The Russian Story (Artlino) gives such U.S. audiences as can get to it* a chance to see several great episodes from the ill-distributed Soviet film masterpieces of the past two decades. They are, however, grossly mulled & mauled into an attempted movie history of Russia. The history is propagandists and sketchy (one notable omission is Napoleon) and the end result is a considerable cinematic crime.
The picture was flung together in the U.S. with the blessing of the National Council for American Soviet Friendship. A flatulent commentary with lines like "Fly, you bannersthere is no wind strong enough to blow you down" is ping-ponged between Blues-Singer Libby Holman and mopey Actor Morris Carnovsky. The famous suspense with which Director Sergei Eisenstein prefaced the battle in Alexander Nevsky has been unmercifully hacked when half a minute of editorial discretion would have kept it whole, and the excellent battle music which Prokofieff contrived for that sequence becomes an aural trunk murder. Eisenstein's appalling scene in which soldiers drive civilians down a great flight of steps. in Odessa (Potemkiri) has also been tampered with it is now a shambles instead of a few minutes of cinema as brilliantly organized as a movement in a Beethoven symphony.
Yet the picture is worth seeingits great excerpts from the past are tributes to directors of genius and to a nation which, for a while, gave them a chance to work as cinema talents have seldom been permitted to work. Even in mangled form, such scenes as the silver blaze of ripe wheat and sunflowers full of struggling men, crazed horses and black explosions (in Director Alexander Dovzhenko's Shors) are still able to make any perceptive U.S. filmgoer who has seen only the best advertised native films wonder, seriously, whether he has ever seen a real moving picture before. These Russian classics shine against the cheap, easy sheen of most films (and much of this film) as nobly as a battle flag against the patriotism worn by a chorus girl for a breechclout.
Spitfire (Goldwyn-RKO-Radio) can serve as a fine epitaph for gentle, charming, intelligent Leslie Howard, whom the Nazis this month shot down in the Bay of Biscay (TIME, June 14). Howard produced, directed and played the lead in the film. The picture itself is a finely tasteful, faithful biography of one of Britain's newest and least-known heroesthe late, great aircraft designer Reginald Joseph Mitchell. As designer of the tactically superior* Spitfire fighter, Mitchell was one of a few menChurchill was another whose foresight had much to do with saving Britain and her allies.