The Patricia Roc Filmography
The Rebel Son
aka The Barbarian and the Lady
aka The Rebel Son of Taras Bulba

SEDIF 1938 88mins B&W

Directed by: Adrian Brunel, Albert de Courville, Alexis Granowsky
Produced by: Charles David, E.C. Molinier and Alexander Korda (uncredited)
Starring: Harry Baur, Anthony Bushell, Roger Livesey, Patricia Roc

Plot Synopsis
During the 16th century the Cossacks and their Ukraine homeland is ruled by Poland and an uneasy truce exists. The leader of the Cossacks, Taras Bulba sends his sons to study under the Poles hoping they will learn something to his advantage about how to defeat them in battle. Unfortunately one of the sons is more academically inclined and learns to read and write. Worse still he falls in love with the daughter of a Polish nobleman. When the sons return to their father he is ready to start the fight to win back their homeland using what information his sons have gained. The battle begins with the seige of a castle - but little does the son know that the girl he fell in love with (Marina) is one of those under seige. When he finds out conflict erupts between father and son ending in betrayal and tragedy.

The story of Taras Bulba is based on the novel by Nikolai Gogol and seems to be a favourite to bring to the big screen. There are five other versions to choose from two of which came before this version (in 1924 as a silent film and in 1936 as a French film). After this version there are further attempts made in 1962 (perhaps the most famous version with Tony Curtis and Yul Brynner) and in 1987 (as a TV movie) and most recently in a Spanish version in 2009.

This 1938 version seems to be an attempt to bring the French 1936 version directed by Alexis Granowsky to English audiences. I haven't see the French version myself but apparently the 1938 version as well as having Alexis Granowsky's name mentioned in the credits in many places, also uses some footage from the 1936 version. In addition Harry Baur appears in both versions. Known as a great French actor there is rumour that in the English version his dialogue was dubbed - which may explain a somewhat less than engaging performance.

Overall, the male lead acting seems poor, the plot confused. It's all a bit klunky and while one feels that the cast and crew were trying hard (perhaps too hard) to make something exciting it just doesn't really fit together very well. Anthony Bushell and Roger Livesey's peformance varies from wooden and completely unconvincing to just passable. The best acting in the film really comes from Patricia Roc (well I suppose I would say that but I believe it's true) and also the other female members of the cast, Joan Gardner and Ann Wemyss. Sadly their scenes are short compared to copious quantities of Cossack shouting, posturing and drinking. The ending seems somewhat incomplete but as it's unlikely any further scenes would have included the ladies perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

Nevertheless, all that said, the film is not entirely without it's moments and Pat's acting skills are easy to spot - so a good starting point for her career perhaps.

If one were to speculate, it's possible that some of the messy script and execution is down to using bits of the French version and having three directors involved. Two of these, from their background, would seem on the face of it to know little about Cossacks and Eastern Europeans. Adrian Brunel was from Brighton and Albert de Courville was a Londoner. Adrian adpated the script from the French. Alexis Granowsky was the only one who may have had greater experience/knowledge (born Moscow 1890). As a result one can perhaps imagine Alexis (who had also created the French version), having strong views about how things should be done and that perhaps leading to creative tensions which ended up causing some of the inconsistency in the film.

But this is all speculation.

One does wonder why anyone really thought it was a good idea to do this in the first place rather than just making do with a subtitled French version? I expect the reason would be that in 1938 UK audiences were far more resistant to subtitles and non English dialogue.


At the time of writing this movie isn't available anywhere in any format as far as I'm aware. My viewing copy came from a box of old VHS tapes someone was throwing out! Quality poor - but viewable.

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