A must-see for connoisseurs of silent cinema, beautifully restored. When Russia partitions Poland in 1776, Catherine the Great orders the formation of a Russian-Polish calvary in Vilnius, Poland. Obsequious in public, the Poles privately cheer the nationalistic songs sung by Sophie Novinska (Edith Jehanne). Sophie’s foster brother, Boleslas Vorowski (Pierre Blanchar), jointly heads the Russian-Polish regiment with a Russian major named Nicolaeiff (Camille Bert). Though a Polish loyalist, Boleslas cherishes his friendship with Russian Prince Serge Oblomoff (Pierre Batcheff), who is in turn smitten with Sophie. While Boleslas beats the Russians at chess at his barracks, his patriotic father, Baron Von Kempelen (Charles Dullin), tinkers with his laboratory full of automata. After an incident in which Russian soldiers slight the honor of a Polish dancer, the populace rises up; leading the peoples' insurrection means a death sentence for Boleslas, who’s wounded in action. But the Baron has invented a chess-playing robot called the Turk that's large enough to conceal Boleslas, who can be shipped inside the automaton to a safer country. When his chess opponent, Nicolaeiff, recognizes a familiar move by the hidden Boleslas, he contacts the Empress Catherine with his suspicions about who’s secretly operating the Turk. Catherine orders the chess-playing novelty transported to her jubilee in Russia, where she's peeved by its cheeky strategy. The Empress orders the chess-playing marvel shot after her masked ball winds down at dawn. Is this the end of Boleslas? Working from Henry Dupuy-Mazuel's novel about the real-life Turk, an 18th-century marvel, director Raymond Bernard stages battle scenes that rival those of D.W. Griffith without letting his film's breadth dwarfs the characters' personal dramas.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A must-see for connoisseurs of silent cinema, beautifully restored. When Russia partitions Poland in 1776, Catherine the Great orders the formation of a Russian-Polish calvary in Vilnius, Poland. Obsequious in public, the Poles privately cheer the national… (more)