Queen of Spades

"Excellent"

Queen of Spades Review


Based on a short story by Pushkin, this drama has echoes of Wilde and Dickens in its tale of supernatural temptation in 19th century St Petersburg. It's also been given a lush digital restoration to show off the stunning direction and cinematography.

Herman (Walbrook) is a German captain in the Russian army who is frustrated when he loses his entire year's salary in a card game. So when he hears the legend that an ageing local countess (Evans) traded her soul for the secret for winning at cards, he plots to learn the trick. To get into her house, he woos her ward Liza (Mitchell), who is also the object of affection for another officer (Howard). And when Herman confronts the countess, her reaction is seriously haunting, in every sense of the word.

The story is genuinely creepy, and director Dickinson ramps up the freak-out factor with clever camera work and outrageous lighting. Even when things get camp and arch, there's an unsettling tone to this story of a man who simply can't control his own greedy impulses, no matter who he destroys along the way.

All of this is augmented with expert cinematography by Otto Heller (Victim) and a moody score by George Auric (Orphee).

Most impressive is the way Dickinson crafts this film to echo Herman's slow slide into insanity, from suspicion and frustration to aggression, gloating and ultimately the world coming apart all around him. We really feel all of this simply because Dickinson refuses to go over the top until the crucial moment.

And Walbrook is terrific in the role, dashing but never likeable, even as we begin to feel sorry for him.

Of the rest of the cast, only Evans manages to do something interesting; the countess is wonderfully senile and razor sharp at the same time. We're completely terrified of her, as is everyone else in the story. By comparison, Mitchell and Howard are rather bland as the hapless, good-hearted couple caught in the horror. This is a little-seen film that deserves to find an audience. So let's hope this 50th anniversary restoration does the trick.



Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Wednesday 16th September 1925

Production compaines: Général Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Thorold Dickinson

Producer: Anatole de Grunwald

Starring: Marguerite Moreno as La comtesse Tomski (La Dame de Pique), Pierre Blanchar as Hermann, André Luguet as Iretski, Madeleine Ozeray as Lisa, Abel Jacquin as Prince Tomski, Jean Didier as Marumoff

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