The Revolution passed, the Civil War died down. In a young country, everything has become different – a different policy, a different life, different laws. And only the younger generation, as in former times, demanded literary heroes who could be equaled. Books about which one could read with rapture, but in new realities, As, for example, the books of Fenimore Cooper were read earlier.
The 1920s gave teenagers not only such books, but also adventure films. But it must be admitted that these were stories in the spirit of the time, by no means kind and intolerant of the class enemy.
First, in 1923, the story “The Red Devils” was published. The author was the secretary of the Kostroma provincial committee of the RCP (b) Pavel Blyakhin, a man who, despite his position, gravitated towards literature. The book has not yet been read, and director Ivan Perestiani has already begun to shoot an adventure film based on it.
Pavel Blyakhin on the left, Ivan Perestiani on the right
The case takes place in Ukraine, where Makhno raged during the Civil War. Two teenagers, the boy Misha, the girl Dunyasha, avenge their murdered father and become Red Army soldiers. A street acrobat joins them. In the book, this is a Chinese man named Yu-yu. As a result, having overcome many dangers, they catch Makhno and put him in a bag, and then hand him over to Budyonny. A fictional plot, in the center of which any teenager of that time would dream to be.
Perestiani has long wanted to make a non-pavilion lyrical movie, where the characters cry picturesquely and wring their hands. He wanted to make an action movie. Film-action, where the circus and the film will be combined. So the story, full of events, became ideal for the experiment.
The film was shot in Georgia. And the actors for the role of Misha and Dunyasha were found in the Tiflis circus. Misha was Pavel Esikovsky, Dunya Sofia Josephy. Young but experienced arena artists. But, unfortunately, there was not a single Chinese in all of Georgia! The director did not want to resort to makeup, so he decided to replace the Chinese with the Senegalese.
On the advice of Esikovsky, a dark-skinned artist from a corpse, Kador Ben-Salim, was taken for the role of Yu. In the film, the character was given the stage name of a circus performer. And the Chinese Yu-yu became a Negro (in the 20s they were not shy about this word) Tom Jackson.
Let the reader not be surprised by the presence of an African in Georgia. There were many dark-skinned artists and merchants under the tsar. Many of them stayed in the country, many left. Some took part in the events of the Revolution and fought in the Civil War on the side of the Red Army. Ben-Salim also fought. He came to Russia as a 15-year-old boy, having come to perform. But because of the 1st World War I could not return home.
The film was filmed for 1.5 years. All stunts were performed live by the artists. They ran on the roof of the train and jumped on the cars, rode horses, crossed the gorge and fell off the cliff into the sea. And all this without insurance. In addition, the equipment could fail and then the scene was filmed again. In addition to the adventures in the film, there were many funny comedy scenes.
The film “Red Devils” delighted audiences of all ages. Artists have gained great popularity. Perestiani did not lose his head and shot the continuation of “devils” with the same actors:
“Savur-grave”, “The crime of the Shirvan princess”, “The punishment of the Shirvan princess”, “Illan Dilli”
This is how the first Soviet series came about. And in the 60-70s, Edmond Keosayan shot an equally interesting remake – “The Elusive Avengers”. Where the African was replaced with Yashka the gypsy and several bright characters were added.
Actors-“devils” were filmed further. But if Pavel Esikovsky and the Senegalese Cador Ben-Salim left the cinema, Sofia Josephy continued acting and never returned to the circus.
By the way, the actor Vladimir Kucherenko, who played Makhno, turned out to be a bandit and the leader of a gang operating from Odessa to the Caucasus. He was caught and shot, and his name was deleted from the credits.
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