The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Critic Consensus: Complex, visually stunning, and breathtakingly intense, The Scarlet Empress overpowers its flaws with a confident vigor befitting its legendary subject.
as Princess Sophia Frederica/Catherine II
as Count Alexei
as Empress Elizabeth Petrovna
as Grand Duke Peter
as Sophia (as a child)
as Prince August
as Countess Elizabeth
as Princess Johanna
as Gregory Orloff
as Lt. Ostvyn
as Archimandrite Simeon Tevedovsky
as Chancellor Alexei Bestuchef
as Mlle. Cardell
as Herr Wagner
as Marquis De La Chetardie
as Count Lestocq
as Count Von Breummer
as Ivan Shuvalov
Critic Reviews for The Scarlet Empress
Josef von Sternberg's 1934 film turns the legend of Catherine the Great into a study of sexuality sadistically repressed and reborn as politics, thus anticipating Bertolucci by three decades.
A tedious hyperbole in which Director Josef von Sternberg achieved the improbable feat of burying Marlene Dietrich in a welter of plaster-of-paris gargoyles and galloping cossacks.
Josef von Sternberg becomes so enamoured of the pomp and flash values that he subjugates everything else to them. That he succeeds as well as he does is a tribute to his artistic genius and his amazingly vital sense of photogenic values.
Running a solid hundred minutes, the film first shocks and stimulates the imagination, and then, lacking the dramatic skill to refresh its audiences, becomes steadily duller.
The decor and costumes, and the mise-en-scéne that deploys them, have never been equaled for expressionist intensity.
Audience Reviews for The Scarlet Empress
As opulent and decadent as can be imagined, Von Sternberg's vision of early court life is suffused in shadows and grotesqueries unlike most films of this sort, bringing to mind the axiom of absolute power corrupting absolutely. The story's not so good, but the imagery will stay with you.
what a spectacle this is. the sets are just outrageous. could've used a better script perhaps but definitely worth watching for the fantastic art direction alone. and then there's dietrich...
This was a good historical drama, I didn't know much about Catherine before, but this movie didn't tell me everything I wanted to know. It only covers her youth and the time she marries into the Russian royalty, but we don't get to see how she handles the country as the new empress. It was slightly better than I expected, but it let me down in the end.
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