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A three part Russian serial, running a little over four hours. It's a pretty big time commitment, but this series is darn entertaining. It's a sometimes uneasy combination of Soviet propaganda and American adventure, with the American adventure kind of winning out in the end. The film starts off more on the propaganda side, with three American reporters (Barnet himself, Vladimir Fogel, who starred in many famous films of the era including The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West, By the Law, Chess Fever, The End of St. Petersberg, and Igor Ilyinsky, who starred in Aelita: Queen of Mars) covering a workers' strike. As corporate lackeys, they only care about sensationalism, and the three of them fall for the factory's own Norma Rae, Miss Vivian Mend (Natalya Glan). The propaganda aspects start to fade into more Feuillade-inspired crime conspiracy territory, with villain Chiche (Sergey Komarov) using corporate funds to create a biological weapon he plans to use against the Soviet Union. The film also has some elements of German expressionism, with direct references to Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari sprinkled in. Over the course of the serial, the three reporters and Miss Mend (who, truth be told, is a pretty passive heroine) follow Chiche to Russia to stop his plot. This film was not well regarded by Soviet critics of the day - they instantly noted that the film's ideologies were often eclipsed by its love for adventure - but audiences loved it, and it was one of the more popular films among general audiences at the time. It's a bit hard to follow at times, but it's worth the time.
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