Next up, we have the fifth movie in the Dietrich And Von Sternberg set, The Scarlet Empress.
Marlene Dietrich plays Sophia Frederica, a minor German princess. Her mother is an ambitious woman and is determined to see her daughter married to a king. She manages to arrange a marriage for Sophia with the Grand Duke of Russia, and Sophia goes along with it happily. However, she finds herself disappointed when she meets Peter (Sam Jaffe), who turns out to be a “halfwit,” as the movie describes him. The Empress (Louise Dresser) pushes the marriage through, renaming Sophia “Catherine,” and demands that Catherine provide Russia with a male heir to the throne. Catherine has, however, developed feelings for Count Alexei (John Lodge). When she finds out that he is the Empress’ lover, she ends up sleeping with the guard that finds her just outside the palace. About nine months later, she gives birth to a son. The Empress is very happy but also quite ill. Grand Duke Peter isn’t thrilled with this and plots to have Catherine removed after the Empress dies. Catherine is a few steps ahead of him, as she uses her allure to her advantage with various higher-ups in the military.
After watching this movie, the only thing that I can think to say is “Wow!” The story is fun to watch, but, more than anything, this movie is a visual feast! The sets are just amazing, particularly with all the various sculptures populating the palace. Something else worth noting is the frequent use of title cards to help advance the story, a practice that had fallen out of use with the advent of sound. I like it, as I think it keeps things moving, instead of becoming a long, slow movie that one might almost expect, given the type of material. Of course, as you could guess from my description of the plot, this movie is a Pre-Code, with some scenes of torture (although they are tame compared to what we see now), along with the main character making use of her sexuality to get her way. I would be wary of showing this movie to children, but I would still recommend it highly!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection, and is one hour, forty-five minutes in length.
My Rating: 9/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Blonde Venus (1932) – Dietrich & Von Sternberg In Hollywood – The Devil Is A Woman (1935)
Blonde Venus (1932) – Marlene Dietrich – The Devil Is A Woman (1935)