The Queen of Spades

Silent Russian Film The Queen of Spades

Over the years of cinema and television there have been quite a fair few productions that have featured, or even centred around, casino games and betting. This is understandable since similar thrills can garner from watching casino games as from playing them, with that chance factor and lady luck making for some good television.

Add to this the morality angle as well as the economic one and shows or films that include this sort of experience have a lot to play with. This particular film, The Queen of Spades, is from Russia in 1916 and demonstrates the historical extent of the collaboration between casino games and film, as the trend continues today still, 100 years later. This was of course a silent film, shot in black and white and produced just before the Russian revolution. It is regarded highly as an innovative production, utilising filming aspects that became popular since.

The Cast, Plot and Theme

So understandably the progression of a 1916 silent film in black and white will feel a little slow now a century later but the critical plot points and some of the imaginative camera work made this quite a masterpiece of the time. The cast of the film were Russian, with the protagonist role being portrayed by one Ivan Mazzhukin. Ivan went on to flee Russia, first through Crimea and then into France where he pursued his career and only fell out of graces when audio was introduced to films and his thick accent became a hindrance. The director, Yakov Potrazanov, went on to do quite a bit more, yet The Queen of Spades was still regarded as one of his masterpieces.

The film’s plot is rather straightforward, as many of the silent movies probably had to be, and is based on a short story of the same name written by Alexander Pushkin. Basically the protagonist, played by Ivan, discovers that an elderly Countess knows a secret about cards, one that would make the player unbeatable. Enticed by this understandably exciting secret he goes to inquire. Unfortunately his approach is a bit strong and he ends up scaring the Countess to death. Later however, she returns as a ghost and tells him the secret, a progression of specific cards, Ace, 3 and 7 that, when collaborated, will always win.

When the protagonist learns this secret he obviously immediately heads to the tables to test this newfound theory. After a few wins with the 3 and 7 he bets all his money, sure that the fabled Ace will surface to complete the progression. Alas this was not the case and he loses all his money and spirals into madness. Rather vivid, but coupled with the events surrounding that time as well as the general message, this film left quite an impact.

Conclusion of The Queen of Spades

So, to summarise the findings, The Queen of Spades film of 1916 was lacking by today’s standards but was highly regarded back in its time. This black and white silent film also made some impressive inroads into the filming industry with some rather innovative approaches.