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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
Dietrich demonstrates how to stay well-groomed and dressed during the Russian Revolution
In "Knight Without Armour" (***) Robert Donat plays a British journalist in 1914 revolutionary Russia who is persuaded by his government to go undercover as a "red." The catch is that if he's caught the British home office will disavow any knowledge of him. He is caught and spends two years in Siberia before the death of Czar Nicholas and the fall of the Russian nobility free him. He then becomes the right hand man for an influential revolutionary commissar. Needless to say, his heart isn't really in it and when he gets an opportunity to escort a rich and pampered Russian countess back to headquarters in Petrograd for questioning he decides to help them both escape from the country. They are then tossed about like footballs from one side to the other. The plot is really rather ingenious, although you get the impression that the filmaker's hearts are more on the side of the corrupt "white" establishment if for no other reason that it never misses an occasion for glamorous star close-ups of Marlene D. in extravagantly opulent costumes. Even a young red official is so smitten with her he sacrifices himself in order to save her and Donat from one nasty predicament. I suppose the film wanted to avoid appearing to be too pro-communist, but in the process it comes down a little too much on the side of "noblesse oblige." The film ends a bit abruptly with Donat and Dietrich seemingly a long way from being out of the woods yet, but all-in-all it's beautifully produced and holds the interest pretty much all the way through. Good scene: Dietrich awakening one morning alone in her palace to discover that her entire household of servants has fled. If you can find a good print of this unusual oldie, it's worth seeing.
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