4,000 soldiers, including cavalrymen, were loaned by the Latvian army to portray the Russian and Tartar armies, and the battles were filmed outside Riga on large plains, which simulated the Siberian steppes. See more »
A wonderfully exciting and action packed adventure, Michel Strogoff was a big hit in it's time but with the coming of sound was virtually forgotten until this superb restoration returned it to it's proper state. A huge production, easily rivalling Hollywood's biggest, it represents the French film industry at it's most accomplished although ironically two of the prime personnel were Russian émigrés. Directed by Viktor Tourjansky, this film has it all, epic sweep, pulsating action, intrigue, romance and even a little comedy relief. Despite a 3 hour length, the pace never lags and the story is compelling throughout. Technically this is cutting edge 1926-style, with it's use of colour and tinting as well as some dazzling editing of the type associated with Gance and Eisenstein.
It left me stunned and exhausted.
But what raises this film to true classic status is the incredibly charismatic performance of Ivan Mousjoukine, who draws us effortlessly into Strogoff's mission to reach the Tsar in time to save the empire from the Tartars. From his first appearance Mousjoukine exerts a magnetic hold on our attention. He never overplays, yet conveys a wide range of emotions and thoughts with the subtlest of movements.
This is acting on a level with the very best silent cinema has to offer and I found myself longing to know more about this figure
There wasn't much on the web but my friend Henry, who introduced me to the film gave me some more details.
Mousjoukine was a major star in Russia until the revolution when he and other Russian directors and writers fled to France. They helped put together Film Albatross productions which also attracted directors like Jean Epstein and Marcel l'Herbier. Mousjoukine also did some writing and directing as well as acting (A film he directed, THE BURNING STAKE, inspired Jean Renoir to switch from ceramics to film!)
Unfortunately, in the late twenties Albatross went under. Sound came and Mousjoukine was hampered by his really heavy Russian accent (some of the other Russians didn't even know how to speak French) and his roles became fewer and smaller. He had been a very popular star in France but he was also a big spender and his income quickly dwindled in the thirties. He died of tuberculosis in the charity ward of a hospital.
Though this was a tragic and premature end (he was only 50) at least it's possible to experience the power of his acting and appreciate a figure who's overdue for re-evaluation.
Come on Film Four or TCM USA, give this magical film the audience it deserves.
10 out of 10
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?