directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Soviet Union 19
38, 45', 58'

 

 Alexander Nevsky          Ivan the Terrible Part 1         Ivan the Terrible Part 2

 

 Sergei Eisenstein, long regarded as a pioneer of film art, changed cinematic strategies halfway through his career. Upon returning from Hollywood and Mexico in the late 1930s, he left behind the densely edited style of celebrated silents like Battleship Potemkin and October, turning instead to historical sources, contradictory audiovisuals, and theatrical sets for his grandiose yet subversive sound-era work. This trio of rousing action epics reveals a deeply unsettling portrait of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and provided battle-scene blueprints for filmmaking giants from Laurence Olivier in Henry V to Akira Kurosawa in Seven Samurai.

 

 


(aka "Александр Невский" pr "Aleqsandre Neveli" or "Alexander Nevsky"

directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Soviet Union 1938

 

Eisenstein drew on history, Russian folk narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience. This story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky’s tactical brilliance resonated deeply with a Soviet Union concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany. Widely imitated—most notably by Laurence Olivier’s Battle of Agincourt re-creation for Henry V —the Battle on the Ice scene remains one of the most famous audio-visual experiments in film history, perfectly blending action with the rousing score of Sergei Prokofiev.

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 1st, 1938 - Soviet Union

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 87 - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:48:28 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.23 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Russian (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion / Home Vision

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio essay by film scholar David Bordwell, author of The Cinema of Eisenstein
• Russell Merritt’s multimedia essay on the Eisenstein-Prokofiev collaboration
• A reconstruction of Eisenstein’s unfinished film Bezhin Meadow by the Eisenstein Museum’s Naum Kleiman, plus scholar Jay Leyda’s photos and documents from the set
• Drawings and production stills
• Restoration demonstration

• 6-page liner notes with essay by J. Hoberman

DVD Release Date:
April 24th, 2001
Slim Keep Case inside Cardboard Box
Chapters: 26

 

 

Comments:

This is the oldest film in the 3-disc, 3-film Boxset but still looks quite strong. It's failing is that, like the rest of the Boxset, although it is in High Definition, it was not transferred progressively. Combing (or 'trailing' ) is evident in many of the action sequences. Unless projected most viewers will not notice - certainly not through a tube. Contrast is excellent, black levels are very strong and there is some good film grain showing through. Marvelous!

The audio is a different story and was probably the reason for the delay in this release. This, again, is the worst of the three. Unfortunately the audio is only a rehearsal track which never was intended to serve as the final cut (see below). We assume  it to be miles beyond what they were given to work with and the dialogue is often noted by hiss' and crackles.

Subtitles are Criterion's usual perfection. The Bordwell commentary is extremely insightful if not totally specific to the film. The other extras are at Criterion's stratospheric standards as well. Each helps build upon your appreciation and historical respect for Eisenstein. Even being the weakest image/audio of the three we feel confident that film this will never be done better on this medium.  out of  

Gary W. Tooze

 

NOTE: It seems to have escaped general critical notice that the audio track for Alexander Nevsky here is NOT the original one. Whoever supplied Criterion with this version applied constant audio overlays to the original track, with added orchestral, choral re-recordings and sound effects that were simply NOT a part of the original track (rehearsal or otherwise). You can hear the elements of this that are of a completely different fidelity to the original. Also, they don't always sync up. The original is never blotted out, but is amended in this clumsy manner (unlike the rather well done Temirkanov conducted version once issued by BMG on Laserdisc, and which was clearly labeled a re-recording). This is no different than what Ruscico has done on numerous films, which has garnered harsh criticism. I think, because the track remains a mono one, this makes it harder to spot the alterations compared to the blatant 5.1 Ruscico tracks. My guess is that Criterion received the elements from the Russians and simply did not recognize their bogus nature. BTW, the otherwise inferior Image Entertainment DVD of Nevsky does sport the unadulterated original track, in all of its low-fi splendor, but from a very hissy 2nd or 3rd generation source. It would be appropriate for Criterion to identify the source of this bogus track, and repress the disc with the correct one. (Thanks Neal Kurz)

 





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Scratches and dirt are evident in some scenes
 

 

 


 
Extensive combing is visible ion motion sequences.
 

 


 

(aka "хБЮМ цПНГМШИ" or "Ivan the Terrible, Part One" or "Ivane Mriskhane, natsili pirveli" )

directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Soviet Union 1945

 

Navigating the deadly waters of Stalinist politics, Eisenstein was able to film two parts of his planned trilogy about the troubled 16th-century tsar who united Russia. Visually stunning and powerfully acted, Ivan the Terrible charts the rise to power and descent into terror of this veritable dictator. Though pleased with the first installment, Stalin detected the portrait in the second film—with its summary executions and secret police—and promptly banned it.

Posters

Theatrical Release: January 16th, 1945

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Criterion Collection - part of spine # 88 - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:39:12 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.20 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Russian (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion / Home Vision

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Multimedia essay on the history of Ivan the Terrible by Joan Neuberger, director of the Center for Soviet Studies at the University of Texas at Austin
• Deleted scenes
• Drawings and production stills

• 8-page liner notes with essay by J. Hoberman
 

DVD Release Date: April 24th, 2001
Keep Case
Chapters: 22

 

 

Comments:

As already stated, although High-Definition, these transfers do not appear to be progressive. Minimal combing was seen in "Ivan Part 1 and 2" and more extensively in "Alexander Nevsky". Regardless of that, the quality is quite stunning. There is slight inconsistency but often this looks like a brand new film. Contrast seems to shift in a few instances, but still the excellence is far beyond what you might have expected. Subtitles and extras are, again, as close to perfection as one might desire. Audio, although superior to Nevsky, is still the problem area. It almost appears odd matching the sterling image.  out of  

Gary W. Tooze

 





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Minor combing is visible
 

 


(aka "Boyarsky zagovor" or "Ivan the Terrible, Part II: The Boyars' Plot" or "Ivan the Terrible, Part Two" or "Ivane Mriskhane, natsili meore" or "The Boyars' Plot" )

directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Soviet Union 19
58

 

In the second part of Sergei Eisenstein's grand film, a grieving Ivan (Nikolai Cherkassov) withdraws from Moscow to his estate at Uglich after the death of the empress, less trustful than ever of those who surround him. His solitude is augmented by the defection of his military chief, Prince Kurbsky (Mikahil Nazvanov), to Poland. But when the people of Moscow make a mass pilgrimage to petition for his return to Moscow, he realizes that he has an opportunity to increase his power while diminishing that of the boyars. After his former friend Philip the Monk (Andrei Abrikosov) betrays his friendship by siding with the boyars, Ivan unleashes the Oprichniki, a secret police network that he has developed to gather information about his enemies and, when necessary, eliminate them. Under the directon of Ivan's aunt Euphrosyne (Serafima Birman), the boyars hatch a plot to assassinate the czar and put Euphrosyne's mentally defective son, Vladimir (Pavel Kadochnikov), on the throne. But after Ivan deftly eludes death, all of his opponents, including the boyars, the aristocracy, and the Polish army, unite to attempt a final assault on his rule. The visual splendor of Part 2 is enhanced by two scenes featuring Eisenstein's first experiments with color, an element for which he developed an elaborate thematic scheme.

 

Theatrical Release: Russia 1958

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Columbia Tri-Star Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:25:42 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.60 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Russian (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion / Home Vision

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Multimedia essay on Eisenstein's visual vocabulary by Yuri Tsivian, art history professor at the University of Chicago
• 8-page liner notes with essay by J. Hoberman

DVD Release Date:
April 24th, 2001
Keep Case
Chapters: 22

 

 

Comments:

The captures below speak volumes for the image quality of this release. It borders on unbelievable. Combing is at its most minimal here and in no way will detract from the viewing experience. Criterion were given quite a task with the audio provided them, and it is still the weak-ink in this package. Regardless, we should be grateful for the opportunity to own this incredible collection. It is a shining gem that ALL cine-ophiles should own.  out of  

Gary W. Tooze

 





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