"Knight Without Asthma" is what the "gwamowous Miss Dietwich" dubbed costar Wobert Donat upon his return to the set after a particularly nasty bout with chronic asthma. For a time the powers that be considered replacing him, but luckily Dietrich fought to keep Donat. It's a good thing, too,
because their teamwork is one of the highlights of this lavish, underrated spectacle.
About to be kicked out of Czarist Russia for writing an article critical of the state, Britisher Ainsley Fothergill (Donat) manages to stay when he is engaged as a spy for his native country. Investigating young radicals trying to overthrow the Czar, he meets one involved in a plot to kill General
Gregor Vladinoff (Lomas), father of the Countess Alexandra (Dietrich). Fothergill is arrested along with others connected with the attempt, and spends years languishing in prison until he is set free by the Russian Revolution. He later meets up with the Countess, whose estate has been overrun and
who has been taken prisoner herself. Ordered to escort her to Petrograd to stand trial, Fothergill reveals his identity to Alexandra and proceeds to help her escape. The two find an unlikely ally in the form of Poushkoff (Clements, an appealing actor) and must use disguises and their wits to make
their way to safety.
KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOR boasts grand period sets by Lazare Meerson and a thunderous, majestic Rosza score that captures the spirit of the stirring and cataclysmic events onscreen. Dietrich looks lovely and her performance is generally quite good, even if she is tousled and dirtied up in only the most
decorative manner possible amidst the fires of revolution. Once described as having sex without gender, the incredible Marlene spans quite a sexual gamut in this film. One scene offers striking quasi-nudity as the Countess races across the lawn of her estate in a diaphanous white robe upon
discovering that she has been abandoned by her servants. Not long afterward, though, she must masquerade as a Cossack during an escape and the Androgyne of the Ages gets to strut her stuff once more. Donat is in fine form, too, full of dash but avoiding the impulse to be too precious.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: "Knight Without Asthma" is what the "gwamowous Miss Dietwich" dubbed costar Wobert Donat upon his return to the set after a particularly nasty bout with chronic asthma. For a time the powers that be considered replacing him, but luckily Dietrich fought to… (more)