A masterfully constructed picture set in 18th-century Russia, THE PATRIOT chronicles the last days in the life of yet another mad Russian czar, Paul I. Emil Jannings is the lunatic czar who, fearing an assassination plot, retreats to the safety of his palace. He can trust only Lewis
Stone, a devoted count and the czar's longtime friend. Although Stone is inclined to be loyal to the czar, he feels he can no longer watch his people live in misery. He enlists the aid of Harry Cording, a palace guard whom Jannings has viciously humiliated, to help carry out an assassination plot.
Cording uses the czar's mistress, Vera Voronina, to lure Jannings into the bedroom where the murder is to take place. Voronina, however, informs the czar of the scheme. Stone is called in and questioned about the accusations, but is able to reassure Jannings of his loyalty. A plot surely does
exist, and later that night it is carried out. Cording and Stone enter Jannings' bedroom and a shot is fired (by Cording) into the czar's body. Cording then turns the gun on the noble count and fires again. As he lies dying on the floor, Stone proclaims, "I have been a bad friend and lover--but I
have been a Patriot."
As fine as all the supporting performances are (Stone received a Best Actor nomination), it is Jannings who steals the picture. His leering animalistic czar is a tour de force, whether he is throwing a harmless Pekingese puppy out a window or punching his engaging, playful mistress in the face
with all his might. He is at his most disturbing when he berates Cording over a missing button on the guard's uniform. The enraged Jannings explodes, shoves his finger in Cording's face, plunges his thumb into the guard's mouth, and then mercilessly whips him. Also noteworthy is Hans Dreier's
magnificent marble set design, which received an Oscar nomination. Hans Kraly's adaptation earned an Oscar for Best Writing Achievement and Lubitsch was nominated for Best Director. THE PATRIOT was directed as a silent, but the advent of sound led to some post-synchronized dialog, with which
director Ernst Lubitsch was not involved.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A masterfully constructed picture set in 18th-century Russia, THE PATRIOT chronicles the last days in the life of yet another mad Russian czar, Paul I. Emil Jannings is the lunatic czar who, fearing an assassination plot, retreats to the safety of his pala… (more)