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104 min.
Josef von Sternberg
Drama, Romance, History
Rating *
Votes *
8.5% (1:12)
* View IMDb information

Top comments

  1. -1flb2-'s avatar


    Great movie. Hard to believe it was made in 1934. Excellent details in set designs. Can't take your eyes off of Marlene Dietrich. Director Josef von Sternberg's best movie. 6 years 5 months ago
  2. jmars's avatar
  3. Siskoid's avatar


    There is no doubt that the television show The Great was conceived based on 1934's The Scarlet Empress rather that Catherine II's diaries. It has the same sense of humor and treats a young woman's plunge into a decadent Russian court with the same satirical humor, not to mention how much sex and violence (even a bit of atypical nudity for the era) there are on show. But while von Sternberg has some nice ideas - a lot of cool shots and all that demonic statuary - he's not able to tell this particular story in 104 minutes without pulling up a caption in between every scene that sometimes feels redundant, and sometimes covers material we really needed to see. The most egregious is Catherine's transformation from wide-eyed innocent to shrewd politician with the army in her pocket. Marlene Dietrich is good at each, but they don't seem like the same character and the change isn't properly tracked. I could also do with more of an epilogue. She wins power and... now what? Was she any good? Where are you captions now? My biggest complaint, however, is Louise Dresser as the older Empress. She's terrible in this, running too quickly through her lines with an obnoxious, ill-fitting American accent. And Sam Jaffe as the mad Peter is at first interesting, but it's a one-note portrayal that soon wears thin. The Scarlet Empress is at once ahead of its time and deathly old-fashioned, and I found it more interesting as an object of comparison to a more recent work than as itself. 3 months 1 week ago
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In 12 official lists

  1. This movie ranks #52 in iCheckMovies's 1930s Top 100
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  2. This movie ranks #78 in Cahiers du Cinéma's 100 Films for an Ideal Cinematheque
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  3. This movie ranks #86 in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese
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  4. This movie ranks #100 in BFI's 360 Classic Feature Films Project
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  5. This movie ranks #115 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
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  6. This movie ranks #130 in The Criterion Collection
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    The Criterion Collection

  7. This movie ranks #144 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
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  8. This movie ranks #158 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
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  9. This movie ranks #263 in Roger Ebert's Great Movies
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  10. This movie ranks #446 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
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  11. This movie ranks #546 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
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  12. This movie ranks #683 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
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