The fairly untrue true story of Catherine the Great’s sexy rise to power!
Duped into marrying a half-witted Russian prince, demeaned by her mother-in-law the czarina and trapped in a world of bizarre furniture, Princess Sophia (Marlene Dietrich) despairs. Luckily, she’s surrounded by strapping young cossacks—all she needs to sleep her way into becoming the most powerful tyrant Russia had ever seen.
Flamboyant, over-the-top, alternately funny and unsettling, The Scarlet Empress dares to depict history as grotesque erotic black comedy. Visually lavish and gorgeously shot, Von Sternberg’s direction overwhelms and seduces the viewer. This is pre-camp camp of the highest order. And nobody plays a transformation from innocent coquette to sinful conqueror like Dietrich.
Host Elliott Kalan and guest Michael Kupperman (a cartoonist whose books include Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Snake N' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret) will discuss rare bursts of Hollywood madness, von Sternberg’s Svengali relationship with Dietrich and whether historical accuracy is ever necessary.
Director: Josef von Sternberg. 104 min. 1934. 35mm.
Part of the series Closely Watched Films, hosted by Elliott Kalan.
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