"Polikushka" was the only film directed by Aleksandr Sanin, one of Moscow Art Academic Theatre's founders, and is based on Lev Tolstoy's homonym short story. In spite the many differences between the literary oeuvre and its film adaptation it is a remarkable work that is outstanding for its depiction of the cruel realities of Russian society -the harsh life condition of its main character and his family in contrast to the wealth of his mistress;
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A butterfly collector unwittingly wanders into an Indian encampment while chasing a butterfly. This tribe has resolved to kill the first white man who enters their encampment because white oil tycoons are trying to force them from their land.
Oliver's mother, a penniless outcast, died giving birth to him. As a young boy Oliver is brought up in a workhouse, later apprenticed to an uncaring undertaker, and eventually is taken in by a gang of thieves who befriend him for their own purposes.