The Queen of Spades (1916)

aka Pikovaya dama
Article 3253 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-16-2010
Posting Date: 7-11-2010
Directed by Yakov Protazanov
Featuring Tamara Duvan, Ivan Mozzhukhin, Vera Orlova
Country: Russia
What it is: Ghost revenge story

A poor soldier, obsessed with gambling but unable to do so due to lack of funds, becomes intent on learning the secret of a countess who knows a secret three-card combination that can make him rich.

Though I don’t think it’s as impressive as the British version of the story from the late forties, this Russian silent film is still quite useful, as it emphasizes other story details that are often overlooked in other versions. In particular, it gives us a much more elaborate backstory for the countess; the first third of the move involves the circumstances surrounding her discovery of the secret. It deemphasizes the soldier’s relationship with the countess’s ward (a ruse designed by the soldier to give him access to the countess), it clarifies some of the plot points, and it stretches out the climax by having the three cards played in succession over three nights. Somehow, these changes make this version of more interest than it would be otherwise. I haven’t read the original Pushkin story yet (though I do have a copy), so I wonder how closely it follows it. At any rate, I found this silent version quite watchable, though it lacks the eerie strengths of the British version.


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