In Czarist Russia, a peasant officer, resented by the aristocrats, falls in love with a princess.

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, (uncredited) | 1 more credit »

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(titles), (story) (as V.I. Nemirovich-Dantchenko) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Princess Tamara
...
Sgt. Bulba
Boris de Fast ...
The Peddler
...
The General
Ullrich Haupt ...
The Captain
Michael Visaroff ...
The Guard
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Fred DeSilva
Jack Manick
Serge Temoff
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Storyline

In the final days of Czarist Russia, a peasant is raised from the ranks to Lieutenant. The other officers, aristocrats all, resent him, and make his life difficult. He falls in love with a princess, who spurns him. When he is caught in her room, he is stripped of his rank and thrown into prison. Then comes the Red Terror, and the tables are turned. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

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Genres:

Drama | Romance

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Release Date:

27 May 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Tempestade  »

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(DVD)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
He's Russian like there's no Tamara.
4 March 2005 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'Tempest' gives John Barrymore plenty of chances to show his left profile. The plot -- utmost tosh, about a peasant cavalry officer obsessed with Princess Tamara during the Russian revolution -- doesn't stand up to analysis. Suffice it to say that this is one of those movies where a man keeps harassing a woman until she falls in love with him.

As Tamara, the haughty White Russian princess, Camilla Horn makes a magnificent entrance on horseback, riding sidesaddle in a form-fitting outfit with gauntlet gloves. Barrymore acquits himself well with a ridiculous script. There's one painful scene in which Lieutenant Markov (Barrymore) sups large quantities of booze to show how manly he is. Knowing what alcohol did to Barrymore's life and career, I cringe when I see him drinking on the screen.

Among the ridiculous elements is Boris de Fast as a gap-toothed Bolshevik whose ability to be conveniently present during all the plot twists (even surreptitiously entering a military stockade) borders on the supernatural. Ullrich Haupt, as Barrymore's villainous superior officer, is splendidly hissable in a role that seems tailored for Erich von Stroheim. Character actor Michael Mark plays one of the cavalry troopers: no dialogue, no business, but his distinctive facial structure calls attention to itself. Louis Wolheim supplies a bit too much comic relief as the bulbous and bull-like Bulba: I guess he must be Taurus Bulba. Wolheim plays a cavalry sergeant, but his immense bulk makes him implausible in the role; Wolheim is built more like an infantryman.

By far, the greatest appeal of this movie is Charles Rosher's dazzling camera-work, supplemented by the usual brilliant production design of William Cameron Menzies. The opening scene is a travelling shot of a military garrison: the camera is clearly panning across models, but they're as exquisitely detailed as one of those miniature villages that used to be so popular in Britain. Eventually the camera turns round a corner to show men walking past full-scale buildings ... but the cut is so well done, it's nearly seamless. Elsewhere, there's a splendid subjective shot through the bottom of an upturned glass ... and a fine example of double-exposure as the delirious Barrymore, rotting in the stockade, envisions his comrades in battle.

I was also impressed with the consistent use of dissolves whenever printed words, handwriting or inscriptions were shown on screen. As all the characters are Russian, we first see signs and captions written in Cyrillic, followed by a dissolve into English translations. (Compare this with 'The Last Command', made at a different studio this same year, in which a Russian telegram is shown on screen in English.) Just a couple of times in 'Tempest' the dissolve device is not used, and there's one bizarre shot in which a handwritten note reading 'Do not disturb' in English is posted on the same door as a sign reading 'Commissar' in Cyrillic. Still, I'm vastly impressed that the art department went to so much trouble.

Although the script is rubbish -- and I'm dismayed that the Bolsheviks are depicted favourably -- Barrymore's role has an impressive amount of moral ambiguity. Lieutenant Markov is basically moral and ethical, but he becomes obsessed with Princess Tamara ... and his behaviour degenerates accordingly. The script (and Barrymore) could have taken an easier route by contriving to make all of Markov's reversals a matter of circumstances rather than down to Markov's personal flaws.

Despite a howlingly implausible script, the visuals and the acting are so good in this film that I'll rate it 7 in 10.


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