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Sex freaks are after state bonds: The Tailor From Torzhok (1925)

Commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and planned as an advertisement for public bonds, Yakov Protazanov’s The Tailor from Torzhok (Закройщик из Торжка, 1925) turned out to be an eccentric comedy exercising in sexual innuendos far more than the Pre-code Hollywood.

The wealthy widow Melanya Shirinkina (Lidia Deykun) wants to marry her lodger – a gullish tailor Petya Petelkin (Igor Ilyinskiy). In turn Petya is into a girl next door Katya (Vera Maretskaja), the old shopkeeper’s servant. A state bond, that turned out to be a winner of 100.000 rubbles stirs everything up.

As I already mentioned before (see Threesome and A Kiss From Mary Pickford), in the times of the NEP (New Economic Policy), carried out in the 1920s in Soviet Russia, culture catering to the unrefined tastes of the public was vulgarised, which also usually implied overt sexualisation.

But the case of The Tailor from Torzhok is special, because some of its sexually suggestive situations are of paraphilic nature. For instance the following shot sequence clearly has sadistic overtones:


The shopkeeper beats up his young servant girl, while his friend watches with lusty excitement and approval.

The farther in, the more bizarre it gets: the central character Petya the Tailor turns out to be a foot fetishist:


It’s spring time, and widows get merry. I think it’s noteworthy that a 1925 Soviet film dared to speak of female sexuality so overtly, taking into consideration that even in nowadays Russia “vagina” is kind of a swearword.

Melanya Shirinkina is an ageing widow, but being still good-looking she believes she has her full rights to be happy again and starts looking for male attention. I might be wrong, but I think that in the context of the plot her surname has a sexual hint – a Russian word “shirinka” translates as “a zipper”.

My personal favourite is the sequence in which Melanya Ivanovna’s libido awakens together with the nature:


Melanya is in her blooming garden. It’s getting hot. She looks to the side…


…and sees horny birds that do not hide their feelings. Succumbing to the inevitable, Melanya caresses herself.

Don’t know if the film came out to be a good advertisement for state bonds. What I became sure of while watching it, is that the famous catch phrase “There was no sex in USSR” actually has a little specification– “from the 1930s”. Before that it was present to the fullest degree, and sometimes even not in very traditional forms.


  1. Pingback: Obskura » NEP is for New Erotic Policy: The Third Meshchanskaya, or Threesome (1927)

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