The Last Command (1928)
The Last Command (1928)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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A Russian nobleman flees the communist revolution only to find himself, poor and unknown, in Hollywood, where he becomes an extra and discovers his old betrayer is now a director. Potentially maudlin melodrama based on a true story is uplifted by Josef von Sternberg's first-class filmmaking.
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as Natascha Dobrow
as Soldier Extra
as Gen. Dolgorucki
as A Private
as Serge the Valet
as A Revolutionist
as Assistant Director
as Leo Andreiev
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Critic Reviews for The Last Command
Plenty of direction and as much photography. There doesn't appear to be a miss or skip either.
The sheer sophistication of Sternberg's visuals makes nearly all current releases look old-fashioned.
If there are moments when Mr. Jannings holds the same expression and pose too long, you are rewarded for the most part with a brilliant performance in which there is a wealth of imagination.
Sternberg's direction makes this second only to The Docks of New York as the most accomplished of his silent films.
Audience Reviews for The Last Command
In "The Last Command," Andreyev(William Powell), a movie director, is preparing to film his magnum opus about the Russian Revolution. In casting the role of a Russian general, he finds the real deal in Sergius Alexander(Emil Jannings), the late Tsar's cousin and former commander-in-chief, now forced to work as a film extra for $7.50 a day. While trying on his costume, Sergius remembers happier days back in his native Russia, commanding troops while having to deal with an insurrection. In the process, he arrests two revolutionists, Andreyev and Natalie(Evelyn Brent).
Towards the beginning, "The Last Command" might seem like just a predictably poignant story of the plight of a fallen man.(Emil Jannings had played a character with a similar arc previously in "The Last Laugh.") Rather, the movie excels in using its enthralling story to provide an expert deconstruction that is far ahead of its time. The shift between Sergius in 1928 and 1917 is so abrupt that I assumed at first that it was the fiction of Andreyev's movie instead of the facts of Sergius' life. Thus "The Last Command" takes full aim at not only Hollywood's problems with the truth but also quite possibly Soviet propaganda like "Potemkin" that this movie shares a similar style with in certain scenes. The point is that the world is much more complex than just black and white with Sergius being a good man on the wrong side of history.
One of the best lead performances in a silent drama I've seen, plus an undeniably powerful ending. But I prefer my silents a bit more stylized -- Von Sternberg's direction basically just gets the job done, minus a few tracking shots of note (particularly when scanning behind a row of windows that's issuing costumes to film extras). I also grew impatient with a long stretch that did little beyond flatly establishing the main character's past stature as a revered Russian general. I would have enjoyed more material set in the Hollywood present. Emil Jannings' frozen expressions of suffering will stick with me, however.
Tragic story. In a slight way, the story is similar to the film The Last Emperor.
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