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Marlene Dietrich DVD collection

Marlene Dietrich DVD collection:

Blonde Venus
Devil Is A Woman
Flame Of New Orleans
Follow The Boys
A Foreign Affair
Golden Earrings
Seven Sinners
Song Of Songs

February 2007 SITE MAP   SEARCH

cast: Marlene Dietrich, Victor McLaglen, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Warner Oland, and Lew Cody

director: Josef Von Sternberg

91 minutes (PG) 1931
Universal Pictures DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Whilst there's still a long way to go, the last 30 years have seen the film industry finally embrace the concept of the heroine. From Girl, Interrupted to Miss Congeniality recent films of every stripe have featured female protagonists where once men would have dominated. As a result, it's difficult to realise exactly how revolutionary Dishonoured is. Made in 1931, it stars Marlene Dietrich as Marie Kolverer, a war widow recruited by the Austrian Secret Service to serve as Agent X27, a female spy. In short, this is a thriller centred entirely on a woman, made 75 years ago.

Like The Devil Is A Woman, it's stood the test of time remarkably well. This is at least in part because the central plot is, literally, vintage spy thriller; agent recruited against their will, engages in a battle of wits with a rival and is ultimately faced with the choice between love and duty. In this instance, that choice is represented by Colonel Kranau (Victor McLaglen), a Russian spy who is every inch her equal. McLaglen, whilst not the first choice for the role, makes it his own, playing Kranau with an easygoing amiability that only confirms his status as a credible threat. This is a man absolutely secure in what he does and with absolute confidence in his abilities and that makes him all the more dangerous.

Sternberg and Dietrich, publicity for Dishonoured

The battle of wits between the two and the tradecraft necessitated by her assignments as X27 give Dietrich a perfect opportunity to play up to the camera. Whether meowing at the man she's been sent to seduce or spending an entire scene speaking in monosyllables she's a completely over-the-top, completely captivating master spy. George Smiley this most assuredly is not, but the sheer energy and magnetism she brings to the role is immensely impressive.

Confidently acted and sumptuously directed, Dishonoured is high melodrama with an intelligent script and some genuinely brave narrative choices. It's also another fascinating look at how cinema was, and how that foundation has evolved into what we see today.

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