Its 9:18 pm
This will be my second attempt to write this review,WordPress ate my last one late last night. Needless to say we were not a happy cheetah and human last night.
As I was prepping this review,I ran across a article here in the New York Post about millennials not watching any older classic films. The article points out that most young adults only have a 15 year window of the movies they seen or re-watched. They rarely have watched any black and white films of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Other then Turner Classic Movies,there really isn’t a major platform where these movies are shown. So when a company like Warner Brothers Archives continues to release films like “Comrade X”,its a breath of fresh and one hopes many a millennial will accidentally will discover them all over again.
“Comrade X” is a interesting movie,meant to showcase the lovely Hedy Lamarr and in his prime Clark Gable is a romantic madcap comedy,it instead self destructs in its last 20 minutes with a sudden unexpected and I daresay,unplanned for dramatics.
But before we get to that…lets talk about the film.
Set in pre-World War Two Russia,the film opens in a hotel in Moscow where a international pool of reporters are staying. The Russians have just told them that because of Comrade X who is sneaking stories past the censors,that all stories and movements by the reporters are hereby suspended. Needless to say,this doesn’t set well with the pool.
McKinley “Mac” Thompson (Gable) is a crack hard drinking reporter who returns to the hotel to file his story when he discovers his room has been given out to German reporter Emil Van Hofer and his assistant Olga.
Claiming to be a old pal of Van Hofer,Mac blusters his way back into room which the German isn’t happy about. He goes to complain while fellow reporter (and ex-lover) Jane Wilson (Eve Arden) shows up to give Mac the skinny on what is happening.
Mac hires Olga away from Van Hofer as a cover,he proceeds to get her drunk and she passes out and he puts her in the bathtub. We then discover that Mac is “Comrade X” as he is using a handkerchief to send out his coded stories.
The next day Mac sneaks out to catch a story at a murdered Russian official and takes a picture of a assassination attempt. When he goes back to his room to write his story,his elderly friend Vanya (Felix Bressart) is waiting for him,he desperately needs Mac’s help in smuggling his daughter out of the country this very night!!
When Mac balks,Vanya reveals that he knows that Mac is Comrade X and in exchange for his silence,he has to help Theodore (Lamarr) escape Russia. Feeling the pressure,Mac agrees. Theodore is a cable car motorman and that is where Mac meets her,he is clearly surprised at how beautiful Theodore is. He starts wooing her with some Pro-Communist banter about starting a Party in the United States. She agrees to help and is instantly attracted to Mac but is put when he insists they leave the next morning.
Theodore is no fool,she knows her father is behind this and is prepared to leaving Mac hanging but he tells he isn’t. Theodore then suggests they get married right this instant!
Throughout their meeting Theodore has been bragging about a ideal Communist leader named Bastakoff and how he is going to change things…the newlyweds start packing to leave when Wilson comes by and get a laugh when she finds out Mac is married.
Then Mac gets a call,he is to report to the lead police official in 30 minutes,he then shows up only to see his camera,which is hidden as a radio sitting on the table and when Van Hofer walks in,Mac knows he is in real trouble.
Mac,Vanya,Theodore are all put in a jail underground and told to wait. There are about 50 other citizens that have been rounded up. As the trio starts to talk,group of peasants are taken out and killed (off camera).
Mac then asks to see the leader which turns out to be Bastakoff himself…Mac buys enough time to attempt a shaky blackmail attempt of his own…and the trio makes a slapstick escape by using the most unlikely vehicle…..
So did the cheetah and I like this movie? We loved the cast and the first 70 minutes of the movie itself. But what had been a fun,madcap romp took a seriously dark turn,I don’t think screenwriter Ben Hecht planned for that to happen but it did and it brought Comrade X to a dead stop. The ending itself was badly written as well…not even the legendary director King Vidor could save Comrade X from itself.
But we are going to look at the bright side of this movie,MGM released “Comrade X” to introduce America to the lovely Hedy Lamarr,this was only her fifth American film role and she was stunning to look upon. Clark Gable,fresh off his Rhett Butler role in “Gone With the Wind” looked great here. Handsome,healthy looking (he only had one smoking scene in this movie) and robust…his Mac Thomson was a man of action. But I will say this,he looked unprepared for Theodore’s overpowering sexuality,Lamarr knew how beautiful she was and she used it in her acting here. Gable looked a he was back on his heels a bit during a couple of their romantic scenes.
Arden was sassy as ever but really underused as Jane Wilson,one wishes she would have been in a couple of more scenes!
The cheetah and I both agreed that “Comrade X ” is worth watching for Hedy Lamarr and Clark Gable. We both were disappointed in the way the story ended.
This DVD release has no special features and the run time 90 minutes.
You can buy “Comrade X” at the Warner Brothers Archives website.
What is your favorite Clark Gable movie? Or Hedy Lamarr film?
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