Miss Mend (aka The Adventure of the Three Reporters) is a 1926 film made in the Soviet Union.
Like most forms of Russian media at the time, Miss Mend is blatantly pro-Soviet propaganda mocking America and capitalism in general, portraying the West as a corrupt, racist Crapsack World. Despite this, there is a surprising amount of humor, or at the very least attempts at humor, making this film rather interesting to watch today, if for nothing more than the shocking Mood Whiplash and Refuge in Audacity.
Natalya Glan stars as Vivian Mend, a typist at an American cork factory that belongs to the Stern family. The Sterns lock out the workers, leading to protests outside the factory. Miss Mend tackles a cop that is about to assault a spokesman for the workers, leading to a riot outside the factory. She draws the attention of three men from the local newspaper: Barnet the reporter, Vogel the photographer, and Hopkins the dimwitted clerk. All are all enchanted by the fiery young office worker. While fleeing from the riot, Vivian jumps into a car that unbeknownst to her, is carrying Arthur Stern, scion of the Stern family. Arthur also is attracted to the beautiful Vivian.
Meanwhile, word comes from Russia that Gordon Stern, Arthur's father, has been murdered by the Bolsheviks. It turns out however that Gordon Stern isn't dead, but is in the clutches of a mysterious Organization, a terrorist group that is fighting against the Bolsheviks. Gordon Stern's wife is having an affair with the sinister Organization leader Chiche, who is behind a terrifying plot against Bolshevism and the Soviet Union.
Miss Mend was originally released as a three-part serial; the three films together add up to 4 hours and 10 minutes. While most Soviet propaganda during the Josef Stalin years was deadly serious (see Earth (1930) or any of the works of Sergei Eisenstein), this serial is light and breezy, with romantic comedy and secret agent hijinks. And while Eisenstein's films are much better remembered, at the time the Miss Mend series was hugely popular in Russia.
Co-directed by Boris Barnet and Fedor Ozep. Barnet also stars as Barnet the reporter.
- Bad Boss: Chiche. In one scene one of the scientists working for Chiche shows him the poison gas being developed for the Organization. After the scientist gives Chiche a gas mask, Chiche smashes the flask holding the poison gas. The scientist dies.
- Bar Brawl: One gets started when a sailor attempts to steal the incriminating letter that one of the reporters has in his pocket.
- The Black Death: Chiche and the Organization are plotting to unleash the Black Death on the Soviet Union by means of ampoules of plague culture concealed in electrical insulators.
- Black Dude Dies First: The only person killed in the Bar Brawl is the only black person in the bar. Lampshaded in an obvious attempt at portraying American racism when the cop says "No big deal, he's black."
- Blackface: Done for an amazingly racist gag. One of the reporters has given his clothing to Vivian after she's fished out of the river. Left with nothing but his undershirt and boxers, he covers himself with coal dust in order to look like some kind of vaguely African native.
- Buried Alive: A variant. Rough seas wind up knocking Gordon Stern's coffin off its catafalque—and his hand shoots out. Much to Chiche and Mrs. Stern's surprise, he isn't dead. Chiche later finishes him off for real after making him sign a new will.
- Child by Rape: The origin of Vivian's cute little nephew John—Vivian's sister was a domestic for Gordon Stern, who raped her.
- Chinese Launderer: A Chinese launderer named Liu-Ka-Dzho gives Vivian a job after she's locked out with the rest of the factory workers.
- Contrived Coincidence:
- A mook attempts to kill Vivian by bonking her over the head and throwing her in the river. Fortunately the three reporters just happen to be fishing off the adjacent pier, and they save her.
- Fogel makes friends with a couple of Leningrad street urchins. He is helping them sell newspapers on the street when none other than Mrs. Stern walks by. This allows Fogel and the good guys to locate the bad guys' hideout.
- Dirty Cop: The cop at the Stern mansion ignores the three reporters when they tell him that Gordon Stern's coffin is actually empty. He's part of the Organization's conspiracy, as is the District Attorney and a lot more people in high places.
- Driven to Suicide: Rejection by Vivian and a good dose of Heel Realization after he finds out how Chiche manipulated him lead Arthur to shoot himself.
- Eagleland: Flavor 2 all the way. Unleashing The Black Death and poison gas on Bolshevik Russia is pretty bad. Then again, this film is Stalin-era Soviet propaganda, so it is to be expected.
- Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: "Son to avenge father's death! Extra, read all about it!" The newspapers are reporting that Arthur Stern is going to get revenge on the Bolsheviks for killing his father.
- High-Class Glass: The editor, who is eternally exasperated by his rascally reporters, wears one of these.
- Hollywood Darkness: The servants at the Stern mansion inspect the grounds at night. This is done by tinting the picture slightly bluish.
- Idiot Ball: Fogel is given an ampoule of plague from Barnet, who has retrieved it from Chiche's luggage. Fogel decides to just set this incredibly dangerous item on a table top. Sure enough, it's knocked off the table and shatters, spreading plague throughout the ship.
- Infant Immortality: Averted in a subplot that doesn't match well with the tongue-in-cheek tone of most of the rest of the film. Vivian's cute little nephew John is murdered by Chiche after Chiche finds out that John is Gordon Stern's son.
- Intrepid Reporter: Barnet—"muckraker, who gets the news a half hour before it happens."
- Kubrick Stare: Vivian shoots one at "Johnson" after she finds out that her would-be boyfriend Johnson is actually Arthur Stern, who is part of the plot to attack the Soviet Union.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: The notary who has retrieved Gordon Stern's will is murdered, with the murder carefully staged to make it look like his car collided with a train. Then Stern's real will is switched out with the one that leaves his fortune to the Organization.
- Meet Cute: Vivian literally falls into Arthur's lap when she dives into his car to avoid arrest from the strikebreaking cops.
- Pinball Protagonist: After making a big splash in her opening scene, Vivian actually doesn't do very much. The three reporters perform most of the action.
- Smart People Play Chess: Chiche the evil mastermind is seen bent over a chess board.
- Spy Fiction: Definitely martini-flavored, with the complicated conspiracy and the race against the clock and such.
- Translation Convention: Inconsistently applied for the first two parts, which are set in America. There is English everywhere, on newspapers, magazines, and signs. But when some exposition is needed, like the telegram announcing Gordon Stern's death, it's in Russian.
- Uptown Girl: Arthur the rich man's son falls in love with Vivian the working girl.
- Western Terrorists: The Organization is a bunch of Americans who have devoted themselves to the destruction of Bolshevism by means of chemical and biological warfare.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Or possibly You Have Failed Me. But after the Mook dispatched to kill Vivian reports that she was saved by the three reporters, Chiche shoots him.
- Your Cheating Heart: Mrs. Stern has been having an affair with Chiche the terrorist mastermind.