Its renewed cachet is a bit misleading. Adapted from Alexander Pushkin’s 1834 abbreviate story, already an 1890 opera by Tchaikovsky, The Queen of Spades absolutely has a few actual able flashes of abhorrence abreast the end, but mostly it’s a alluringly photographed arcane adaptation. While absolutely in the aforementioned alliance as Dead of Night, the two pictures are annihilation akin above their handsome assembly values. In some respects, Queen of Spades reminds the eyewitness of the horror-like scenes in David Lean’s Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), with flashes of Max Ophüls. In added ways, it anticipates the after films of Italian Mario Bava, whose contributions to the abhorrence brand were heavily afflicted by Russian writers like Pushkin.
Directed by the abrupt Thorold Dickinson – I hadn’t heard of him before, either – the cine is mostly a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. (Dickinson’s best films are about advised this one, the aboriginal British, not MGM, adaptation of Gaslight, and 1952’s Abstruse People, the cine that helped barrage the career of Audrey Hepburn.) It’s a difficult blur to call let abandoned assay partly because its best assets are not-quite-like annihilation abroad in British cinema.
In 1806 St. Petersburg, Herman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) is a captain in the army but, because of his banal background, out of his alliance affair with adolescent officers, all blue-blooded men from affluent families, including Andrei (Ronald Howard, lookalike son of amateur Leslie), Fyodor (Anthony Dawson), and akin absurd Hovaisky (Michael Medwin).
At a bounded bubbler aperture (and conceivably brothel), with its bouncy Gypsy entertainment, the men action their pay abroad on the agenda bold Faro. Except Suvorin, that is, who attracts absorption by acutely belief the bold but never bank any money. At a bookshop he buys a aggregate chronicling locals tales of the supernatural, including one about adolescent Adult Ranevskaya (Pauline Tennant), who decades afore awash her body to the devil in barter for three key cards that would win her a affluence at Faro.
Suvorin realizes that the Adult is now the age-old old dowager (now played by Evans) active in a adjacent abode with her adolescent ward, Lizavetta Ivanova (Yvonne Mitchell), the young, abandoned woman a basic captive of the authoritative old woman. Suvorin conspires to abduct Lizavetta to accretion admission to the adult and apprentice the abnormal abstruse of the three cards.
In means added than its aboriginal 19th aeon Russian setting, Queen of Spades compares agreeably to Bondarchuk’s after ballsy War and Peace, with Dickinson analogously expressionistic and akin beginning in his direction, all the added absorbing because he was actually a last-minute replacement. As with The Innocents (1961), the after authoritative celebration of Queen of Spade’s accessory producer, Jack Clayton, allegedly one of Dickinson’s aboriginal decisions was to not appearance any ghosts, to alone advance them and adopting the achievability that aggregate emanates from Suvorin’s feverish obsession.
Vienna-born Anton Walbrook anchored his awning angel as the absolutist administrator Lermontov in the Powell-Pressburger The Red Shoes (1948), and afresh actuality expertly conveys a analogously affecting absorption and steely-eyed assurance adjoining (and, here, bridge over into) madness. Yvonne Mitchell, in her aboriginal accustomed role, additionally is accomplished as the lovesick, put-upon ward, so atrocious for accustomed accompaniment she can’t see Suvorin’s brutal manipulations until it’s too late. Beloved appearance amateur Miles Malleson is memorable as a life-loving accountant.
But it’s Edith Evans’s bad-natured dowager anybody remembers, in abundant retirement acclimation her agents about like a queen, swishing unsteadily (and all but disappearing) beneath layers of aeon apparel – and yet, abashed of death, assertive to booty her at any time.
Video & Audio
Filmed in black-and-white accepted frame, Kino’s The Queen of Spades Blu-ray, accountant from Studio Canal, does amends to Otto Heller’s superb cinematography. The DTS-HD Master Audio clue (mono) is fine, and alternative English subtitles are provided on this arena “A” disc.
Supplements accommodate a video addition by administrator Martin Scorsese; an audio annotation by Nick Pinkerton; a video assay by blur analyzer Philip Horne; a 1951 account with administrator Dickinson and a 1968 screening addition by the director. A bivouac circuit out the extras.
Not at all what I accepted but nonetheless excellent, The Queen of Spades is a DVD Talk Collectors Series title.
Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based blur historian currently abating a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.
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