Despite being talky, stagy and contrived, “Engineer Kochin’s Error” is a detective-cum-spy story as enjoyable to watch as any episode of “Inspector Derrick.” The American influence is strikingly clear. Author Yuri Olesha, who has been criticized for his literary decline under Stalinism, wrote the script with director Aleksandr Macheret. Pic has multiple levels of meaning for those who would look deeper.
Kochin (N. Dorokhin) foolishly takes home plans for a new supersonic aircraft engine he’s building. His tormented girlfriend (Lyubov Orlova), who has been abroad in her youth, is blackmailed by a foreign spymaster to help photograph the plans. She’s killed before she can confess, and suspicion falls on the good Kochin, but the lovable NKVD secret police chief and his bumbling assistant track down the culprits and clear his name. It doesn’t take much imagination to change the story around and picture Orlova’s character blackmailed by the NKVD, probably a far more common situation. Though intellectuals get thumbs-down in the pic, there are two interesting Jewish characters, a patriotic tailor and his wife, played by B. Petker and the great actress Faina Ranevskaya.