The Diamond Arm

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The Diamond Arm
Film poster
Directed by Leonid Gaidai
Written by Leonid Gaidai
Yakov Kostyukovsky
Moris Slobodskoy
Starring Yuri Nikulin
Nina Grebeshkova
Andrei Mironov
Anatoli Papanov
Nonna Mordyukova
Music by Aleksandr Zatsepin
Cinematography Igor Chernykh
Edited by Valentina Yankovskaya
Distributed by Mosfilm
Release dates
April 28, 1969
Running time
100 minutes
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian

The Diamond Arm (Russian: Бриллиантовая рука Brilliantovaya ruka) is a 1968 Soviet comedy film filmed by Mosfilm and first released in 1969. The film was directed by director Leonid Gaidai and starred several famous Soviet actors, including Yuri Nikulin, Andrei Mironov, Anatoli Papanov, Nonna Mordyukova and Svetlana Svetlichnaya. The Diamond Arm has become a Russian cult film and is considered by many Russian contemporaries to be one of the finest comedies of its time. It was also one of the all-time leaders at the Soviet box office with over 76,700,000 theatre admissions in the Soviet era. The plot of the film was based on a real-life news item about Swiss smugglers who tried to transport jewels in an orthopedic cast.


The boss of a black market ring (known only as "The Chief") wants to smuggle a batch of jewelry from foreign state into the Soviet Union by hiding it inside the orthopedic cast of a courier. The Chief sends a minor henchman named Gennadiy Kozodoyev (played by Mironov) to serve as the courier. Kozodoyev travels to an unknown Middle-Eastern country via a tourist cruise ship. The foreign co-conspirators do not know what the courier looks like; they only know that he is supposed to say a code word to identify himself. Due to a mix-up, they mistake Kozodoyev's fellow passenger from the cruise ship, the "ordinary Soviet citizen" Semyon Gorbunkov (played by Nikulin) for the courier. They place a cast around his arm and put the contraband jewels inside the cast. Upon the cruise ship's return to the Soviet Union, Gorbunkov lets the police know what happened, and the police captain, who is working undercover as a taxi driver, uses Gorbunkov as bait to catch the criminals. Most of the plot are various attempts of The Chief's inept henchmen, Kozodoyev and Lyolik (played by Papanov), to lure Gorbunkov into a situation where they can quietly, without a wet job, remove the cast and reclaim the contraband jewels. In the meantime, Gorbunkov's wife begins to suspect that he has either been recruited by foreign intelligence, or is having an affair...


Catch phrases[edit]

Many expressions from the movie have become popular in Russian culture or have passed into everyday use.

