This south american adventure blends fairbanks trademark action with supernatural mystery. Studio: Kino International Release Date: 10/09/2001 Starring: Doulgas Fairbanks Run time: 103 minutes Director: F Richard Jones
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 12/12/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Film producer-star Douglas Fairbanks Sr. didn't merely craft eye-filling escapist films for audiences of the 1920s. Each film created a world unto itself with its own philosophy. Doug's 1927 hit, THE GAUCHO, came after a long string of swashbuckling epics that began with the relatively modest MARK OF ZORRO in 1920. Each subsequent film was really just a various on the ZORRO theme, some more obvious than others, most notably the sequel, 1925's DON Q, SON OF ZORRO. Bigger than ZORRO yes, but not particularly better.Stunning audiences with his physical dexterity and acrobatic skill than would make Jackie Chan envious, Fairbanks astutely sensed the dangers of repeating himself. It has been said that he got the idea for making THE GAUCHO while visiting Lourdes in France, the site of a miraculous appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then too, Mary's repeated appearances in Fatima, Portugal only ten years earlier in 1917 was widely known. Fusing the elements of ZORRO with a religious theme, Fairbanks created a wonderful adventure that had more substance than his previous light-hearted adventures. THE GAUCHO works best when Fairbanks is in his familar action element. For once, he choses a vivacious leading lady with Lupe Valez and they make an energetic team. More surprising is Doug's decision to play a Latin lover type, chain-smoking his way through the film, a decided departure from his earlier roles. Perhaps due to the death the previous year of Rudolph Valentino, the supreme Latin lover of films, Valentino successors began appearing in 1927 - even Ronald Colman was pressed into service in two or three elaborate swashbucklers opposite Valentino's former leading lady, Vilma Banky. THE GAUCHO seems to be Fairbanks' entry into the Valentino sweepstakes.The opening prologue seems inspired by the Fatima appearance of Mary to a young girl who is unaffectingly played. But moving ahead ten years in the story, the girl, now an adult, seems more Hollywood than Fatima with her pencilled eyebrows and obvious wig. So too is Fairbanks' treatment of the miraculous when he contracts leprosy - but only on his left hand - and is cured surprisingly quickly by short visit to the shrine. Now seeing "the Light," Fairbanks posts the Ten Commandments on the front of the church proclaiming that they are the only law to live by. But his boastful manner suggests that he has not learned the lesson of humility and the film ends ambiguously over whether he has retained his outlaw ways. The treatment implies that Fairbanks' grasp of Christian theology was rather weak with Our Lady appearing a little too conveniently on cue. But, after all, this is a Fairbanks film. If we want true theology, we should watch a DeMille film (just kidding)."
A Fun Fairbanks Film
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 11/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Gaucho is a fine Douglas Fairbanks vehicle, which shows his athleticism and charm to good effect. Fairbanks never claimed to be the greatest of actors. The variety of his expressions are somewhat limited. All he really does is laugh at danger. However he had a presence which is irresistible, a quality which draws the viewer to him. As the Gaucho, he plays a South American cowboy/outlaw, who turns into a sort of Zorro like liberator without the mask. He performs any number of great stunts, climbing walls, swinging through the trees like Tarzan and finding all sorts of ways of getting on and off a horse. Fairbanks also has a huge number of party tricks up his sleeve which are wonderfully enjoyable. He never seems to light a cigarette the same way, but performs this simple task with bravado and great skill. The leading lady in The Gaucho is "Mexican Spitfire" Lupe Velez. She grabs Fairbanks at the first opportunity and clings to him with great tenacity, fighting off any other female who comes within reach. She is very fiery, passionate and great fun to watch. One of her best scenes is a tango where she is literally joined to Fairbanks at the hip. The main villain of the piece is Gustav von Seyffertitz. He is always worth watching as he has a very unusual look and a sinister, creepy manner. Unfortunately he doesn't have as much screen time in The Gaucho as he might. It is also worth noting that Mary Pickford appears briefly as a vision of the Virgin Mary. Her cameo only lasts a few seconds, but what she does, she does well. The black and white print of the Gaucho, on the Kino DVD, is very good. It is clear, sharp and bright and enables all the details of the fine sets to be seen easily. The musical score composed by Sydney Jill Lehman, is highly effective. It consists of South American style tunes which really fit the action. As a bonus the DVD includes an incredible Fairbanks short film from 1916. In The Mystery of the Leaping Fish he plays a detective who is constantly injecting himself with various drugs. He even apprehends the villains by drugging them with narcotics. This is a truly bizarre little film with some jaw dropping scenes which probably would be considered impossible, or at the very least tasteless to film today. This is a really good DVD showcasing one of the biggest of silent film stars. Fans of Fairbanks, or silent films in general, should not hesitate to get it."
