For Reel

Knight Without Armour (1937)
January 10, 2012, 6:39 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jacques Feyder

A visually dazzling thriller from French director Jacques Feyder, Knight Without Armour is a superb vehicle for star Marlene Dietrich, who plays a Russian countess torn from her home and on the run after the Bolsheviks rise in power. Harry Stradling Sr., who later filmed Johnny Guitar and A Face in the Crowd, not only accentuates Dietrich’s beauty with light in the way that director Josef von Sternberg did best, but he uses shadows to enhance the suspense and develop spacial relationships. The action sequences that he orchestrates with Feyder are extraordinarily memorable because of their dreamlike quality, which is often achieved through the use of ellipses. Take, for instance, the early scene in which a revolutionary attempts to murder Dietrich’s father. After a bomb is thrown, the frame is filled with smoke. Seconds later, the smoke clears and the aftermath is shown – the carriage is destroyed and on fire, men and women are running in terror. Miklós Rózsa, the Hungarian-born composer working on his first film, terrifically accentuates the chaos of the picture, particularly in a sequence in which the Bolsheviks tear apart a mansion. Dietrich’s leading man, Robert Donat, is delightfully charismatic, and their sexual chemistry together is believable – watch for the scene in which Donat gropes her breasts as he buries her in leaves as camouflage.

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