Before turning to horror pictures, Italian filmmaker Riccardo Freda directed some of the finest costume epics of the postwar era. Filmed in 1946 as Aquila Nera, Freda's Return of the Black Eagle made it to American screens in 1949. Based on a story by Alexander Pushkin, the film concerns the exploits of a Russian soldier who wreaks vengeance against an evil landowner by assuming the guise of a masked bandit. Rossano Brazzi stars as Vladimir Dubrowski, aka the Black Eagle, while Irasema Dilian is his beloved Masha, daughter of his bitter enemy Kirila (Gino Cervi, cast in an uncharacteristically unsympathetic role). The swashbuckling and derring-do is leavened by a few welcome moments of humor, especially when Brazzi disguises himself as a wimpy French tutor. Return of the Black Eagle could have benefited from Technicolor, though the black-and-white photography of Rodolfo Lombardi is fine in its own way.
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