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The Soldier and the Lady (1937)
Topic Started: Apr 6 2017, 05:38 AM (138 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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The Soldier and the Lady
(1937, Dir. George Nicholls, Jr.)
85min. / B&W / 1.37:1
The Sprocket Vault DVD, $19.99

1870, and Siberia has been invaded by the Tartars. The Tsar sends secret agent Michael Strogoff with secret plans to turn the tide of battle, but those sneaky Tartars have agents of their own and they're on to Strogoff's every move, to the chagrin of the two women who love him (and that doesn't count his mom, who figures into the plot, too).

J'ever watch a movie and think, "This is a wonderful picture! I'll bet it flopped"?

French producer Joseph Ermolieff owned the film rights to Jules Verne's novel Michael Strogoff and had produced both French and German-language versions, which he brought to RKO and an offer: let's make an English language version with French leading man Anon Walbrook and spectacular stock footage and battle scenes from the foreign versions! RKO was impressed by the footage and the price tag, adding Akim Tamiroff as the villain, Elizabeth Allan, Margot Grahame and Fay Bainter as the ladies, and comic relief Eric Blore and Edward Brophy as hapless foreign correspondents, and wove all this together so well that the result is one of RKO's great achievements of the decade - but alas, the American public wasn't all that interested in a no-name cast refighting the battle between Tartars and Russkies. No matter how many times RKO reissued it under different titles, audiences went to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs instead.

Too bad, they missed a swell picture!

Million-dollar Dialog:
Reporter Brophy, after having been roughed up by Russian police: "How do ya like that? The Cleveland Chronicle don't mean a THING in this country!"

More violent (and more exciting) than other adventure films of its time, with the unknown Walbrook turning in a fine performance as the action hero, and a terrific villainous performance by Tamiroff, The Soldier and the Lady is a wonderful movie that's unjustly overlooked (and features a rousing score by Max Steiner) and the new Sprocket Vault DVD is a superb print that does the film justice. The only extras are program notes by Richard M. Roberts.

Highly recommended.


"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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riddlerider
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I'm always surprised when I agree with you, Gravy, but this is one of those times. Back in the day I was able to get a 16mm print of this for just $49 because nobody seemed to want it. I bought the picture basically just to see it, hoping maybe I could swap it for a couple of comedy shorts later on. But I was pleasantly surprised and wound up keeping the print for many years.
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Jerry Blake
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I really liked this one too; it was a lot tougher and more emotionally intense than your typical 1930s swashbuckler (that climactic fight was so brutal that I found myself thinking for a minute, "wait, this film was post-Code?"), the cast was excellent, and the use of the stock footage was inspired and seamless; it really opened the film up and made the action feel as "big" as a war for control of Mother Russia should. I was worried that Brophy and Blore might throw the film off-kilter, but their comic relief was used sparingly and actually worked. Akim Tamiroff, who sometimes goes far too over-the-top in playing villains, stayed perfectly on-point here; he was vividly loathsome, but never cartoonish like he was at times in The General Died at Dawn or The Corsican Brothers. As for Anton Walbrook, he was an excellent choice for the lead part, being a perfect Officer-and-a-Gentleman type, but at the same type conveying controlled daring and pent-up ferocity. A pointless quibble, but he was actually Austrian, not French.
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