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The Queen Of Spades

Director – Thorold Dickinson – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

****1/2

A Russian army officer seeks the occult secret of playing cards that will earn him a vast fortune, but has not bargained for the dark, supernatural forces involved – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 23rd and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on January 23rd

1806, St. Petersburg. Unlike his well-connected aristocrat contemporaries in the army, Captain Goeman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) sees no opportunity for advancement. In a bookstore, he chances upon an arcane volume which the store owner suggests will offer various opportunities for personal betterment fraught with danger. Reading up on “people who have sold their soul”, he learns that the Countess (Pauline Tennant) made her fortune in a gambling den with the secret of three unbeatable playing cards for which she agreed to sell her soul after one of her lovers stole her considerable personal allowance, taking advantage of her needing him to leave quickly in order to prevent her husband’s discovering his presence in her bedchamber, which stolen monies she then needed to find a means of replacing.

As the Countess is now an old woman (Dame Edith Evans), Goeman resolves to get close to her by romancing her ward Lizavyeta Ivanovna (Yvonne Mitchell) using words for love letters suggested by contemporary aristocratic officer Andrei Andreyonov (Ronald Howard) with neither of them aware that they are actually interested in the affections of the same girl.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Luzhin Defence

Director – Marleen Gorris – 2000 – UK – Cert. 12 – 109m

****

An unscrupulous teacher tracks a grown-up, former child Chess prodigy to Italy and attempts to exploit him for further gain – in cinemas from Friday, September 8th 2000

Adapted from the novel by Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita), this is ostensibly set for the most part in and around a Chess tournament in Northern Italy in 1929. Ostensibly because parallel plot strands flash back in time to the childhood of one of the contestants, Russian Master Alexander Luzhin (an unkempt, shambling and top form John Turturro).

The boy Alexander (Alexander Hunting) fares badly at school and suffers terribly as an all-round failure until it’s realised that he’s good at Chess. And not just good – his world-class genius is soon being exploited for financial gain by unscrupulous schoolteacher Valentinov (Stuart Wilson) only to be dumped the moment he stops winning. Valentinov has tracked Luzhin down to the 1929 tournament, determine to trample upon his former charge’s independently achieved fame and success.

However, he’s reckoned without the is young and marriageable aristocrat Natalia (Emily Watson, also on top form) who, instead of being wooed as intended for eligible bachelor Stassard (Christopher Thompson), is swept off her feet by the socially clumsy and clearly unsuitable Luzhin.… Read the rest