The Diamond Arm background
The Diamond Arm (Бриллиантовая рука / Brilliantovaya ruka) is one of the most beloved Soviet comedies. It’s the third most popular Soviet film ever with 77 million box office views. And it’s one of the many movies that Leonid Gaidai directed over a prolific period between 1961-1975. If you enjoy this movie and want to watch other comedies that were made by the same director and cast, check out Dog Barbos and Unusual Cross, Operation Y, Kidnapping, Caucasian Style, The Twelve Chairs, Ivan Vasilievich Changes His Profession, and It Can’t Be!
In a Black Sea port town, a criminal gang operates by smuggling precious coins, gems, and jewelry into the USSR and then laundering them by “discovering” the treasures hidden underground. In a short time, the sweet, naive family man, Semyon Gorbunkov (Yuriy Nikulin), will become entangled with this gang and their conspiracies.
When Semyon sets out on a cruise, as luck would have it, he shares his cabin with the dashingly handsome Gennady (Gesha) Kozodoyev (Andrey Mironov), a member of the gang. They immediately begin a genuine friendship.
During a port stop in Istanbul (filmed in Baku, Azerbaijan), Gesha separates from Semyon to collect contraband jewels. Gesha’s plan is reveal himself to his criminal contacts by giving a secret signal. The signal consists of falling on the ground and crying the phrase, “Damn it” (Чёрт побери! / Chort poberi). However, Semyon, lost and on his own, accidentally does exactly what Gesha was supposed to do.
Semyon slips, cries the secret signal, and wakes up to his arm being layered with jewels under a plaster cast.
Back on board the cruise ship, Gesha immediately realizes that Semyon is carrying his smuggled treasures. At the same time, Semyon turns himself into the boat’s captain and learns how he is carrying contraband material.
Once Semyon and Gehsa are back home, a hilarious cat and mouse game begins. Semyon works with the police to act as bait for the criminals. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Semyon, Gesha repeatedly conspires to remove Semyon’s cast by various ludicrous means.
The best known scene from the movie occurs when Gesha treats Semyon to dinner at a fancy restaurant. After Gesha plies Semyon with alcohol, Semyon drunkenly takes to the stage to perform a song. His rendition of the song, Song About Rabbits (Песня про зайцев / Pesnya pro zaitsev) is a hilarious scene that every Russian knows.
Eventually, Semyon’s interactions with the gang come to a head when they kidnap him and try to flee the country. However, the police apprehend them by lifting up their car with a helicopter. Fittingly, Semyon falls out of the helicopter and ends up with a cast on his leg!