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My local video store has a shelf put aside titled "World's Worst". This I like to think is more an indictment of the staff's age rather than their critical ability. I have scored from this shelf some of the most enjoyable movies I've ever seen.
"Red Monarch" was the first film I took home from the shelf and what a fine, black, intelligent, scathing film it is. Revolving around Stalin, possibly the world's most evil man ever, it almost but never quite becomes "Carry on up the Kremlin". The hard edge under the buffoonery is applied just enough at appropriate times to remind us that the Stalinist regime was frighteningly thuggish, effective and above all real.
A cast of very British character actors make the humour satirical more than comic, Colin Blakely and David Suchet sharing the kudos for making their characters believable. Not all the scenes seemed to work though, whether due to the director not transferring the basic story's meaning well enough or not I can only guess. Mao's visit and Carroll Baker's over the top Yankee ingenue being two that don't quite gel. Others however are chilling in what I imagine is their veracity. And these scenes are in abundance, all based around Stalin's demented pitilessness and his cronies' cowardice.
Cynicism reigns supreme, not just in the film's slant on it's characters but in the behaviour of the characters themselves. A grim believable portrayal of what was and is wrong with totalitarian regimes. Bitter might even be a better word.
I'm not saying that "Red Monarch" should be put on the "World's Best" shelf, but it certainly did not belong on the one on which I found it. Btw, the movie next to it was "The Trojan Women" which is pretty good too.
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