Outskirts is an internationally renowned masterpiece of early sound cinema. In a remote Russian village during World War I, colorful and nuanced characters experience divided loyalties: ... See full summary »
Natasha and her grandfather live in a cottage near Moscow, making hats for Madame Irène. Madame and her husband have told the housing committee that Natasha rents a room from them; this ... See full summary »
Jacob, a farmer, returns from the war to his wife Marie and begs the landlord baron for a plot of land to rent. The Baron grants the request, but only for a barren, rocky, useless acreage. ... See full summary »
A young man is elected by a small village to be its parson. As part of his duties, he is required to marry the widow of the parson before him. This poses two problems--first, the widow is ... See full summary »
The film chronicles the adventures of an American, "Mr. West," and his faithful bodyguard and servant Jeddie, as they visit the land of the horrible, evil Bolsheviks. Through various ... See full summary »
At over 4 hours this was quite an undertaking for the silent era of Russian cinema and frankly I was prepared to be bored. But that was far from the case. It kept going, adding new layers to the adventures of our four intrepid heroes and their counterparts, the two leaders of a capitalist cabal set on destroying the Soviet Union. Their plot was very much the glue that held the whole thing together and gave meaning to our heroes' actions and yet it seemed nothing more than a vehicle that permitted them to exhibit their extraordinary physical and comedic abilities. These were all fit people able to run at length, climb walls, jump, fight and in general be highly active. For example in the third installment Barnet, the director, jumps out of a second story window with only a pile of snow to break his fall and runs through the snow bare-chested.
I wonder if the capitalist plot was not used to get the film past the censors who might otherwise not look kindly on a frivolous serial. In any case it is very entertaining and even more so because of the way the Russian film-makers sought to portray Americans. It's obvious they didn't have a clue. None of the actors even remotely looked American. And they must have thought all Americans wore high water pants, rumpled shirts and over-sized, ill-fitting coats despite their wealth and social standing. Very funny indeed.
As for the title, "Miss Mend" is a bit of a misnomer. The real protagonists are the three reporters. Vivian Mend does very little other than glare and be generally victimized by the bad guys. Even the good guys treat her more like an object, ignoring her for the most part unless she is in danger in which case they gallantly run to her rescue.
Finally other than Barnet and Igor Ilyinsky who plays Hopkins, the real standout is Vladimir Fogel who plays the photographer and in my opinion a real athlete. He should be familiar to aficionados of silent Russian cinema. I was sorry to learn that he committed suicide in 1929 at the age of 27, apparently from the strain of his busy schedule.
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