During the Russian Revolution, a mentally challenged peasant saves then obsesses over a beautiful countess.


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Complete credited cast:
Captain Dimitri
Countess Tatiana Alexandrova
Mack Swain ...
Vladimir Gaidaroff
Emily Fitzroy ...
Mrs. Gaidaroff
Charles Puffy ...
Ivan - the Gatekeeper
Kai Schmidt ...


There is hunger in Siberia during the Russian Civil War. Dim-witted peasant Sergei is searching corpses for food. He meets a mysterious young woman looking for the town of Novokursk. She asks Sergei to tell anyone they might meet that he is her husband. They find an abandoned house where they can rest... but a stranger is hiding inside. Sergei washes the woman's feet and prepares a bed for her. The stranger reveals himself and is soon joined by cossacks; they do not believe that the woman is a peasant's wife. They beat Sergei but he does not betray her. The two are rescued by White cavalry. The woman is in fact the Countess Alexandrova. In Novokursk, the countess stays with the rich Gaidaroff family. When Sergei leaves hospital, he goes to see his "friend". The countess begrudgingly provides a job in the household. Sergei is exposed to the revolutionary talk of Ivan, a servant. When the Whites leave town to counter an attack, the Reds are free to act... Written by David Steele

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"It is fate"


Drama | Romance





Release Date:

13 August 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Terror  »

Box Office


$187,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Mrs. Gaidaroff: [upstairs] SERGEI!
Ivan - the Gatekeeper: [downstairs, to Sergei] Is that old sea lion barking at you again? Isn't she always calling you idiot... idiot... IDIOT!
See more »


Referenced in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) See more »

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User Reviews

A masterful performance, and one of Chaney's best.
4 April 2004 | by (Wyoming) – See all my reviews

After recently viewing this film, I was rather perplexed to read the disparaging remarks aimed at Lon Chaney's performance. I will not argue with the general consensus that the film's story line is weak, and the overall feeling of the film is rather somber and oppressive. What would one expect to find when you're dealing with the stark realities of life in Siberia during the Russian Revolution? A light, carefree musical, perhaps? Danish director Benjamin Christensen does a masterful job of capturing the despair and gloom of the period, and the desperation of the central characters. The viewer never really gets to know the background of Chaney's character, Sergei, but his poignant confession to the Countess (who was disguised as a peasant woman at the time) that he never had a friend before provided a glimpse into the loneliness and harshness of Sergei's life. The Countess knew Sergei was `mentally challenged', and used this to her advantage to obtain safe passage to Novokursk. She made Sergei promise to tell any soldiers they met that she was his wife, and to say nothing more. Poor simple Sergei stuck to his story even after being savagely beaten by marauding Red soldiers. Sergei confused the woman's attentions and friendship, and believed it to mean much more.

What impressed me the most about this film was Chaney's performance. Though some dismissed his efforts as being unconvincing, or complained he `does little more than lumber about the set', I came away with a very different opinion. Chaney's gift was not only for make-up-which was expertly employed in this film-but for emotionally compelling pantomime. Chaney's Sergei exuded a rough, animalistic power in the way he moved and expressed himself. The performance was remarkably restrained, considering how easy it would have been to go over the top with this type of character. The one thing that proved to me Chaney's command of his craft is the way he looked out of his eyes. It is one thing to be able to change the expressions on your face to appear to be a simple, dim-witted peasant, but to show that in your eyes requires the height of brilliant acting acumen. Chaney's eyes reflected a supremely vacant expression that matched Sergei's mental state perfectly. Overall, I firmly believe this is one of the best performances of Chaney's career. There is even a very funny comedy scene featuring a drunk Sergei taunting the pompous Mr. Gaidaroff. The film, on the other hand, is certainly not everyone's cup of tea due to its subject matter, but I feel it has a lot of hidden meanings and pathos that can be tapped into to create a much broader picture of life amongst the privileged and lower castes of Revolutionary Russia.

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