The Scarlet Empress
The Scarlet Empress (1934)

In this film, Marlene Dietrich plays the German-born Catherine the Great, who is required to marry Russia's mad Grand Duke Peter. As if her marriage isn't torment enough, Catherine must endure the excesses of her new mother-in-law,… More

Rated: Unrated
Running Time:
Release Date: September 15, 1934
DVD Release Date: May 8, 2001
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Critic Score: 90% Rotten Tomatoes™ Critic Reviews

Consensus: Complex, visually stunning, and breathtakingly intense, The Scarlet Empress overpowers its flaws with a confident vigor befitting its legendary subject.

Dave Kehr
Chicago Reader

Josef von Sternberg's 1934 film turns the legend of Catherine the Great into a study of sexuality sadistically repressed and reborn as politics, thus anticipating Bertolucci by three decades.

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Andre Sennwald
New York Times

Running a solid hundred minutes, the film first shocks and stimulates the imagination, and then, lacking the dramatic skill to refresh its audiences, becomes steadily duller.

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Tony Sloman
Radio Times

They don't get much better than this.

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TIME Magazine

A tedious hyperbole in which Director Josef von Sternberg achieved the improbable feat of burying Marlene Dietrich in a welter of plaster-of-paris gargoyles and galloping cossacks.

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Tony Rayns
Time Out

The decor and costumes, and the mise-en-scÚne that deploys them, have never been equaled for expressionist intensity.

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Not the most successful of Dietrich and von Sternburg's collaborations but interesting nonetheless.

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Variety Staff

Josef von Sternberg becomes so enamoured of the pomp and flash values that he subjugates everything else to them. That he succeeds as well as he does is a tribute to his artistic genius and his amazingly vital sense of photogenic values.

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Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times

The film tells the story of Catherine the Great as a bizarre visual extravaganza, combining twisted sexuality and bold bawdy humor as if Mel Brooks had collaborated with the Marquis de Sade.

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Matt Bailey
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Overstuffed with indulgent, idiosyncratic performances using every accent from Budapest to Brooklyn, the film is like a flower so strange and so beautiful it could only have germinated in the hothouse environment of a major Hollywood studio.

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More reviews for The Scarlet Empress

Flixster Audience Score: 85% Flixster User Reviews
Kevin M. Williams
As opulent and decadent as can be imagined, Von Sternberg's vision of early court life is suffused in shadows and grotesqueries unlike most films of this… More
Cindy I
A film I've wanted to see for ages and, while it was worth seeing, didn't quite hold up to my expectations. Don't know how historically accurate… More
Stella Dallas
what a spectacle this is. the sets are just outrageous. could've used a better script perhaps but definitely worth watching for the fantastic art… More
Jennifer Xu
I have never really quite seen a movie as sumptuous as this before. Josef von Sternberg really goes all out with the creepy Russian decorations and the luscious… More
Aj V
This was a good historical drama, I didn't know much about Catherine before, but this movie didn't tell me everything I wanted to know. It only… More
Veronique Kwak
another dietrich/sternberg collaboration which highly emphasizes the supreme feminism through emanicipated sex charisma as means to dominate over men, maybe… More