“You fell upon them like a starving man upon a steak!”

This is a Lubitsch film starring Pola Negri, but unlike Sumurun which stunk, this one is as hilarious as The Oyster Princess. There is a fort in the snow and in the surrounding mountains there is a group of robbers headed by Rischka (Pola Negri). An officer is transferred to the fort, but gets intercepted by the robbers who proceed to humiliate him before letting him go. However in the process, he manages to catch Rischka’s eye. What follows is a satire on militarism mixed with plenty of slapstick and a little screwball romance.

Two of the best examples of the satire on militarism lie in what happens before the screenshot above and what happens after. When the transferred officer is found to have been humiliated a “punitive expedition” is sent to get the robbers.

Rischka spots a soldier taking aim and pelts him with a snowball

“Don’t get rough, now” he says after being hit by the snowball.

After seeing this single soldier fall down returning to the fort, the Commander of the fort declares “a total victory.”

As you can see from the shots above, Lubitsch makes creative use of the iris shot by shaping it into all kinds of nonstandard shapes. It adds to the goofiness of what is framed. Just as with The Oyster Princess, this is one best previewed through screenshots, not words. So here are some of my favorites.

He likes getting whipped by her. No joke.

The female battering ram!

The sculpture looked at him wrong

The stay-puft marshmallow man band

Ride ’em cowboy!

One of the problems with zany slapstick comedies is that they can easily devolve into a series of sketches. The characters in this film are more than props for comedy and the story more then a clothesline to hang the sketches upon. All without losing the crazy scenes and the biting satire. A difficult task to say the least. I highly recommend it.

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