The Scarlet Empress

1934

Action / Drama / History / Romance

5
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 85%
IMDb Rating 7.6 10 5636

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
July 05, 2018 at 08:02 PM

Cast

Marlene Dietrich as Princess Sophia Frederica / Catherine II
Sam Jaffe as Grand Duke Peter
Jane Darwell as Miss Cardell, Sophia's Nurse
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
858.05 MB
988*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 44 min
P/S counting...
1.64 GB
1472*1072
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 44 min
P/S 2 / 4

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by MartinHafer 9 / 10

While cold and emotionally distant, it still is an amazing film due to its artistic vision

This is an absolutely amazing film to watch. I have seen several other collaborations between director Josef Von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich and I think this is the best--mostly due to it being like a giant painting or tapestry that was almost mesmerizing. The film is a rather odd look at a brief period of the life of Catherine the Great of Russia. It follows her from her betrothal (when she is a Germanic princess) to her ultimately killing her husband and assuming the throne--the space of just a few years).

During the entire picture, what stood out were the amazing sets. The film begins with some very graphic torture chamber scenes that are definitely "Pre-Code" in that they are so frightening and because of the copious amounts of gratuitous female nudity. While this never could have been allowed once the stronger Production Code was implemented around 1935, it is a captivating and bizarre introduction to the movie and it certainly got your attention!! Then, throughout the film, the sets were magnificent and very twisted--almost like they had been inspired by a combination of LSD, Jean Cocteau's version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch! Twisted and grotesque anthropomorphic statues, banisters, candelabras, chairs, etc. grace practically every scene inside the palace--making it look like a combination of Hell and whimsy!! You really just have to see it all to believe it. What was also amazing was how Paramount was able to construct all this without the production bankrupting the company!!! While the dialog and acting is fine, they take a definite backseat to the sets. It's very obvious that Von Sternberg really wasn't trying to humanize the characters or shed too much light on the life of Catherine--it was really more of a work of performance art. And if you accept it as this and NOT an absolutely true recounting of the life of Catherine, then you will be in for a treat.

As for the historical side of the film, there has long been some disagreement about the coup and subsequent execution of Catherine's husband. While it is almost undoubtedly true she orchestrated it (after all, they made her their leader after Peter's death), what isn't so certain is the character of Peter. Some accounts have described him as half-witted or insane (exactly how he's shown in the film) but others doubt if this was exactly the case--it could have just been propaganda used by Catherine to justify her actions. Plus, when Peter died, some apparently reported this was of natural causes and not murder! Considering everything, though, the film had to portray Peter III some way and the evil half-wit was an enjoyable choice--as Sam Jaffe looked so crazed and made the part come alive with his insane-looking eyes and wonderful delivery! Dietrich herself was also very good (perhaps due to her not being so "artificial-looking" like she was in some of her other films due to excessive makeup), but her performance was definitely overshadowed by the sets and Jaffe

By the way, I originally gave this film a very respectable score of 8. However, after seeing "The Rise of Catherine the Great" (which was made the exact same year and covered the exact same material), I saw that this Dietrich film was a lot better by comparison. I especially think that Dietrich and Jaffe were a much better Peter and Catherine than Elisabeth Bergner and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in the other film.

Reviewed by Ron Oliver 10 / 10

Dietrich & Old Russia - A Fascinating Phantasmagoria on Film

An innocent & obscure German princess is sent to Russia to become the wife of Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne. Her romantic dreams are shattered when she finds her new husband to be a childish imbecile. Quickly growing wise, she soon begins taking lovers from among the military guard. So begins the legendary life of Catherine, Tsarina of Holy Russia, The Messalina of the North, THE SCARLET EMPRESS.

A riotous feast for the eyes, this is one of the great, unheralded films of the 1930's - enthralling for its visual impact alone. Seldom has an American film been filled with such lush imagery - tactile, grotesque, fascinating. The Russian royal palace is a charnel house full of ghouls & gargoyles - human & artistic. The actors share the scenes with fantastic statuary, twisting & writhing in silent, unspeakable pain. (Notice the tiny skeletons on the dining table.) Everywhere is death, moral decay & barbarism, even in the most powerful court in Europe.

At the center of this ossuary is the gorgeous Marlene Dietrich. Her beauty radiates, but never dominates, throughout the film. She is splendid as a young woman in a very dangerous place, who gains courage & great determination in her ordeal. Equally good is Sam Jaffe as Peter; with his leering grin & demented eyes he is the very picture of a murderous madman.

Louise Dresser, as the Empress Elizabeth, is very effective as a comic bully. John Lodge & Gavin Gordon, as Catherine's military lovers, are both stalwart. Wonderful old Sir C. Aubrey Smith has a small role as Catherine's princely father. Film mavens will spot an uncredited Jane Darwell as Catherine's nurse.

The highly emotional soundtrack, an amalgam of themes by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn & Wagner, explodes in the film's final moments into musical pyrotechnics.

Reviewed by theowinthrop 10 / 10

The Making of A Great Empress

Josef Von Sternberg thought very extensively about the effects he wanted in THE SCARLET EMPRESS. He wanted to push the cinematic effects to show the huge Russian Empire and to show the spirituality of the Russo Orthodox Church. Therefore the visual effects of THE SCARLET EMPRESS are quite striking, as is the anachronistic sound track (the music by Anton Rubinestein is very religious, but it is not from the middle of the 18th Century but from 100 years later). His use of candles - literally hundreds to get an idea of the Russo Ortodoxy of 1760 - works quite well to display the pageantry of the religion. And note the gargantuan doors used in the Royal palace.

In THE RISE OF CATHERINE THE GREAT, the story line suggested that Elizabeth Bergner's Catherine did fall for a handsome looking, but unstable Peter (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). But in reality Peter was an unstable and cowardly figure. Sam Jaffe's performance is far closer to Peter III of Russia (although one of his lines, when he says: "I hate my wife" is done too crazily to be realistic). He does look forward to ruling Russia, in order to send his wife (after a divorce) to a convent, and to marry whomever he wants.

But even Jaffe's Peter was not quite the historical one. Peter III may have been insane, but he had a tremendous affection for Prussia and it's ruler, Frederick the Great. Russian foreign policy in 1760 was that of Tsarina Elizabeth (Louis Dresser in this film). The Empress was allied with the French and Austrians against Prussia. One of the major policy changes that Peter III brought was to end this alliance with France and Austria. It affected Prussia's precarious position in the Seven Years War, and enabled Frederick to reorganize and defeat the Austrians and French. None of this is mentioned in either of the two films.

What Von Sternberg did get right here (not as well developed in THE RISE) was that Sophie/Catherine took the time she was married to the Grand Duke to study up on the Russian people, their religion, their customs. She was a very sharp woman (as her handling of the government would eventually show). Also Sophie/Catherine used her feminine abilities to make inroads with the nobility and military leaders, such as the fictional Count Alexei (John Lodge) and the real Captain Gregori Orlov. Many did become her lovers. One of them may have fathered the boy who would one day become Tsar Paul I of Russia This is hinted at in THE SCARLET EMPRESS (the scene where Jaffe is congratulated about his new heir gives that performer a chance to be quite indignant - a welcome change from his insanity characterization). Marlene Dietrich's cool beauty and wits come across as Catherine learns the fundamentals of her new country, and becomes fully prepared to take it over from her incompetent husband's hands.

I liked THE RISE OF CATHERINE THE GREAT, but THE SCARLET EMPRESS is a better done movie on all sides.

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