he was the dashing Zorro by pretending to be gay.  Valentino could have played Zorro in his sleep.

I had often heard of Vilma Banky, from books and her mention in Sunset Blvd, but this was the first film I had ever seen her in.   She was not only attractive, but she gave good face.  The first time she lays eyes on Valentino we only see her wide eyes staring at him.  It is all we need to see to know what she is thinking.  Also,check out the scene where she has the pistol and hands it to Valentino. There is some serious sexual tension going on there.  Patrick is right.  Valentino and Banky had great chemistry.

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