  • "Buy a pack of tickets and win..." – "...A water-pump station! Drop your stupid propaganda!" (Кто возьмет билетов пачку, тот получит... – Водокачку! Бросьте свою дурацкую агитацию!) – Upravdom scoffs at lottery salesman.
  • "As a friend of mine... deceased now... used to say – I knew too much..."
  • "And if the tenants refuse (to buy lottery tickets), we'll shut off the gas!"
  • "A dog is a man's best friend!" ---"Well, maybe in London a dog is a man's best friend, but here it's the UPRAVDOM (apartment manager)." (The upravdom woman finally became a caricature of a seemingly petty but influential social bureaucrat.)
  • "If you drink champagne in the morning, you must be an aristocrat... or a degenerate!" (Шампанское по утрам пьют только аристократы или дегенераты) (pauses, checks out the bottle and drinks right from it)
  • (tears in his eyes) "They might even give me an award... post-humo-usly!" (sniffs)
  • "You should come over and visit us in Kolyma (a harsh-climate prison region in Russia's Far North)." (Chokes on beer, coughing...) – "Thanks, but I'd rather you visit us here."
  • "Tsigel, tsigel, ay-loo-loo!" The inhabitants of the fictional Istanbul speak a gibberish language and this phrase is spoken by a pesky street prostitute. Many people think that "Tsigel" (Cigel, Ziegel) means "quick" in some foreign language and the whole phrase presumably means "let's have a quickie". The (fictional) phrase can be used to mean "hurry up" or as a code word for sex.
  • "As our beloved Chief likes to say..." (Now, sometimes used when quoting one's boss)
    • "Strike the iron without walking away from the cash register" (Куй железо не отходя от кассы) (a portmanteau of a proverb "Strike while the iron is hot" and an instruction for customers by each Soviet cashier's desk: "Count your money before walking away from the cash register")
    • "Even teetotallers and those with stomach ulcers will have a drink on someone else's tab!" In Russian it rhymes nicely: "За чужой счет пьют даже трезвенники... и язвенники!"
    • "I haven't yet seen a husband who didn't want to become a bachelor just for an hour..."
    • "Idiot is forever" ("Если человек идиот, то это надолго")
    • "Time is money. If you see money, don't waste time" ("Время – деньги. Если видишь деньги, не теряй времени")
  • A curse: "May you live... only on your... PAYCHECK!" (Чтоб ты жил... на одну... ЗАРПЛАТУ!) ("May you live off your salary only!" with an implication of never benefiting from illicit and more gainful sources of income)
  • A curse: "I hope to see you in a coffin! In white slippers!" (Шоб я видел тя у гробу! У белых тапках!) (A catch phrase styled in the fashion of Odessa Jewish humour and pronounced with a sort of mock Ukrainian accent.)
  • A comment to an embarrassing situation when a modeling demo fails: "With a casual hand gesture, the pants turn into... the pants turn INTO... into a pair of elegant shorts!"
  • "Russo turisto! Obliko morale!" a mockingly Italianized Russian term "moralny oblik" (моральный облик) - "moral character", a part of the cliché "moral character of a Soviet person". In the film it was uttered by the character when he tried to circumnavigate a foreign prostitute: "Russo turisto! Obliko morale! Verstehen?". In general it means "Russian tourists have and strong moral character" - not to be lured by something not good.
  • "Ice cream for the kids, flowers for his woman. And don't mix it up, Kutuzov!" (Дитям мороженое, его бабе цветы... и не перепутай, Кутузов!)
  • "I'm innocent! He came here on his own!" ("Не виноватая я! Он сам пришёл!") (After Semyon Semyonovich was supposed to have "illegal" sex with a set-up call girl. Apparently, parodying Katyusha's lines from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.)
  • "Ksiva... Haza... Klient... Bye-bye, boy!..." (The ID? The place? The client? Bye-bye, boy!) (A parody on underworld slang as coming from a professional hooker. The vocabulary is authentic, although rarely used in real slang. "Haza" probably originates from English "house" or Hungarian "ház" (house).)
  • "I'm not a coward... But I'm scared..." "Я не трус, но я боюсь!"
  • "I've got an idea: what if we could..." – "We couldn't." – "I see... Then, maybe we should..." – "No, we shouldn't." – "Okay... In that case, maybe I'd rather..." – "Why not, you could try that one." (A caricature of a militsiya commander who is so astute that he is almost a mind-reader)
  • "As they say, that is c'est la vie!" ("такова се-ля-ви") (c'est la vie is French for "that's life", in other words the phrase is a double mis-translation: "that's that's life" Also, cf. later Dovlatov's catch phrase "таково се-ля-ви" ("such is c'est la vie", where "such" is used in the neuter gender, as if alluding to the Russian word for "crap"), which is clearly patterned on this quote.)
  • "We'll have to take appropriate action. What else can we do?" ("Придется принимать меры. А что делать?") – the apartment manager, who is always trying to put her nose in tenants' affairs
  • "But Lyolik, this thing is so not elegant!" – "But it's cheap, reliable and useful!" (rhymes nicely in Russian: "Лёлик, но это же не эстетично!" – "Зато дёшево, надёжно и практично.") (Gesha on being given a crowbar to knock out Gorbunkov with.)
  • "Well, and what about my alibi?" – "Oh, yes. You'll remain at the crime scene with signs of violence on your face, also as a victim of the unknown attackers." – "But Lyolik, please..." – "Don't worry, Kozlodoyev! I'll punch you carefully, but hard!" ("А мое алиби?" – "Ах, да. Ты остаёшься на месте преступления со следами насилия на лице, тоже как жертва нападения неизвестных." – "Только, Лелик, я прошу..." – "Нэ бэспокойся, Козлодоёв! Буду бить аккуратно, но сыльно!")
  • "Our people don't take taxis to the bakery!" (In Russian: "Наши люди в булочную на такси не ездят!" (Mocking the cliché "our people" as referring to "the Soviet people" with "obliko morale". In fact, a catch phrase mocking the communist or socialist way of life in general.)


A monument to the characters of The Diamond Arm in Sochi, Russia
The Island of Bad Luck

The ironic "The Island of Bad Luck" ("Остров невезения") also became popular after the film's release. It was sang in the movie by the Kozodoyev during the cruise as he strums a guitar while relaxing on the ship's deck. The song is thematic, as it presages the bad luck that Kozodoyev experiences throughout the entire film. The song was recorded by Mironov himself. This is not uncommon, as many Russian actors of that time were proficient in dancing and singing, as well as acting.

The Song About Rabbits

The metaphorical "Song About Rabbits" ("Песня про зайцев") became a popular song during the late 1960s. It tells the story of a group of personified rabbits harvesting grass at night and proclaiming that they are not afraid of any predators, be they wolves or owls. The rabbits boldly sing a refrain that can be roughly translated as "We don't care!" ("A нам всё равно!") and includes a nonsense word "tryn-trava" seemingly meaning "grass", but also meaning "without caring".

The song was performed in the movie by the protagonist Semyon Gorbunkov after heavy dose of vodka at the restaurant. The scene was even later depicted on a stamp dedicated to the actor. Recorded by Yuri Nikulin himself.

Help Me

The third and final popular song from this film was "Help Me" ("Помоги мне") was performed by Aida Vedishcheva, a Soviet era singer best known for her performance of songs for films produced in the 1960s. The tango-styled song is about love and passion, and is played in the background during a scene when a beautiful woman hired by the Chief's henchmen attempts to seduce and drug Gorbunkov.

External links[edit]