La dame de pique (1965)

aka The Queen of Spades
Article 4277 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-30-2013
Directed by Leonard Keigel
Featuring Dita Parlo, Michel Subor, Simone Bach
Country: France
What it is: Supernatural drama

A gambling countess comes by a secret three card combination that wins her a fortune, but she is allowed to use it only once and not gamble again. She passes on the info twice, and the recipients both die violently. She is warned that if she passes it on again, she too will die. Many years later, a young soldier discovers that the countess has the secret, and he resolves to get it out of her.

I recently had the opportunity to rewatch the 1949 British version of this movie, and I found it as entrancing the second time as I did the first time. I also have a copy of the original Pushkin story, but I haven’t read it yet. Perhaps I should; this movie version I just saw tells a much more elaborate version of the story, one in which the countess is just as much a major character as the soldier; in the earlier film, she was a secondary character, albeit a pivotal one. It also fleshes out certain details that were lost in the earlier version; for example, it features a scene that underscores the significance of the card of the queen of spades and why it plays into the climax of the movie. These extra touches dovetail with the events in the earlier movie and make it a more complex experience. I’m glad I saw this version.

Nevertheless, when I watch the story again, it will be the earlier one I will choose. Though this more recent version has some effective moments, it also lapses into static scenes of dialogue, and is often slow and dull. This is somewhat ironic in that this later movie is telling more of the whole story in less time; the earlier movie held my attention throughout, and this one does not. I’m looking forward to reading the original story now, though, as it will be interesting to see what was in the original and what enhancements the various movie versions have made to the story.

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