Luch smerti (1925)

LUCH SMERTI (1925)
aka The Death Ray
Article 3995 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-2-2012
Directed by Lev Kuleshov
Featuring Porfiri Podobed, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Sergei Komarov
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Revolutionary melodrama

A death ray invention becomes a pawn in a battle between fascists and revolutionaries.

Before I start the review, I should point out that the first and last reels are missing from this movie, my copy has no background music on it, and what is left of the movie seems to be running at the wrong projection speed; the original movie ran 125 minutes, but mine clocks in 76. Given these circumstances, I’d expect the movie to be a little confusing and incoherent. Still, even given these setbacks, I’m still disappointed, because it feels even more confusing than necessary, what with its bewildering array of characters, its overly speedy action, its occasional overacting, and its multiple storylines. The Phil Hardy guide says that movie has the feel of having been improvised on the spot, and I tend to agree. This is not to say that there aren’t some moments of brilliance and some very striking scenes, not to mention some impressive stuntwork on occasion. Still, I find it hard to enjoy action sequences when I don’t really know what’s going on, and that problem pops up a lot here. Furthermore, I was disappointed by the use of the fantastic content; though the death ray probably comes into action in the final reel of the movie, that doesn’t change the fact that the movie mostly plays it as a Gizmo Maguffin; it’s something for the good guys and bad guys to fight over. Well, at least I got to see it with English subtitles, or else I would have been really lost. At any rate, I consider this one a mixed bag.

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