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THE SCARLET EMPRESS

USA, 1934 (MIFF 1967, Programme 25)

Director: Josef von Sternberg

Sophia Frederica is brought from Germany to Russia to become the wife of the mad Grand Duke Peter. She is, at first, innocent and wondering, but when married and plunged into the intrigue of the decadent Court, she gradually hardens and, with the aid of some of the guards, overthrows the Grand Duke and triumphantly takes the throne as the Empress Catherine.

This film is Sternberg's most sumptuous stylistic exercise: an intricately woven tapestry of tyranny. Not even Stroheim or Lubitsch could have surpassed the grand finale with its trumpets, bells, Dietrich stomping about the palace in hussar's outfit, and "The Ride of the Valkyries" on the sound track.

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