The latest DVD from the marvellous Flicker Alley shines a light on a playful and unashamedly entertaining side of Soviet silent cinema that will come as a surprise to some. Miss Mend is a three-part serial from 1926 directed by Boris Barnet and Fedor Ozep. The fast-moving, exuberant adventure story emulates the style of the American serials that were so popular with Soviet cinema audiences while cheerfully satirising Soviet-American relations (the scenarist was ‘Jim Dollar’, actually a Russian woman Marietta Shaginian) with a story which takes place in part in a technologically-advanced but corrupt America. Its impact is described on the Flicker Alley site in this quotation by the late John Gillett (of fond memory for old BFI hands), whose notes its borrowings from American and German Expressionist cinema alike:
Fusing elements of Fairbanks, Feuillade and Lang with brilliant location shooting in city and countryside … The film’s prolific visual invention take in a Nosferatu-like body in a coffin, mysterious encounters in a chateau, kidnappings on a jetty, and culminates in an extended, accelerating pursuit involving cars and horses. Barnet and Ozep exploit all the serial conventions and improves on them, winding down to a charming, poetic epilogue.
The films have been mastered in high definition from original 35mm elements produced by David Shepard and Jeffery Masino, with digital restoration and editing being carried out by Eric Lange of Lobster Films, Paris. The 2-DVD set runs for four-and-a-half hours and includes a 25-minute documentary on the films’ history, a 15-minute documentary on its music, and a booklet film historians Ana Olenina and Maxim Pozdorovkin, new English title translations, and an orchestral score by Robert Israel. It is released on 15 December and is available at a special introductory sales price of $29.96.