30 JANUARY 1942, Page 11


" Blood and Sand." At the Odeon.—" Hoppity Goes to Town." At the Carlton.

Blood and Sand, the old Vicente Blasco Ibanez best-seller, has a theme which might have been made to Technicolor's measure. What, for a bull, is simply a red rag is a complete raison d'être for a colour film. Yet the violence of hues available in and around the Spanish bull-ring has not driven from this present version of, the film a certain subtlety of visual treatment which gives it a definite advantage over Rudolph Valentino's silent version of many years ago. There is, in fact, less in common between the two films than between Rouben Mamoulian's modern Technicolor version and the stage presentation which one remembers as a setting for Matheson Lang. The film—as necessarily was the play—is concerned with the violence of the bull-ring only by implication. We see comparatively little bull- fighting and get no clear sight of bloodshed. Yet the ultimate catastrophe which haunts every matador becomes all the more real because the film creates an atmosphere in which such a sense of impending doom can credibly exist. Most of the time the bright, roaring arena is present only in imagination as a promise of fame or a threat of disgrace and disaster.

The dazzling fighting-suits are seen mostly in the dressing- rooms, in chapels at moments of praying or dying, or in the tense pause before the Sunday afternoon's sport begins when the matadors stand in the shadows beneath the terraces nervously fingering a last cigarette.

The film tells competently enough the story of Juan Gallardo (Tyrone Power), who fulfils his madcap boyhood ambition to become the greatest matador in Spain, who marries his childhood sweetheart (Linda Darnell) and loses his reputation and his life as a result of an infatuation for a wealthy philandering beauty (very convincingly played by Rita Hayworth). The narrative moves too slowly in places and many of the characters are aggressively American in accent and ideology, but there is com- pensation in the light the film throws on bull-fighting, not only as a sport and a profession but as a national religion. Whether he is holding court in his dressing-room or clumsily enjoying the hospitality of Madrid's aristocracy the illiterate hero of the bull- ring receives adulation fit for a national saint. Yet in the dim seclusion of the bull-ring chapel or before the altar of the mansion he has bought with his winnings he becomes himself the humble servant of a purpose beyond his understanding. Mamoulian, by means of subdued drum rhythms and faint muted trumpets, has introduced an element of mysticism into the film but to balance it we see also something of the sordid poverty which is a by-product of bull-fighting. From a politically conscious bull-fighter we hear protests against the barbarism and ignorance involved. The strongest symbol of all is provided by Laird Cregar as Spain's leading critic of bull-fighting. A flabby, effeminate, venal creature, he is more powerful, more sought after, more feared, than any matador. All Spain hangs on his words. It is his flowery eloquence which creates or destroys the national heroes. Yet in spite of all his cunning and his malice it is clear that even this man believes that a great matador is the greatest man in the whole world.

In his latest full-length cartoon, Hoppity Goes To Town, Dave Fleischer shows much less concern with " artiness " than does Disney in his more ambitious productions. One consequence is that the film is refreshingly free from sentimentality, another is that beauty of colour and shape give place to the humour of extravagant contrasts of size. The story is of a community of insects (complete with its own gangsters) which is driven to new territory by human intrusion. The human world as seen by a grasshopper is full of visual possibilities and Fleischer takes full imaginative advantage of them. EDGAR AnisrEv.