Film: The Diamond Arm

The Diamond Arm (Бриллиантовая рука, Brilliantovaya ruka) is a 1968 Soviet comedy film by Leonid Gaidai, starring several famous Soviet actors. Like many movies of the time, several of the characters end up performing impromptu songs. Both the film and the songs have attained cult status in the former Soviet republics.

The Everyman named Semyon goes on a cruise to Istanbul. On the way, he meets a younger gentleman named Gennadiy. Unbeknownst to Semyon, Gennadiy is actually working for The Mafiya, being sent by the Chief (the only name given to the mob boss) to Turkey to smuggle jewelry into the USSR. The Turkish contacts don't know what the courier looks like, only the secret phrase he is supposed to use (they don't even speak Russian). Semyon ends up accidentally speaking the phrase and receives an orthopedic cast full of jewelry on his arm. After returning home, Semyon immediately goes to the cops, and they decide to use him as bait for the smugglers. Hilarity Ensues as the two inept henchmen (Gennadiy and Lyolik) hatch various schemes to retrieve the contraband without killing Semyon or attracting unwanted attention.

Unfortunately, the "undercover" operation ends up taking a toll on Semyon's personal life. After catching him with with a woman who appears to be his mistress (she is actually working for the Chief as well), his wife leaves with their children. Trying to get to her, Semyon ends up being taken by Lyolik (who is disguised as a cop) to an abandoned car wash to retrieve the jewelry no matter what. Semyon gets away from them and happens upon a man who is driving through the woods, for some reason. Both get captured and tied to a tree. Gennadiy and Lyolik cut open the cast and take it. Semyon realizes that the man he has just met is the Chief and explains that the cops have had the contraband all this time. The criminals stuff Semyon into the trunk and drive off, intending to kill him later. However, a police helicopter finds them and picks up the car. Not realizing it, Semyon manages to open the trunk and falls out. The criminals are caught, and Semyon is reunited with his family, who now know the truth. Unfortunately, Semyon's leg is now broken for real.

The film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Character Tics: Gennadiy is known to occasionally jerk his head back slightly. This turns funny when he's standing with his back to a wall.
  • Creator Cameo: Gaidai himself shows up as an alcoholic (uncredited).
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: Two foreign smugglers speak nonsensical gibberish with voiceover Russian translation. Eventually they get into a heated debate, obviously starting to call each other names, and the translator says in a deadpan voice, "What follows is untranslatable wordplay using local idiomatic expressions."
  • The Faceless: The only thing we see of the Chief for most of the film is his hand opening the peephole on his door and then the door itself to let his henchmen in. He never speaks in those shots. His hand is shown to have expensive-looking rings with large rocks. Obviously, the smuggling business is going well.
  • Gos Kino: The superintendent's warning to Semyon's wife that she wouldn't be surprised if Semyon is secretly visiting a mistress is the result of the Soviet censors redubbing her line. If you look at her lips carefully, she is most likely saying " synagogue" instead of "mistress". Ultimately, "mistress" makes more sense, since his wife catches him with another woman shortly after.
  • The Mafiya: The villains appear to be a softer version of these. They tend to stay away from "wet jobs", as those attract too much attention, and stick to smuggling.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Semyon's wife catches him in a compromising position with Anna, not being privy to the details of Semyon's "mission".
  • Mr. Fanservice: Gennadiy. Justified, since his day job is modeling. We even see him on the runway, trying to show off a pair of "convertible" pants. Unfortunately, he suffers a Wardrobe Malfunction, and he is stuck standing there, looking uncomfortable, as he's trying to unjam the zipper. Meanwhile, the announcer is sounding like a broken record ("The pants turn... The pants turn... The pants turn... into elegant shorts").
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Lyolik's impersonation of a cop, complete with a fake mustache that later peels away.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: The courier is supposed to identify himself to the Turkish contacts by slipping on a puddle outside their shop, falling, and speaking a particular curse (something like "Damn it to hell!"). Of course, they really should have chosen a better code word, since it's a commonly-used Russian curse, and Istanbul is a popular tourist destination for Russians. And anyone can slip on a puddle and fall. It's a wonder there aren't so many false positives.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The Chief can't seem to get Gennadiy and Lyolik to do anything right, even when he sends the The Vamp Anna as help. Semyon is only captured when the Chief himself intervenes.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Like many others Soviet films of that period, this one features several characters randomly bursting into song. It only really makes sense once, when the (very drunk) Semyon gets on the stage at a restaurant and starts singing about rabbits, with the music making sense, since there's a live band playing. However, when Gennadiy is singing on the cruise ship, the music is coming from nowhere. For reference, Andrei Mironov, the actor playing him, was an accomplished singer.
  • Too Dumb to Live: After discovering the Chief's identity, Semyon lets the Chief know that he knows. The crooks who were willing to let him live now realize that He Knows Too Much and decide to kill him.
  • The Vamp: Crosses with Sensual Slavs in Anna's case. A young, attractive blonde who is hired by the Chief to seduce and sedate Semyon, while the two henchmen are waiting outside in the car. She invites Semyon claiming to have the gown he's looking to buy, puts on romantic music, sets out wine (both knowing that Semyon can't hold his liquor and planning on putting a sleeping pill in his glass), and then takes off the gown "to show it to him". She then starts dancing to the music until the clasp of her bra suddenly flies off... just as Semyon's wife bursts in.
  • Voiceover Letter: Semyon's wife leaves him one after the Mistaken for Cheating event above, letting him know that she is taking their kids and moving in with her mother.