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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cossacks (1928)

A peace loving young Cossack (John Gilbert, QUEEN CHRISTINA) is chastised by the people of his village for not wanting to fight and wage war against the Turks. But when his father (Ernest Torrence) beats him, he fights back and becomes a great Cossack warrior. On a technical level, this is a very well made film. There's a nice mix of action, romance, humor and even dancing. But I couldn't help but bristle at the film's obvious subtext. These Cossacks are ignorant barbarians who make their women toil in the field while they go off pillaging and killing the "unbelievers" (aka Turks). Gilbert's character before he turns brute is referred to as a "woman man" and ridiculed and the Russian Prince (Nils Asther, BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN) is made fun of because of his elegant manners and the film seems to implicitly condone the behavior. The film's rousing finale with the Cossacks returning in victory with Turks and their women tied in bondage seems to be asking for cheers! I won't even go into the scene where Renee Adoree (reunited with her BIG PARADE leading man) crawls on her hands and knees declaring her love for Gilbert! If one can get over that, it's an entertaining piece of hokum. Loosely based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy and directed by George W. Hill. The newly composed spirited underscore is by Robert Israel.

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