An entertaining spectacle
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 02/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Like just about all other Fairbanks films, this one too is a thrilling, exciting, gorgeous spectacle. Set in South America, it begins when a young girl falls off of a cliff and is miraculously cured by the pool of water she landed next to. She then sees the Virgin Mary appear from out of the side of the cliff, and all of the villagers are in awe of this sight. The girl then uses the water to heal a dying baby, and the locals are even more convinced that this place is really special. Ten years later, it has become a sacred shrine, similar to Lourdes, and an entire city has been built up around the shrine. Because of how many people regularly flock to it to be healed, the city is doing quite well for itself financially. Trouble arises when the evil Ruiz comes to town, takes over the city, confiscates all of the gold for himself, shuts down the shrine, has all of the city's beggars thrown into jail, and basically makes himself a totalitarian dictator with total power over everyone's lives. The hope of the people is the Gaucho, played wonderfully by Fairbanks, who was still looking amazing and able to do all of his trademark stunts, swashbuckling, and other physically demanding things at age forty-four. Most men should be that gorgeous and physically fit at that age. However, in spite of being an exciting story that's also got some beautiful sets and costumes, it's one of those films where the real meat of the story doesn't really kick into high gear for awhile. While I've never been bored watching one of Doug's films because of what an exciting performer he was (even if he wasn't technically an incredibly gifted actor), it would have been nice had the plot been established and got going a lot sooner instead of having to wait while only the characters were established before the plot was really established as well. His character also isn't incredibly sympathetic for most of the film; while he's certainly not evil and blackhearted like Ruiz, he also is a far cry from his earlier characters, such as Zorro, Robin Hood, and D'Artagnan, who cared about helping the less fortunate and fighting for justice, and who weren't obnoxious womanizing playboys. Doug's leading lady, a young Lupe Velez, is however one of his most interesting, as she takes a far more active role in the story than most of his other leading ladies did. She's far more than just the requisite love interest with little to do.
Included as a bonus feature is the bizarre 1916 short 'The Mystery of the Leaping Fish.' Doug plays a detective who is constantly shooting himself up with or snorting cocaine and opium, and who yet manages to solve all of his cases and be respected in spite of being a drug addict. Just about all of the other characters are on drugs as well, and almost not a moment goes by that someone isn't shooting up or having drugs shot into them by someone else. There's so much drug humor in this that it probably couldn't have even been made today, let alone still have been considered funny or appropriate in the modern era. People sure had a different idea of drugs back in the Teens, back before they were criminalised and considered automatically dangerous. It's certainly one of the most bizarre films one will ever hope to see. (One also wonders if the people who came up with the idea for this film were high on cocaine themselves!) Also included are excerpts from the original 1927 pressbook for 'The Gaucho.' Overall, it's a very nicely-presented disc (both prints are in wonderful shape and have wonderful musical scores), another great Kino release, even if it might not be the topmost ideal film to introduce a new fan to Fairbanks. Though he is great in the main feature, as always, the film itself could have used a bit more substance."
Excellent for viewing early Hollywood images of Latin Amer.
James D. Huck | 10/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie, often referred to in texts that treat the image of Latin America as portrayed in Hollywood, really is a gem for this type of study. The movie shows many stereotypical images of the Latin American woman - both as the virginal paragon of submission, charity, and virtue in the character of the Lady of the Shrine (played by the Anglo Eve Southern), and as the "halfbreed harlot" who is impulsive, crude, and vulgar (but also sexy, fiery, and seductive) in the character of the Mountain Woman (played by the Mexican Lupe Velez). As far as male images go, what can one say other than the hero (an Argentine gaucho) is also an outlaw and bandit!! Great fodder for discussion of depictions of Latin America in 1920s Hollywood."
Double the Fairbanks fun and adventure!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 04/02/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While Douglas Fairbanks, Sr's action-adventure dramas such as "The Mark of Zorro", "Robin Hood", "The Three Musketeers" and "The Iron Mask" have become legendary screen classics - and deservedly so - this lesser-known film Fairbanks made in 1928 has actually been praised by some critics as being his very best film of all. "The Gaucho" has all the elements and qualities of his other famous swashbuckling smash hits of the 1920s, with the exception that the story was not already a well-known book. Fairbanks wrote the screenplays for all of his successful movies, and adding the skills and experience of many years in the film industry, he was able to repeatedly give the movie audiences exactly what they wanted. Nearly 80 years later, "The Gaucho" can still thoroughly entertain and even astonish and impress an audience, as I have personally witnessed at a screening of this unique film. There is never a dull moment as Fairbanks and his vibrant co-star, Lupe Velez, entertain with humorous action and adventure, while at the same time telling a solid, good story involving an oppressive military regime, a young woman who performs healing miracles at a Lourdes-like shrine, and a leper who passes on his disease to `the Gaucho' - the leader of a gang of Andean bandits who finds himself in a Robin Hood role when he enters the `holy city' looking for gold and treasures. The comedy and action scenes are very satisfying, as is the outcome of the story, balancing dark elements with religious and spiritual, spicing it with just the right amount of tricks and stunts which only Douglas Fairbanks can perform. The good black & white picture quality is enhanced by lively music with a distinct South American flavour which suits the film perfectly, so that no matter what the viewer's preference; be it comedy, action, adventure or deeper, meaningful messages, "The Gaucho" has a little of everything to please and entertain everyone.
The second and shorter film on this disc, being just under half an hour long, has become a cult classic, and like "The Gaucho", shows a very different side of Douglas Fairbanks. Although he had successfully starred in various comedies in the years 1915-1921, "The Mystery of the Leaping Fish", made in 1916, stands out as being his most unusual but also one of his best comedy performances. Deliberately quirky and outrageous, Fairbanks plays a private detective who needs frequent cocaine injections to keep functioning, and is delighted when the case he is assigned leads him to an opium-smuggling racket. Along the way he gets the girl, and captures the bad guys while high on opium. An equally quirky musical score heightens the mood, and almost gives the viewer a sense of escaping reality in a haze of mind-altering substances. Overall, this DVD is double the fun with Fairbanks at his best and most unusual, and therefore definitely not to be missed! "