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The Queen of Spades PG rating

Thorold Dickinson's most dazzling success, based on Pushkin’s 1834 tale of black magic and gambling.

Fantasy 1949 95 mins

Director: Thorold Dickinson



The distinguished British film director Thorold Dickinson (1903-1984), made only nine features in a chequered but remarkable film-making career which began in 1936 and ended in 1955. He subsequently became Britain’s first Professor of Film at the Slade School of Art and wrote the much re-printed ‘A Discovery of Cinema’ (1971). Everything this brilliant, neglected stylist made showed a rare intelligence and intense cinematic flair, a dry wit and a refusal of sentimentality, and combined acute visual invention with great sensitivity and imagination in the use of music and sound. The Queen of Spades is perhaps his most dazzling success. Dickinson was brought in to direct it at only three days’ notice, on the recommendation of its star, Anton Walbrook. Based on Pushkin’s 1834 tale of black magic and gambling, this chilling film persuasively recreates 1815 St Petersburg on a shoestring in a Welwyn Garden City studio (designer, Oliver Messel). It’s an astonishing, thrillingly unbritish piece of work, with extraordinary performances from Walbrook, as the obsessed gambler, and (toweringly) Edith Evans, as the diabolical old Countess.