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The source story by Anton Chekhov, 'The Shooting Party', is set in the 1840's, but director Douglas Sirk moved up the setting to the 1910s so the framing sequences at the beginning and the end would take place after the Russian Revolution. "With guys like [Fedor] and the Count going around, there had to be a revolution," Sirk explained. See more »
Darnell (Olga) does a bang-up job posing seductively as she works her destructive way up the social ladder in czarist Russia. Still, the movie lacks persuasiveness. Now, few actors are better at being both snide and dashing than Sanders (Fedor) who is expert at both, especially in that spiffy uniform. The trouble is this melodrama hinges on soft emotions made intense, and frankly neither Darnell nor Sanders excel at being lovelornat least in this movie (contrast with Anna Lee's Nadeena who brings it off nicely). So, we listen to the words and watch the clinches, but it's all minus the inner conviction. Thus, the tragic upshot fails to impact the way it should, despite the touching very last frame.
Nonetheless, Horton (Volsky) gets a showcase role as the decadent, yet likable, aristocrat who also manages to steal the show. At the same time, I don't know who plays the petite maid, but she has a look and manner that's quite distinctive.
Also, I don't know who the production company, Angelus, is, but they're clearly a cheap-jack outfit. The sets for the shooting party are bare-bones and obvious; at the same time, the entire film has an extremely drab look that cuts against its manorial setting. This is a movie- subject that needs generous, if not lavish, production values as a background, especially to justify Olga's aspirations. Instead, we get the economy version, to put it politely. Too bad a prestige studio like TCF didn't take on the project.
Anyway, I agree with another reviewer that the movie is basically for fans of Sanders and Darnell, with Horton as an amusing bonus.
(In passingnote the photo of Lenin in the publisher's office. It may be the only Hollywood appearance of the Bolshevik revolutionary outside of Cold War contexts.)
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