The Queen of Spades
Based on the Book... • Drama, Fantasy, Horror, UR
The distinguished British film director Thorold Dickinson (1903-1984), made only nine features in a chequered but remarkable film-making career which began in 1936 and ended in 1955. He subsequently became Britainís first Professor of Film at the Slade School of Art and wrote the much re-printed ëA Discovery of Cinemaí (1971). Everything this brilliant, neglected stylist made showed a rare intelligence and intense cinematic flair, a dry wit and a refusal of sentimentality, and combined acute visual invention with great sensitivity and imagination in the use of music and sound. The Queen of Spades is perhaps his most dazzling success. Dickinson was brought in to direct it at only three daysí notice, on the recommendation of its star, Anton Walbrook. Based on Pushkinís 1834 tale of black magic and gambling, this chilling film persuasively recreates 1815 St Petersburg on a shoestring in a Welwyn Garden City studio (designer, Oliver Messel). Itís an astonishing, thrillingly unbritish piece of work, with extraordinary performances from Walbrook, as the obsessed gambler, and (toweringly) Edith Evans, as the diabolical old Countess.