Because he can pass as a Russian, A.J. Fothergill is recruited to spy on the revolutionary movement in Russia in 1913. He becomes imprisoned in Siberia, as a revolutionary, until the 1917 uprisings. Amid the turmoil of the civil war between the red and white armies, he tries to flee Russia along with the beautiful Countess Alexandra. Written by
The poem quoted by Fothergill aka Ouronov is 'Prospice' by Robert Browning. The one quoted by the Countess is 'I have outlasted all desire' (1821) by Alexander Pushkin. See more »
When Donat enters train stain with the stationmaster, shadows of camera and crew are clearly visible. See more »
Ainsley J. Fothergill aka Peter Ouronov:
[the darkness of the gulag is making him lose his mind. Shouting]
Night... night... night! Night all the time! Ceaseless night! Nothing but night all over the earth! The sun must be dead! Everything must be dead! We're the last things alive!
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One truly cares about the characters in "Knight Without Armour" (1937) (which at present is only available on Region 4 DVD---officially, that is). John Clements almost steals the film with a role that is little more than a cameo, but superbly acted. One can see how this part led to his being cast as the lead in "The Four Feathers" (1939), the very best motion picture produced by Alexander Korda and released by London Films, and one of the best movies of all time. Other character actors such as Miles Malleson also do memorable bits.
This atypical role for Marlene Dietrich---a truly vulnerable, feminine character, though noble and glamorous---is superbly realised by the German actress, here playing a Russian countess. Robert Donat, excellent as always, is the lead, an Englishman travelling incognito in Russia before, during, and after the Revolution.
There is one scene early in the film which is an interesting reversal of a portion of "Battleship Potemkin"'s Odessa Steps sequence: in "Potemkin" the "White" Cossacks, a faceless, cruelly efficient horde simultaneously gun down a "Red" woman who tries to appeal to them for mercy for her dying child. In "Knight Without Armour" a horde of Reds trudge en masse across the palatial estate of "White" Countess Alexandra, played by Marlene Dietrich. The scene in which she encounters the unsympathetic, destructive mob on her great lawn, and the momentary lull before they act, is unmistakably a comment upon "Potemkin" and its pro-Red propaganda.
American audiences may find the various, regional British accents of the Russian characters a bit jarring. Filmed during the height of the Depression, this is a great lovers-on-the-run film with a world-falling-apart backdrop, irresistible entertainment in any era. Find this one! Used VHS copies are easily had. Miklos Rozsa's score, one of his first for film, has the same warmth and pathos that embodies most of his splendid catalog of work.
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