Cover image for The scarlet empress
The scarlet empress
Zukor, Adolph, 1873-1976.
[DVD version].
Publication Information:
[Irvington, N.Y.] : Criterion Collection, [2001]

Physical Description:
1 videodisc (104 min.) : sound, black and white ; 4 3/4 in.
Catherine, a German princess, married the Grand Duke Peter, the heir to the Russian throne. Because of his madness, she was able to seize the throne and become known as Catherine the Great.
General Note:
RSDL dual-layer ed.

"Based on a diary of Catherine II."

Originally released as motion picture in 1934.

Widescreen (aspect ratio 1.33:1), Dolby digital mono.

Special features: luminous new digital transfer with restored image and sound ; production stills and lobby cards.

Includes: The world of Josef von Sternberg (20 min.) / research, script, interview, Kevin Brownlow ; producer and director, Barrie Gavin ; BBC-TV.

Container states: "Von Sternberg tribute by underground filmmaker Jack Smith, " but this tribute is not included.

For specific features see interactive menu.
Reading Level:
Not rated by MPAA.
Added Title:
World of Josef von Sternberg.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DVD 2839 Adult DVD Audio Visual

On Order



Of the two 1934 film versions of the life of Russia's Catherine the Great, Josef von Sternberg's The Scarlet Empress was the most opulent and exotic. Marlene Dietrich plays the German-born Catherine, who is required to marry Russia's mad Grand Duke Peter (Sam Jaffe, decked out in a Harpo Marx wig). As if her joke of a marriage isn't torment enough, Catherine must endure the excesses of her new mother-in-law, Empress Elizabeth (Louise Dresser). Eventually, Catherine finds solace -- and romance -- in the form of Count Alexei (John Lodge). But even this balm is denied her when the ambitious Alexei begins wooing the much-older Elizabeth. When the old Empress dies, Catherine ascends to the Russian throne, knowing full well that her addled husband would kill her at the slightest provocation. Soon her power outstrips Peter's, and the opportunistic Alexei now comes back into her life. The finale finds Catherine emerging triumphant over all her enemies -- and, in the film's least subtle sequence (which is saying a lot!), the new Empress is shown astride a horse, to whom she displays far more affection than any of her human compatriots. The Scarlet Empress has even less to do with accuracy than Paul Czinner's Catherine the Great of the same year, which starred Elizabeth Bergner. Watch for Dietrich's real-life daughter Maria Sieber (aka Maria Riva) as the 7-year-old Catherine in the early scenes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi