Pikovaya dama (1916)

Pikovaya

Directed by Yakov Protazanov [Other horror films: Satana likuyushchiy (1917)]

This Russian flick (often known as Queen of Spades) comes to us a year before the Russian revolution, before the USSR came into power, and so it certainly feels historic when watching. But having seen it twice now, it really doesn’t leave that much an imprint on me.

The biggest problem, for me, at least, is that while the horror elements are there (apparitions, a man losing his mind, and the like), they come so late into the film to really make a positive difference. Which isn’t to say the story isn’t good before that, but it feels far more a drama than anything resembling even the 1910’s standards of horror.

Unfortunately, despite the well-done set up of the plot, this lack of horror early on is rather damaging. Utilizing flashbacks as a way to unfold the story was certainly fun (and perhaps even innovative), but after the first 15 minutes, the movie drags until around the last ten. Sure, the movie as a whole is just over an hour, so it’s not as though it drags for a long time, but it was still noticeable.

One thing Pikovaya dama did really well, though, is the score, which is superb. Suspenseful when it needs to be, the music in this flick was a real treat, and even during portions where I was less than enthralled, the music helped keep me engaged. The other high point was our main actor, Ivan Mozzhukhin, who did a perfectly enjoyable job throughout as a man obsessed with discovering a secret best left untouched.

The final showdown, as it was, lacked the suspense one would hope, and Pikovaya dama wraps up extraordinarily quickly, which was a bit of a let-down. Still, this is a movie I would recommend a fan of silents view once, as there are some clever and enjoyable parts to be found. As a horror flick, though, there’s not a whole lot to recommend this movie for.

5.5/10