Set in St Petersburg in Russia, 1800, an army officer overhears the tale of a Countess who sold her soul for the skill of playing cards (a Russian form of Snap), he stumbles upon an antiquarian book store, discovering an old tome that fleshes out the story and leads him directly to the Countess. Through some chance encounters with her grand daughter, he attempts to get closer to the Countess who is nearing her deathbed. He seduces the grand daughter only to lose everything when he confronts the Countess at gunpoint, to release the secret of the cards. She dies of shock. From this point on, he is haunted by the old Countess and tricked into playing the game with some borrowed funds.
This is a lesser known British ghost story from the 40’s, which should be revered as a classic. Based on the tale by Aleksandr Pushkin, and renowned as being one of the greatest short stories. The film is nicely paced and has a great script and some of the best one liners I’ve ever heard. ‘We met whilst buying my grandmother canaries’ and ‘You’re planning a cold blooded seduction’ are two which made me smile.
It also challenges the traits of greed, dishonesty and regret. Is the Officer as bad a the Countess as his obsession was for the winning of the game and for finance, her’s was to disguise numerous affairs, the scarlet woman, although she prays for forgiveness.
The haunting scenes are also very well constructed, atmospheric and spooky to say the least. Well worth a look.