Good news. Valentino … is Ken Russell's best film in years….
I must say that I find it amazing that critics still treat Russell's "biographical" films as if they were supposed to be definitive, carefully researched screen representations of the lives of his subjects. Don't they realise that it is not simply beyond Russell to make films like that—it just isn't what he sets out to do….
What Russell offers us in his films is a series of vivid cinematic dreams about his subjects. Known events are taken to bizarre conclusions and bizarre events are made even more nightmarish. In the case of Valentino the images are, on the whole, fairly restrained and Russell more or less confines his customary excessive and indulgent wallow in human degradation to the well-publicised [jail] scene….
As with his other films, Valentino tells us more about Russell's own obsessions and insecurities than about his ostensible subject….
Altogether Valentino is far more entertaining, moving and, yes, even illuminating (we do learn something of the problems of a male sex symbol who owes everything to women, is dominated by them and finally has his very virility challenged) than such recent yawnaramas as Lizstomania and Tommy.
Anwer Bati, "Rudi's Rudolf," in Punch (© 1977 by Punch Publications Ltd.; all rights reserved; may not be reprinted without permission), Vol. CCLXIII, October 12, 1977, p. 670.