Minnelli's only entry in the war movie genre gets off to a cracking start. A heavily made up Cobb, the head of a rich Franco-German expat family in Argentina, suffers a fatal stroke upon learning his Grandson Boehm has joined the Nazis. A raging storm hits and the ghostly figures of the mythical title quartet appear in the heavens above. After this opening, of a melodramatic nature even Oliver Stone would consider over the top, the movie slows down and develops into a second rate war drama.
The forty-six year old all American Ford is terribly miscast as a young Argentine spin on the Bel Ami archetype. I've never seen the appeal of Ford, to me he suffers from a serious lack of charisma. I just can't buy him as the charming lover type. Minnelli wanted Alain Delon for the role but unfortunately had Ford forced upon him by the studio. Coupled with an equally bland actress, Thulin (who was dubbed by Angela Lansbury due to her impenetrable Swedish accent), it's difficult to engage in their plight. Neither are particularly likable, basically just a pair of rich brats, whereas Thulin's husband, Henreid is portrayed as the noble soldier. If your leading characters are engaging in morally dubious activities you really need to cast charismatic performers to get the audience on their side.
Visually it's splendid, great widescreen compositions and the usual Minnelli flair for colour. This is a remake of a Rudolph Valentino starring silent film and Minnelli borrows some techniques that were long out of favor by 1962. The surreal imagery of the horsemen was all too common in the silent era but is unusually striking in a sixties Hollywood movie.
A major flop for MGM, this would be the last time Minnelli was given such a broad canvas. It's said his confidence was shattered by the experience and so he disappeared from the limelight immediately after, working only sporadically and with little acclaim.