Film Review, Reprinted from Variety
Tscherwonez (German, Color/B&W)
A Werner Grassmann Film Production, Hamburg, Germany. Directed by Gabor Altorjay, Janos Marton, and Randi Marie Hoffmann.
"Tscherwonez" refers in its title to the gold piece used as monetary exchange in Russia since the 15th century, the coin still commonly in use in the Soviet Union today. In the German banks the 10-ruble gold piece is worth approximately 200 marks, or circa $85. In the film it's the one sure way for an escaped sailor on a Russian freighter in the port city of Hamburg to get around the city on his own- he simply has to cash in the coin for marks at the local bank.
The comedy satirizes two well known film classics' " Potemkin" and "Ninotchka", both apparent in opening shots and delightfully integrated into the plot from the start. A sailor named Dimitri Bogomas is in search of his long-lost brother, Boris, who settled in Hamburg many years ago due to his fathers German nationality. Dimitri is worried because he hasn't heard from Boris in four years. So with a handful of gold rubels, he decides to "abandon ship" for an illegal day's leave to comb the waterfront dives for his kin. He does so by ducking his companions in an American-style Burger King, whereupon the chase for the fugitive Dimitri is on.
A subplot involves the murder in an elevator of the lifts operator: it later turns out that the victim was a former Nazi criminal now returned from abroad to deal in illegal trade. Further, due to the fact that the Soviet Secret Police has left the freighter in search of their runaway sailor, the German Secret Police sets out on the tracks of both Dimitri and the KGB.
The gags are often fresh and original. The thesps (the leads played by members of the Hungarian based SQUAT theatre, now active in Gotham) are a riot in deadpan roles that require little, if any, verbal text to put the point across. And the in-jokes are more than amusing: one involved the quirky, bouncy soundtrack throughout the chase, and another is eye-catching mixture of sepia-tones in a mixed b&w and color print. All in all, "Tscherwonez" is a film buff's film- a sure bet in a repertory house with either "Potemkin" or "Ninotchka" on a double-bill. Winner of the UNIFILM Prize at Saarbruecken.