The Heir to Genghis Khan (Hyperkino Edition) DVD
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Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin
Produced in 1928
Main Language - Silent
Intense editing rhythms and stunning visuals characterise Pudovkin's Russian revolutionary drama. It's great cinema says Anthony Nield, and the hyperkino format adds a wealth of information.
Genghis Khan inspires the epic when it comes to cinematic versions of his life. During the fifties and sixties audiences were treated to grand Hollywood productions fronted by, respectively, John Wayne and Omar Sharif. More recently there has been Sergei Bodrov’s Mongol, a film which, at the time of its making, was the most expensive Russian movie ever made. His descendants had a similar effect too, as Vsevolod Pudovkin’s classic Soviet silent, The Heir to Genghis Khan, ably shows.
The heir is a fur trapper who finds himself up against various factions of the British occupying forces. The corrupt traders wish to exploit him whilst the army wants to kill him. The top politicians, on the other hand, see him as a potential tool: a puppet leader through which they can control his countrymen. Naturally he resists in all cases, making him the perfect metaphor. Here is the Russian revolutionary versus the Western capitalist, though the truth of the matter wasn’t quite so simple. During its initial overseas release, under the better known title of Storm Over Asia, The Heir to Genghis Khan had its intertitles altered. The villains of the piece were instead identified as white Russians so as not to offend British sensibilities, a switch which came far closer to the reality of the situation.
Amidst the action and the propaganda Pudovkin also finds room for scenes of a more ethnographic nature. He captures the Mongolian plains and the traditions and rituals of its people in strict documentary fashion, lending them a respect that makes for a stark contrast to the cartoonishly portrayed Brits. Yet such documentary interludes are short-lived. The Heir to Genghis Khan is primarily a hyperkinetic affair, marked by its intense editing rhythms, stunning visuals and a series of exciting set pieces scored with excerpts from the classics. For all of its dubious politics, this is quite simply great cinema.
Now available in Hyperkino format, The Heir to Genghis Khan can be viewed alongside a range of annotated essays and illustrations taking us behind the scenes of its production and relating its history and contemporary reaction.
Anthony Nield on 15th May 2012
Author of 13 reviews
The last part in a trilogy of revolutionary films by Vsevolod Pudovkin, alongside Mother (1926) and The End of St. Petersburg (1927).
Based upon the novel by I. Novokshenov, Heir to Genghis Khan / Storm over Asia is set in Mongolia, where a young, simple Mongol herdsman and trapper is cheated out of a valuable fox fur by a European capitalist fur trader. Ostracized from the trading post, he escapes to the hills after brawling with the trader who cheated him. Then in 1920 he becomes a Soviet partisan, and helps them fight the occupying army. Capture and injury follow, but then an amulet suggests the trapper is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan...
The film is presented as a 2-disc 'hyperkino edition'. Disc 1 contains the standard film in the best available print, with optional subtitles. Disc 2 contains the film, plus numerous scene-specific annotations, video clips and documents (in Russian and in English). These can be viewed on screen, contextualising the film and enhancing the viewer’s understanding. This innovative format works extremely well and is one of the most exciting developments in DVD for years. It is especially valuable for important works of world cinema whose historical contexts crave further exploration.
Length: 96 mins
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 11th May 2012
Cat No: HPK9
- 2 discs