The French poet-patriot Francois Villon enters a battle of wits with King Louis XI and fights to save his beloved in this exciting and romantic adventure. An enormous production with lavish sets and costumes, this swashbuc... more »kling story features a vibrant performance by the great John Barrymore. It also marks the American film debut of German film star Conrad Veidt, who would go on to play unforgettable roles in classics like "Casablanca" and "The Thief of Bagdad."« less
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 08/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the exception of two earlier films, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920) and The Sea Beast (1926), THE BELOVED ROGUE is more a personal statement by its star, John Barrymore, than any film he ever made. Designed as a romp through 15th century Paris (in a snowstorm, no less), ROGUE is both inventive and bizarre as Barrymore's Gothic tastes were given free rein by United Artists.
The actor specifically wanted to avoid the "Hollywood" type of situations where the hero rescues the heroine and both live happily ever after. Despite the film's inventiveness, the plot eventually works itself out along the more traditional lines that Barrymore wanted to avoid like the plague. It was said that he was unhappy with the finished product but many years after his death, when ROGUE was considered a lost film, a subsequent owner of Barrymore's house found a mint 35mm print of this film stored away in the basement. Perhaps that print is the one used for this dvd, courtesy of Mr. Barrymore himself. Since the film seeks a de-glamourized view of the Middle Ages, fans of Hollywood swashbuckers made during the 1930s and 40s will probably be surprised - dismayed may be a better word - at the dingy surroundings and deformed characters present in many scenes. Barrymore revelled in this type of setting and perhaps felt justified that he could never have played such parts had he remained on the stage. As it turned out, the film rights to the hit stage play, "If I Were King," were not available so Barrymore and company had to cobble a story together based on public domain information on Francois Villon, steering clear from any story elements original to the play.THE BELOVED ROGUE on the whole is an enjoyable if somewhat creepy swashbuckler of a type never really duplicated during the sound era. Now if they only added some bonus material like Barrymore's 1926 home movie, Vagabonding on the Pacific, we'd really shout for joy!"
Gwen Kramer | Sunny and not-so-sunny California | 07/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though swashbuckling is typically associated with the movies of the 30s and 40s, it was actually invented in the 10s and 20s and pioneered by the incomparable Douglas Fairbanks. By the time this movie was made, in 1926, swashbuckling was a giant moneymaker for the film industry. This time was the last hurrah for silent cinema, talkies would totally take over within a few years. Yet, in these last few years of the artform, some of the best examples of silent cinema were filmed.John Barrymore plays Francois Villon, introduced as a poet, pickpocket and patriot. Though his works are widely read, writing does not pay the bills so Villon makes his living outside the law. On All Fools Day, he runs afoul of King Louis XI (Conrad Veidt) and is banished from Paris. The city is his life so to be forced to leave it is worse than death. Of course, you can't keep a hero as zany as Villon down and he ends up back in the city, falls for the pretty but bland Charlotte who is a huge fan of his poetry. Charlotte is about to be married off in a master plan by the Duke of Burgundy to take Paris. The King is too fettered by superstition to act. You guessed it, it's up to Villon to save the day.The acting is all appropriately over the top, as is right in a silent melodrama. The sets and costumes look good. John Barrymore easily dominates the viewers attention. Conrad Veidt is also very enjoyable, the supremely weird Louis must have been a fun character to play.My only real complaint about the movie is that the climax is played with a totally straight face, I felt that a sillier climax would have been more in keeping with the overall spirit of the film. However, silly climaxes are hard to do without being just plain dumb so I suppose I understand why the film makers decided to be serious.The print quality is good, about the usual number of flaws expected in a silent film but always viewable. The score is piano and is appropriate (I find organ scores a bit overbearing but some fans can't do without them, it's all about personal taste) The DVD does not offer any extras except chapter selection.This is a great investment for a silent movie or a swashbuckler fan. Overall, a very enjoyable film that is finally available on DVD."
The Beloved Rogue
Steven Hellerstedt | 10/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Hollywood used to have a thing about turning the clock back four or five hundred years, locating things in a European capital, and dressing the Big Star in tights while having him clatter over the rooftops or through the trees. Come to think of it, movies are still partial to tights and rooftop cavortings, although today's heroes are apt to wear a more elaborate costume, move faster than a speeding bullet, and are almost always forced to suffer through at least one `origins' story.
The extra-normal powers enjoyed by François Villon, the fifteenth century `first great poet of France,' seems to have been a limitless capacity for wine and an uncanny talent for spontaneous creation of metered verse. At least so says the 1927 silent THE BELOVED ROGUE, a biography of sorts starring the ever-entertaining John Barrymore. I haven't been able to squeeze many facts about the historic Villon out of the internet. What it does have to say is a little more piquant than what you'll get from the movie. Apparently, Villon was a thief, robber, and may have killed a priest or two during his career. Banished a number of times for his crimes, Villon was sentenced to death by hanging at least once. More immediately, an operetta based on Villon, The Vagabond King, premiered in 1925. The Vagabond King would be turned into a movie twice, in 1930 and 1956. In 1938 the Justin Huntly McCarthy play would be adapted to If I Were King, starring Ronald Coleman. Popular guy, that Villon. THE BELOVED ROGUE may be the only movie about Villon not based on the operetta.
