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STORM OVER ASIA

USSR, 1949 (MIFF 1957, Programme 37)

Director: V. I. Pudovkin

Pudovkin's third film, originally called The Heir to Genghiz Khan, is the story of a young Mongol trapper who, after being cheated by a European trader to whom he tries to sell a silver fox fur, causes a riot and escapes to the hills when the White Army is called in. He joins the partisans, is captured by the Whites, and shot. Among his belongings is found an amulet with an inscription that identifies him as a direct descendant of Genghiz Khan. The White general orders the Mongol's body to be brought in; he is found to be still alive, is patched up, and offered to the rebellious locals as their new king. In front of their veiled taunts and exploitation, the Mongol remains passive, until he recognises his fox fur adorning the shoulders of the general's daughter. He breaks out, gallops away to the partisans, and rallies them for a new attack, which is to end in their liberation.

This re-edited version was made in Moscow in 1949 when music and synchronised dialogue were added to the original silent film, under the supervision of Pudovkin. The pace is now considerably sharper, the story develops more strictly - the detailed background of a market town and the festival scenes which overburdened and unbalanced the film have now been pruned.

Technically, the sound version is a success, and there can be no doubt that Storm over Asia wears extremely well as a dramatic and exciting film. The treatment of the central character, his power and humanity in the later sequences, a staggering, patched-up king, baffled by the entourage in which he finds himself, creates an unforgettable figure.

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