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With: Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Edythe Chapman, Alec B. Francis, Robert Bolder, Gertrude Astor, Mabel Van Buren, Helen Dunbar, Raymond Brathwayt, Frank R. Butler, June Elvidge
Written by: Jack Cunningham, based on a novel by Elinor Glyn
Directed by: Sam Wood
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80
Date: 05/07/1922

Beyond the Rocks (1922)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Silent Yearning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Beyond the Rocks is not the world's greatest movie, but the fact that it exists at all makes it one of the most exciting DVDs of 2006. This pairing of box office giants Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino -- a rare practice in its day -- was thought lost until it was discovered in a vault in the Netherlands just a few years ago. Now it has been restored, given a terrific new score and released for all to see.

Swanson plays young, beautiful Theodora, dedicated to her penniless father, Captain Fitzgerald (Alec B. Francis). To save him and her two stepsisters from ruin, she agrees to marry the much older, and wealthy Josiah Brown (Robert Bolder). At the same time, the dashing playboy Lord Hector Bracondale (Valentino) saves her from drowning and falls madly in love with her. (He also rescues her from a tumble over the side of a mountain). While he pines for her, she stoically remains dedicated to her husband, though she actually returns his love. That's about it -- it's romantic fluff at its finest.

Director Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera, The Pride of the Yankees) was a competent studio man and he turns in a solid film without much artistic personality. The story comes from Elinor Glyn, who was very popular in her day and would later create the "It"-girl sensation with Clara Bow and It (1927). The real reason to see this is to savor the chemistry between two of cinema's greatest stars, and of course to celebrate one more puzzle piece brought back from the brink of oblivion.

DVD Details: Milestone has released the film to a new DVD. It's a beautiful, sharp print with much of the dirt and scratches corrected, even if a few short sequences are beyond repair. There are two musical scores. The 5.1 score comes, for some reason, with sound effects. Thankfully, the 2.0 score only includes minimal sound effects, and is far preferable. Otherwise, the disc comes with a surprising number of extras, including a second, if minor, film from Valentino's resume: The Delicious Little Devil (1919). There are also several featurettes about the restoration and scoring of Beyond the Rocks, trailers for other Valentino films, a stills gallery and an audio recording of an interview with Swanson (which can be played opposite the film). The DVD-Rom side comes with a wealth of stuff, including a script, the original novel, press kits and clippings and other goodies. Martin Scorsese provides a video introduction.

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