Not having seen any of the other films I can't attest to comparisons, but on it's own this movie is a lot of fun. Villon, as legend has it, was born on the day of Joan of Arc's martyrdom, and our first glimpse of the toddler is an amusing scene that shows him refusing the bottle unless wine is mixed in with the milk. Villon grows into the King of Fools, a low caste lover of life who chums around with silent film comics Slim Summerville and Mack Swain. This seems to be something of a light romantic comedy, but it's hard to tell with silent movies. In any event, the humor induces smiles rather than guffaws. To add some class conflict grit into the proceedings the movie has Villon fall in love with the beautiful princess Charlotte de Vauxcelles, played by the transcendently beautiful Marceline Day. The bent and seedy King Louis XI (played with decrepit aplomb by German actor Conrad Veidt) banishes Villon from his beloved Paris not, as the history books seem to indicate, for murder and mayhem, but because Villon insults the foul, Princess Charlotte chasing, Duke of Burgundy.
Although it's relatively breezy and easygoing, THE BELOVED ROGUE has a few strange, rough edges. This is the second John Barrymore silent film I've seen, and it's the second one in which he's gone through physical torment for Love. In this case it's a jarringly well-staged trial by fire. Some of the minor players are strange, too. There's a bouncy dwarf and Dick Sutherland as the palace executioner. Sutherland suffered from acromegaly, a disease that distorts the facial feature. It's the same disease Rondo Hatton - the Creeper in the Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes The Pearl of Death - suffered from. In other words there's something side-show exploitative to this movie that some may find more jarring than entertaining. "
Barrymore In His Prime.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 06/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Along with DR JEKYLL & MR HYDE, this 1926 action/adventure flick remains one of the best John Barrymore silent vehicles currently available to us. Here "The Great Profile" invades Douglas Fairbanks territory and more than holds his own. There is so much to like about this film that it's hard to know where to begin. Aside from Barrymore's charismatic performance there is the American debut of Conrad Veidt. Just observe his body posture as Louis XI and you'll see what silent screen acting is all about. Then there is the opportunity to see Mack Swain away from Chaplin and Sennett. The sets by William Cameron Menzies are staggering and the camera work by Joseph August is among the finest in silent film. It was all brought together by Alan Crosland who is best remembered for directing THE JAZZ SINGER although this picture was much more typical of his style.
The print utilized for this DVD is taken from the Killiam Collection and is the same as the one issued by Image Entertainment in 2002. Although it's a little worn in places, the new transfer has better picture quality with the tinted scenes toned down compared to the old Image version. The William Perry piano score, while not in state of the art sound, has been sonically enhanced and is a great improvement over the previous release. It remains a good example of what a silent piano score should be. A rare opportunity to see John Barrymore in his prime with many other things to savor. It still excites the senses after all these years especially in this new transfer. Available by itself or as part of Kino's new 4 disc JOHN BARRYMORE COLLECTION."
An enjoyable late Medieval costume drama
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 01/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film begins in 1432, when François de Montcorbier is burnt at the stake for his role in trying to drive the English out of his beloved France. While gathering up some of his ashes to put in a locket the next day, his grief-stricken widow prays that her child will grow up to have the same type of heart and soul that his father did, only that he'll get to live instead of die for France. Twenty-five years later, that child, François Villon (a real historical person who lived from 1431-63), is a renowned national poet and very popular with the common people in Paris and the nearby city of Vauxcelles. He's also hopelessly in love with wine and women. Villon is so popular indeed that he's made King of the Revels on All Fools' Day, but the wild fun festivities come to a premature and devastating halt when Villon insults Charles, Duke of of Burgundy, a dangerous rival to King Louis XI. Since this incident happened in Vauxcelles and not Paris itself, however, King Louis XI only has Villon banished from ever setting foot in Paris again, on the threat of immediate death. Villon eventually goes back to Paris to help the people and to try to prevent the evil Charles from taking over as king. He winds up back in Paris accidentally, by means of a catapault that he and his friends were using to send food and brandy to the poor. It is upon this return to Paris that he meets Charlotte de Vauxcelles, whom he is catapaulted into the bedroom of and immediately falls in love (or at least lust) with. For trying to break up Charlotte's impending marriage to Count Thibault, a man she doesn't love, Villon is once more sentenced to death, but he manages to save his hide by prophesising to the king that Louis's death will occur 24 hours after his own. This friendly relationship with the king isn't long-lived, however, although no matter what happens to him, Villon remains determined to expose Charles for the scheming traitorous scumbag he really is in order to both save France and win Charlotte's hand in marriage.
Although this is a very enjoyable film, with touches of several genres (comedy, melodrama, swashbuckling, drama), it is, however, a costume drama, a genre that isn't always the best introduction for someone just getting into silent film. The silent costume drama can be a bit of an acquired taste even for more seasoned fans, what with a lot of different characters to keep track of, usually a longer length than most silents, a lot more intertitles than usual, and a plot that can take awhile to fully set up (as well as how some people just aren't interested in historical pictures anyway). This film does start out a bit slowly for those very reasons, but before long it gets more and more interesting, compelling, and exciting, and has a plot that's a lot easier to follow, with less meandering twists and turns, than is sometimes found in silent costume dramas. (Although I agree that the ending is a bit lacklustre and in media res, particularly in comparison to the great scene that just came before.) John Barrymore is simply fantastic in the leading role, and exhibits a lot of range throughout the course of the film, getting to swashbuckle, be romantic, and be comedic instead of just playing the part in a dramatic serious manner straight through. He's also looking quite handsome in this film, and even appears in just a loincloth in some of the scenes. Conrad Veidt is also wonderful as King Louis XI, a role which also allows him to express a range of different emotions, and the great character comedian Mack Swain is great as Villon's pal Nicholas. It's nice to see him in a more serious film instead of just comedies. Overall, in spite of the potential drawbacks of the costume drama genre, this is a great film for seeing why John Barrymore is considered one of the finest male actors of the 20th century."