The Diamond Arm

The Diamond Arm
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
Editing by Valentina Yankovskaya
Distributed by Mosfilm
Release date(s) 1968
Running time 100 minutes
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian

The Diamond Arm (Russian: Бриллиантовая рука, translit. Brilliantovaya ruka) is a 1968 Soviet comedy film filmed by Mosfilm and first released in 1968. The film was directed by slapstick 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. 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 boss of a black market ring (known only as "The Chief") wants to smuggle a batch of jewelry into the Soviet Union by hiding it into the orthopedic cast of a courier. The contraband ends up in the cast on the arm of "ordinary Soviet citizen" Semyon Semyonovich Gorbunkov who gets mistaken for the courier while on a cruise shore excursion. He lets the militsiya know about this, and the militsiya captain uses Gorbunkov as bait to catch the criminals. Most of the plot are various attempts of two inept crooks, Lyolik and Gennadiy Kozodoyev,to lure Gorbunkov into a situation where they could have quietly, without a wet job, taken the cast off him.


Russian postage stamp from 2001 featuring Nikulin's performance as Gorbunkov
  • Yuri Nikulin, Semyon Semyonovich Gorbunkov, an economist at Giproryba
  • Nina Grebeshkova, Nadia, Gorbunkov's wife
  • Andrei Mironov, Gennadiy Kozodoyev, aka Gesha, a male model
  • Anatoli Papanov, Lyolik, chief's assistant
  • Nonna Mordyukova, Varvara Pliushch, building superintendent
  • Svetlana Svetlichnaya, Anna Sergeyevna, a femme fatale
  • Andrei Fajt, salesman of lottery tickets, visitor of the restaurant "Weeping willow"
  • Nikolay Trofimov, Colonel of militsiya
  • Oleksandr Khvylia, Boris Savelyevich, maitre d'
  • Tatyana Nikulina, Istanbul tour guide
  • Maksim Nikulin, boy with a net (not credited)
  • Leonid Gaidai, alcoholic (not credited)

Catch phrases

Nearly every expression from the movie became popular in Russian culture or has passed into everyday use.

  • "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 supply!"
  • "A dog is man's best friend!" ---"Well, maybe in London a dog is man's best friend, but over here it's the UPRAVDOM (apartment manager)." (The upravdom woman finally became a caricature of a seemingly petty but influential social bureaucrat.)
  • "Only aristocrats and degenerates drink champagne in the morning..." (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 come here to see us."
  • "Tsigel, tsigel, ay-lyu-lyu (ay-loo-loo)!" Many people seriously think that "Tsigel" (Cigel, Ziegel) means "time" in some foreign language. The (fictional) phrase "Ziegel, Ziegel, ay-lyu-lyu!" ("Цигель, цигель, ай-лю-лю!") expresses hurry and urgency, either for real or as a mockery. (Occasionally, Ziegel is "brick" in German and Yiddish.)
    • "Ay-lyu-lyu" is also a jocular reference to sex as in another quote "Tsigel, ay-lyu-lyu?" as coming from a (Turkish) street hooker but answered with a hurried "Ay-loo-loo later on!" ("ай-лю-лю потом").
  • "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 ulcer 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 wouldn't want to become a bachelor for just an hour..."
    • "If a person is an idiot, that lasts a long time" ("Если человек идиот, то это надолго")
  • A curse: "May you live... only on your... PAYCHECK!" (Чтоб ты жил... на одну... ЗАРПЛАТУ!) ("May you live off your salary forever!" with an implication of "never live like a crook again")
  • A curse: "May I 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, but pronounced with some unidentified, mocked Ukrainian accent.)
  • A mocking reproach: "Semyon Semyonych!..." (Of an absent-minded person to wake him up.)
  • A comment to an embarrassing situation when a demo fails: "With a casual hand gesture, the pants are turning into... the pants are turning INTO... into a pair of elegant shorts!"
  • "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?".
  • "Flowers for his woman, ice cream for the kids. And don't mix it up, Kutuzov!" (Дитям мороженое, бабе цветы.... и не перепутай, Кутузов!)
  • "I'm innocent! I'm innocent! He came by himself!" ("Не виноватая я... Он сам пришёл!") (After Semyon Semyonovich was supposed to have "illegal" sex with a set-up call girl. Apparently, paroding 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 vocabularly 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 —a hidden allusion to the almighty and omniscient KGB.)
  • "As they say, that is c'est la vie!" ("такова се-ля-ви") (c'est la vie is French for "that is life", in other words the phrase is a double mis-translation: "that is that is 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.)
  • "Hmm, well, we'll have to take appropriate action... What else can we do?" -- the apartment manager, who really has no business in tenants' affairs
  • "But Lyolik, that is not aesthetic!" -- "That's cheap, reliable and practical!" (rhymes nicely in Russian: "Лёлик, но это же не эстетично!" - "Зато дёшево, надёжно и практично.") (As preparing to hit Semyon Semyonovich on the head with a metal tool.)
  • "I'll punch you carefully,... but hard!" ("Буду бить аккуратно, но сильно!")
  • "Our people don't take a taxi 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 Song about Rabbits

The metaphorical song "About Hares" ("Песня про зайцев") became a popular song during the late 60's. It tells a story of some poor, terrified hares stealthily cutting the grass (or weed) at nighttime, despite their fears of some frightening forest shadows. Still, the hares boldly sing their refrain that can be roughly translated as "For us it's all the same!" ("A нам всё равно!"). Nowadays the song is also a popular hint to the cannabis as the weed in the lyrics is mysteriously named by a nonsense word "tryn".

Sang 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.

The Island of No Luck

Ironical "The Island of No Luck" ("Остров невезения"). Sang in the movie by the Kozlodoyev.

External links

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