Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gentlemen of Fortune (Dzhentlmeny udachi): Pure 1971 Soviet Fun

Gentlemen of Fortune
Gentlemen of Fortune (Джентльмены удачи in Russian / Dzhentlmeny udachi transliterated) is a comedy released at the end of 1971 in the Soviet Union. It's one of the most successful Soviet movies starring some of the famous Soviet actors at the time and being the number one film in 1972 on the territory of the Soviet Union in terms of ticket sales. The movie has had more than 65 million viewers.

Gentlemen of Fortune (Dzhentlmeny udachi) is about a kindergarten director named Troshkin who looks like a twin brother of a criminal with a nickname Docent (meaning "associate professor" in Russian). Docent, assisted by two other felons, steals the golden helmet of Alexander the Great at the site of an archaeological excavation. The three criminals are caught by the militia (the Soviet Union's police) but without having the stolen helmet in them. An archaeologist professor accidentally meets Troshkin in a bus and upon seeing the striking similarity between him and Docent, suggests to the militia putting Troshkin in prison as a replacement of Docent. The latter one is separated from his gang and put in another prison so Troshkin begins his mission to wring the location of the helmet from the rest of Docent's gang. Pretending to be a real convict proves to be a tough task for the amiable and well-educated kindergarten teacher who has to learn criminal slang and behavior in order to lead his mission to a successful end.

With the above premise, the comic situations and dialogs in Gentlemen of Fortune (Dzhentlmeny udachi) unleash with full force. The movie is almost 40 years old but it's a lot funnier than many of today's comedies. The film combines adventure, comedy, crime and parody to make a family friendly entertainment without having any violent, sexual or other inappropriate scenes for the broadest possible audience. It's a movie that many later "good for all ages" comedies (e.g., Dumb and Dumber) should/could pay a tribute to if their makers have been aware of its existence eventually.

The director of the movie Aleksandr Seryj (Александр Серый) has been formerly in prison himself so he has had a first hand experience with the prisoners' slang and manners. He uses this experience well in the Gentlemen of Fortune. The actors are Evgeny Leonov (as Troshkin/Docent), Savely Kramarov and Georgy Vitsin (in the roles of Docent's gang members), Radner Muratov (in the role of another convict joining the other three). All of them are making a great job with their performances and contribute a lot to the success of the endless ridiculously funny situations in the movie.

Indicative of the popularity of the Gentlemen of Fortune movie in the countries of the former Soviet Union is the fact that the film has been seen in cinema theaters by 65 million viewers in one year. It's an enormous figure that is rarely reached by Hollywood productions even worldwide. Tickets for the movie have been resold by speculators at prices 15 times higher than the regular ones. In addition, there is a monument of "Dzhentlmeny udachi" built in the city of Taraz in Kazakhstan.

If you are a fan of Soviet movies or if you are just a lover of good (maybe even classic) comedies, Gentlemen of Fortune is just the right film for you. You'll hardly make a wrong step by watching it but it's likely you'll want to repeat this step more than once.

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