The Queen of Spades (1949)

THE QUEEN OF SPADES (1949)
Article #1393 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2005
Posting Date: 2-5-2005
Directed by Thorold Dickinson
Featuring Anton Walbrook, Edith Evans, Yvonne Mitchell

A captain in the army has become obsessed with a card game called Faro, but refuses to play unless he is sure of winning. He stumbles across the story of a woman who sold her soul to the devil for the three-card winning combination that guarantees success, and he resolves to find the secret for himself.

This opulent production of an Alexander Pushkin story takes some getting used to. It’s beautifully directed and stylistically rich, and has some of the most interesting-looking people this side of a Fellini film, but the editing is jarring at times, and it’s a little hard to warm up to the movie. However, this jarring sense also increases the eeriness and the sense of dread, and this pays off very well by the time the final scenes roll around. The first third of the story sets up the mood and the situation. The middle third becomes something of a soap opera, as we follow the captain’s attempted seduction of the beautiful ward of a countess, and for a while the movie feels as if it’s lost its way. However, once the captain confronts the countess in an attempt to wring the secret from her, the movie never lets up, and the ending is startling, powerful and memorable. It’s a beautiful movie to look at, and features fine performances from all, especially Anton Walbrook as the obsessed captain and Edith Evans as the ancient countess. The scene where the captain finally learns the secret is truly terrifying.

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