Kalle Kollola, Cavalryman (1939)

At the garrison in Lappeenranta, Cavalryman Erkki Kallio (Uuno Lakso) and “Kalle Kallola” Mäkinen (Matti Lehtilä) are colossal wastes of space, workshy layabouts who hope to make it through their whole military career by being so incompetent that they are pushed away from active duty to potato-peeling and swine-herding. So far, their plan has worked well, and they have been demoted to work so far down the military scale that they are essentially servants to the housekeepers and cooks at the barracks.

But Erkki and Kalle are not the only malingerers – the master of the horse, Kalpa (Kalevi Mykkänen) has taken so many personal days to “visit his sick aunt” that the colonel in charge of the regiment demands that he prove the woman has not already died of numerous ailments. Both men are thrown into a series of intrigues at the barracks, as their boss Mrs Westergren (Valma Lahtinen) enlists their help in discovering the intentions of the attractive young Hilja (Tuulikki Paananen, radiant as ever), a soubrette who has suddenly started lurking flirtily around the unattached colonel. Meanwhile, Kalpa enlists Kalle’s real Aunt Loviisa (Martta Karlo, in a series of ridiculous frocks) to pretend to be his aunt, in order to get the colonel off his case, and prove that he did not merely make her up.

Hoping to marry the colonel off to her own daughter, Mrs Westergren does everything she can to push Kalpa and Hilja into each other’s arms, including a series of lessons in Understanding Women in which she comedically reads out sections of the manual for handling horses. Kalpa, however, makes the fateful error of admitting to the lustful Hilja that he was coached to act indifferent until she tried to seduce him.

Mrs Westergren, realising that her attempts to hitch her own daughter to the colonel have come to nothing, decides to quit the barracks, and Kalle arranges a parade for her by setting off an alarm to cause the soldiers to assemble just as she is leaving. Hilja is revealed as the colonel’s niece (although since Mrs Westergren is the colonel’s cousin, surely she would have known this!), thereby freeing her to marry Kalpa, their previous altercation having been smoothed over. Kalle arranges for the young lovers to elope.

Despite appearing like a piss-poor copy of The Regiment’s Tribulation (1938), Rakuuna Kalle Kollola began life as a play that even pre-dated the theatre version of that story, The Beloved Uniform (1932, Rakas univormu) by Jalmari Finne. It was the first production from the newly formed company Sampo-Filmi, itself backed by a bunch of investors based in Lappeenranta, who obviously thought that it would be a neat idea to capitalise on the local scenery and availability of military personnel as extras – there are many scenes of dashing horsemen doing dashing things. In doing so, the crew from Sampo-Filmi ram-raided the staff of the other film companies then operating in Finland. The script was written by Suomi-Filmi’s Ilmari Unho under a pseudonym, the sound equipment was rented from Suomi-Filmi, the lights were rented from Elo-seppo, and director Kalle Kaarna was dragged in from Jäger Films. In a triumph of jammy-bastard luck, the film was rushed into cinemas weeks ahead of the actionably similar Red Trousers (1939), which was also shot in Lappeenranta (with Unho as director!) just before the crew of Kalle Kollola, Cavalryman arrived to begin production. As a result, cinema-goers in the summer of 1939 were saddled with not one, but two silly military romantic farces.

The press was suitably annoyed, hammering the fledgling company for making light of military men in tense times. The Helsingin Sanomat damned it with faint praise, noting that it lagged far behind The Regiment’s Tribulation, but that “people always like to see their soldiers.”

Jonathan Clements is the author of An Armchair Traveller’s History of Finland.  He is watching all the Finnish films so you don’t have to. Cavalryman Kalle Kollola is free to watch online.

1 thought on “Kalle Kollola, Cavalryman (1939)

  1. Pingback: Serenade on a War Trumpet (1939) | The Official Schoolgirl Milky Crisis Blog

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