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Yellow Pass (1928)

Zemlya v plenu (original title)
Jacob, a farmer, returns from the war to his wife Marie and begs the landlord baron for a plot of land to rent. The Baron grants the request, but only for a barren, rocky, useless acreage. ... See full summary »


Fyodor Otsep


Fyodor Otsep




Credited cast:
Anna Sten ... Maria, young farmer's wife
Ivan Koval-Samborsky ... Jacob
Mikhail Narokov Mikhail Narokov ... Belskiy
Vladimir Fogel ... Baron's son-in-law (as V.P. Fogel)
Anel Sudakevich ... Anya - Baron's married daughter
Sofya Yakovleva Sofya Yakovleva ... Katarina (as S. Yakovleva)
Pyotr Baksheyev ... Doorman, butler
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Nikolay Batalov ... Maria's fellow villager
Ivan Chuvelyov
Konstantin Gradopolov
Sofya Levitina Sofya Levitina
Vera Maretskaya ... Prostitute
Porfiri Podobed


Jacob, a farmer, returns from the war to his wife Marie and begs the landlord baron for a plot of land to rent. The Baron grants the request, but only for a barren, rocky, useless acreage. The pair struggle to make do on this land, but then the Baron demands that Maria leave her husband to serve as wet nurse to his married daughter Anya's new baby, on threat of eviction. While nursing the daughter's baby, Maria receives unwelcome attentions from the daughter's husband, and a scandal erupts, ruining Maria in her husband's eyes. When she escapes from her employers and seeks to return home, the police give her the yellow passport signifying a prostitute, further degrading her. She approaches home, unsure of the reception that awaits her. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Soviet Union

Release Date:

15 December 1928 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Yellow Pass See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mezhrabpom-Rus See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Version of The Yellow Ticket (1918) See more »

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User Reviews

Bolshevik borscht
19 January 2003 | by F Gwynplaine MacIntyreSee all my reviews

The Hollywood producer Sam Goldwyn had a Greta Garbo complex: for well over a decade, he made repeated attempts to find some exotic European actress whom he could lure to Hollywood and mould into the next Garbo. He brought several would-be Garbos to Hollywood, but none of them ever clicked. The least unsuccessful of these was Anna Sten, who was pretty and somewhat talented but definitely no Garbo. Several years after Sten's career failed to take off, Goldwyn was still importing new Garbo wanna-be's ... with the result that one of them became known as "Goldwyn's Last Sten".

'Zemlya v plenu' is intended as a starring vehicle for Anna Stein; she is pretty and personable here, but hardly a great actress.

Yakov is a poor sharecropper who comes back from the war and marries his childhood love, the illiterate peasant girl Maria (Sten). When Yakov tries to lease an acre of land from the local nobleman (a Baron who is literally a land baron), the Baron rents to Yakov and Maria the acre which is at the very bottom of his valley ... so it is full of all the boulders and stones which have rolled down both sides of the hill. When Yakov falls behind on the rent, the Baron forces Maria to come to his estate and work as a nurse-companion for his adult daughter Anya.

Still working the farm, Yakov sends letters to his illiterate wife, telling her how terrible things are. Maria asks Anya to read the letters for her. Anya wants to keep Maria with her on the manor, so she maliciously deludes Maria ... pretending to read the letters aloud but actually inventing new text in which Yakov reports that everything is tickety-boo down on the farm.

Eventually Anya's husband tries to rape Maria. When she defends herself, the Baron and his household close ranks round his son-in-law (can't have any scandal, you know), and Maria is falsely denounced as a prostitute. When the news reaches Yakov, will he still love her?

When I saw this movie, I understood Ira Gershwin's line about "more skies of grey than any Russian play". This is a Russian soap opera, full of gloom and doom and mutterings. Sten's performance is good, but nowhere near Garbo's standards. The actor who plays Yakov is good, although he overdoes his peasant get-up. Mikhail Markov is excellent as the lip-curling Baron. The actor playing the son-in-law is competent, whilst the actress portraying Anya overacts horribly. Much of the content is intended as communist propaganda: we're clearly meant to see how terrible things **used to be** in Russia during the bad old days of the White Russian aristocracy.

There are some beautiful exterior shots in this movie, and the lighting and art direction are excellent. I wish that the various talents involved in this film had been able to collaborate on better material. I'll rate this movie 3 points out of 10. Pass the borscht, comrade.

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