VCI Entertainment announced this past week that director George Nicholls, Jr.’s 1937 film adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1876 novel, “Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar,” The Soldier and the Lady, will be making its DVD debut on Oct. 17.
This RKO release was an odd choice for an action tale in mid-1930s. The Czar (Alexander II) had been assassinated in 1881, and his grandson, Nicholas II was murdered by the Soviets during the summer of 1918 … who were now firmly in control of Russia when the film was released and adding to that, there were war clouds on the horizon in Europe.
So doing a remembrance of the glory days of the Russian Empire, who, by the way, were the bad guys in director Michael Curtiz’s The Charge of the Light Brigade (released the previous year by Warner Bros.), seemed a tad out of step.
Nevertheless, here it is. Michel Strogoff (played by Anton Walbrook, who also played the same role in both the 1936 separate German and French versions) is a courier for the Czar, who has been dispatched with plans that must be delivered to the Grand Duke (William Stack), who is isolated in Siberia (telegraph communications have been cut) by the combined forces of the Mongols and the Tartars, who are under the command of Ivan Ogareff (Akim Tamiroff).
It is one grand adventure after another as Strogoff must make his way across the vast expanse of Russia to deliver his communication. Along the way he meets “the lady” in question, Nadia (played by Elizabeth Allan — A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Mark of the Vampire, etc.), his mother, who he must deny (or reveal his identity) is killed, he saves the life of a spy (Margot Grahame), who returns the favor and she too dies … it often looks bleak for Strogoff, but The Soldier and the Lady does have a happy ending.