Because he can pass as a Russian, A.J. Fothergill is recruited to spy on the revolutionary movement in Russia in 1913. He becomes imprisoned in Siberia, as a revolutionary, until the 1917 uprisings. Amid the turmoil of the civil war between the red and white armies, he tries to flee Russia along with the beautiful Countess Alexandra.Written by
Hardly ever seen on TV or cable, this sweeping spectacle is a rare but welcome opportunity to see Marlene at the height of her powers as a star. Sadly, good prints seem to be rare. We saw it on a slightly scratchy VHS cassette we bought used on the internet but it brought back wonderful memories and its attention to period Russian detail is truly great. After a while the film overcame its physical limitations (in the print). The Russian atmosphere is superior to that in Dr. Zhivago, which seems flat and two dimensional in many ways.
The first appearance of Alexandra at the races in England, her departure by train for Russia, her presentation at court in a procession of girls in white presentation gowns and Russian headdresses--all perfectly detailed--to Nicholas and Alexandra, ("Lucky devil", a court lady says of her fiancé, "he is the most stupid officer at court and she is the smartest girl"), the attempted assassination of her father in her wedding procession across a bridge in St. Petersburg, her taking tea alone at the gardens of the neoclassical Adraxin country estate, served by a procession of servants and then waking up and finding the servants have deserted, the Revolution having begun, are all extremely beautifully done. True to 1930's convention, her makeup is never out of place, except in one scene when peasants capture her in her gauzy nightgown and negligee.
Robert Donat is a perfect foil to her elegance, dashing and always the epitome of 1930s savoir faire. His scenes as a prisoner in Siberia are also very well done.
All in all a great 1930's adventure of the highest style. They will never make another one like this! Jacques Feyder was a great director and his use of Marlene is equal to von Sternberg's. Bravo Countess Adraxin! Another great and sadly overlooked star vehicle for La Dietrich!
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