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The Queen of Spades (1949)

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  • The Queen of Spades (1949)

    I finally had the opportunity to watch The Queen of Spades. I have been looking forward to it for a long time. I know and like the story it is based on and I was curious to see how it was done; the print I saw was not in very good shape but it was watchable. I would like to see a proper release of this on DVD – by Criterion or Kino - especially considering the brilliant design and production.

    It is outstandingly well done and combines period drama, fantasy, character study and a slight suggestion of horror. Edith Evans plays the ancient countess and Anton Walbrook plays the young captain. They are so effective that their one scene together has enough resonance to dominate the rest of the film, although there is almost no action and little dialogue. The cast also includes Ronald Howard – son of Leslie, which I didn’t know – as well as a beautiful actress who is new to me: Yvonne Mitchell.

    It is the production that is really stunning. The effects are achieved almost entirely through brilliant design, light, shadow, wind effects, and the talent of the cast. The creation of a freezing night in Russia is the most convincing winter night I have seen on film.

    The talent includes: Director: Thorold Dickinson; Cinematography: Otto Heller; Film Editor: Hazel Wilkinson; Art Direction: William Kellner; Music: Georges Auric.

    In a film like this the sound and art departments are vital and should all receive high praise.

    I don’t know how well known this is in Britain. Here is it almost unknown. I highly recommend it.

  • #2
    I discover that film very recently!

    I didn't know Thorold Dickinson, but I am a fan of Anton Walbrook so I watched it, and it is a stunning masterpiece, with a very baroque plot and visual, very dark and dramatic, and always full of inventivity.
    And it's a shame that despite Scorsese's praise, it still not as famous as it should be!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Colin Smith View Post
      I discover that film very recently!

      I didn't know Thorold Dickinson, but I am a fan of Anton Walbrook so I watched it, and it is a stunning masterpiece, with a very baroque plot and visual, very dark and dramatic, and always full of inventivity.
      And it's a shame that despite Scorsese's praise, it still not as famous as it should be!
      Yes - I agree. It is a remarkable achievement. The scene in the flashback where the young Countess makes the exchange with the mysterious Count and then returns to her Icon is one of the most effective scenes I have ever seen - there are no words, and it is all achieved with light, shadow and the brilliant direction.

      I also agree that it should be famous. I had never heard of it at all until five years ago and it is never shown on television - at least not here. And yet Dead of Night, in a similar genre, is a recognized classic
      Last edited by TimR; 12th May 2017, 08:50 PM.

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      • #4
        I've never seen it, but it sounds amazing. I'm another fan of Anton Walbrook - and Yvonne Mitchell. Thanks for the recommendation.

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        • #5
          I remember watching this while I was very young and it struck me then how much of a masterpiece it was strangely enough along with another film I watched at that time "Ivan the Terrible" both set in Russia. Even as a child I knew that I was watching something wonderful, I have always recommended these two films to anyone who would listen even to scratched heads.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by TimR View Post
            ....It is the production that is really stunning. The effects are achieved almost entirely through brilliant design, light, shadow...
            I agree with you 100%. The elaborate decor and subtle lighting is brilliant.

            But unfortunately the story-telling is slow and hamfisted. Thorold Dickinson is supposedly 'an important figure in the development of the British film industry' but his direction on both Gaslight and Queen of Spades is so clunky.

            And poor Anton, with his shaven-lip looks like an old, mopheaded tabby cat.

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            • #7
              The other good thing about this movie is that it introduced Yvonne Mitchell, and she is an asset to all her movies.

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