Rudolph Valentino’s switch to a St Anthony type comes as a shock. The essential moral conflict of the bullfighter never gets to the surface. He is just a bewildered simpleton, which makes his gaudy clothes ridiculous.
The story [from the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez and the play by Tom Cushing] has many picturesque elements but it is episodic and scattered. It starts with the theme of a humble shoemaker raised to eminence as a national hero of the bull ring and an idol of the people.
Soon the problem is changed to ‘What will be the fate of a man who lives by blood and cruelty?’ Then the conflict appears to be an attack on the institution of the bull fight.
‘Poor matador; poor beast,’ says the benign philosopher, ‘But the real bull is out there (the crowd around the arena). There is the beast with 10,000 heads’.