March 01, 2019

Of Rabbits and Wolves

Of Rabbits and Wolves
Semyon Semyonovich (Yuri Nikulin) gets ready to head off to foreign lands.

No matter how many times I watch Diamond Arm («Бриллиантовая рука»), I never cease to wonder at the fact that this film managed to make it to screens all across the Soviet Union in April 1969 – just one year after the invasion of Czechoslovakia and a month after the Sino-Soviet border clash over Damansky Island. This was hardly a time of liberalization!

I can only assume that the powers that were decided to cheer people up with some slapstick comedy, but apparently – and thankfully – they did not watch the film very carefully.

First, there’s the overall plot: an ordinary guy, Semyon Semyonovich Gorbunkov, sets off for foreign parts on a cruise (!?). This was so unrealistic it struck people as simply laughable. Out of this premise arose a comedy of errors in which criminals trying to smuggle diamonds from some unspecified foreign country into the Soviet Union, through a case of mistaken identity, wind up embedding the loot in a cast placed on the arm of the upstanding and not terribly worldly Gorbunkov, who had temporarily lost consciousness after hitting his head.

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