Nail in the Boot (1931) Poster

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Technical masterpiece imbued with Stalinist hysteria, boggles the mind
I've seen many strange films over the years, Nail in the Boot probably has them all beat. The conceits in the story, designed with the message that only flawlessness is acceptable in the pursuit of the Russian brand of socialist ideals, are gigantic enough that they must surely have made Ayn Rand green with envy.

The plot considers an armoured train crewed by communist men who all come from the same boot factory. The train is attacked by imperialist forces, and one soldier, sent away on foot, must try and call up reinforcements.

The political aftermath is Fellinian in its grandiosity and mad pageantry, except that I think it's all done with a poker face.

The movie is a rather late silent, which I think adds to it's ferocious zeal and nightmare-like intensity. The cinematography is awe-inspiring, pure and immaculate, military fetish in the style of Battleship Potemkin par excellence, clean constructivist lines.

Quite quite ludicrous, though thoroughly brilliant, pretending you're watching a nightmare is probably the best way to watch it.
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Weird, angry propaganda
zetes20 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Now this Kalatazov film is pure propaganda, and actually pretty nasty. And downright bizarre. It feels like a fever-dream that doesn't even make much sense until it reaches its point, right near the end. And then it's so silly that you just have to giggle at it. Still, it's an interesting, even if sometimes vile, piece of work with, as usual with this director, some outstanding images. The plot concerns a heavily armed train that is blocked off by the enemy (undefined - I don't think the USSR was even really at war with anyone at this point, were they?). While most of the men stay inside the tank-like car that holds all sorts of secret weaponry, one soldier is sent on a mission to deliver news of the attack to his superiors, so they might send re-enforcement. Unfortunately, the kid steps on a nail, which goes right through his boot and into his heel. He tries his damnedest to reach his command, but the injury slows him down and, having failed (and the train having been captured), he is eventually arrested and put on trial. "Not good enough to father children!" says a banner, paraded into court by a group of faithful Soviet children. But, objects the soldier, if his boot had been better made and not been penetrable by the nail, he would have been successful in his mission. Yes, that's the takeaway from this film: soldiers are responsible for their duties, yes (the soldier accepts his guilt), but if the workers of the Soviet Union are lazy and don't do their work properly, they are just as neglectful of their duty and as guilty as a bad soldier. All fine and dandy, I suppose, but, I mean, come on, it's a boot. What's the sole of it supposed to be made of, cement? My question is this: if the soldier stepped on a nail with his boot and it bent, wouldn't the guys at the nail factory then be the a-holes? After all, that nail could have been holding something really important together. In my mind, the takeaway from the film shouldn't be that the boot factory makers are bad at their jobs, but that the nail factory workers are really good at theirs. This film also led me to ponder what it would have been like to be an avid moviegoer in Moscow in the late '20s, early 30s. 90% of films just seemed to be there to lecture you. If I were a shoe factory worker and saw this film, I wouldn't be thankful for the message. I'd be thinking, "Well, *beep* you, too, Mr. Kalatazov!" All that said, it's still a pretty good movie. This and Salt for Svanetia can both be watched in their entirety on Youtube (in one video). Both are under an hour (as is Turksib, though that one wasn't on there).
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