Queen of Spades is ham, well-done. It's got bejeweled nobles, fragile ladies, wild eyed gypsics, and a drooling villain who goes stark, raving mad in the last scene. If Pushkin were alive today, he'd probably go mad a good deal sooner, but everyone else excluding the purists, will enjoy the motion picture.
The remnants of Pushkin's plot are recognizable. The action takes place in old St. Petersburg, where a power hungry young officer slyly schemes to obtain the secret of success at faro from the wizened old countess (who sold her soul to get it). Anton Walbrook, who doesn't need a sound track, plays the officer; the rest of the cast are competent English actors, quite at home in their nineteenth century dress.
With this English-made historical melodrama, the Brattle presents two French shorts. The first, called Zanzabelle, is the work of an old French puppeteer, who has a remarkable ability to place human faces on his dolls and an equally wonderful talent for amusing situation. The other short, Images Medievales, reproduces fifteenth century French manuscript illumination in striking color. The sketches are interesting, and the dubbed-in English sound track is unintentionally hilarious.