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Convicts

However involuntarily comic "Convicts" looks today, it was viewed as a straight prison tale when it came out in 1936. Based on scriptwriter Nikolai Pogodin's official play about how the gulag gently helps steer prisoners toward a happy, socially productive life, pic is an amazing piece of propaganda which it is hard to believe anyone swallowed whole even at the time.

With:
With:Mihail Astangov, Aleksandr Cheban, Mikhail Yanshin, Boris Dobronravov, Vera Yanukova, Nadezhda Ermakovich.

However involuntarily comic “Convicts” looks today, it was viewed as a straight prison tale when it came out in 1936. Based on scriptwriter Nikolai Pogodin’s official play about how the gulag gently helps steer prisoners toward a happy, socially productive life, pic is an amazing piece of propaganda which it is hard to believe anyone swallowed whole even at the time.

A train full of convicts arrives in a gulag in Russia’s far north, where they are set to work building a canal. Though the prison warden is wise and caring, a dyed-in-the-wool crook (Mihail Astangov) and his ex-moll (Vera Yanukova, who was Eisenstein’s great love) take a long time to get into the spirit. (Historically, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly political prisoners, died in Stalin’s canal-building projects.) Director Evgeni Chervyakov is said to have shot the picture reluctantly, after the studio promised to let him direct a liberal pet project as a reward.

Convicts

Soviet Union - 1936

Production: A Mosfilm production.

Crew: Directed by Evgeni Chervyakov. Screenplay, Nikolai Pogodin, based on his play "Aristocrats." Camera (B&W), Mikhail Gindin, Boris Petrov; music, Yuri Shaporin; art directors, B. Knoblok, V. Panteleyev. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Soviet retro), Aug. 6, 2000. Original title: Zaklyuchonniye. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With:Mihail Astangov, Aleksandr Cheban, Mikhail Yanshin, Boris Dobronravov, Vera Yanukova, Nadezhda Ermakovich.

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