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J. Lee Thompson
Shirley Anne Field
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A "Romeo and Juliet" story that takes place in the late 16c. Ukraine. Taras has settled into comfortable farm life after years of adventures and swashbuckling with his cossack companions. Though not wealthy, he is able to send his son Andrei away to a Polish school. At this time the Poles are overlords of Ukraine and the origin of the cossacks is struggle of the Ukrainian serfs to free themselves and their land of Polish domination. Toward this end Taras hopes that his son will be educated in the ways of the enemy. Instead, Andrei falls in love with the daughter of a Polish nobleman, setting the stage for a clash between love, family honor, and a struggle for national identity. Written by
I've seen the reviews here and a couple of comments set "Taras Bulba"'s location in the Argentine pampas. As a native Argentine I must say that's not correct; the pampas run all through the middle part of our Country but this film was shot in the Province of Salta way up in the northern part of Argentina (some 1400 miles from Buenos Aires); the pampas are a huge flat ground very fertile, but Salta is uneven with not too high hills ("cerros") very different from the pampas. Another reviewer says Tony Curtis declared once that when he and co-star Kristine Kaufmann got mixed up during the filming he was already divorced of Janet Leigh; I don't know about that but I can assure you that Leigh came to Salta with him (a friend of mine has a photo with her on the "cerros").
As to the picture, I really enjoyed it -also because I lived in Salta a couple of years and the landscape is very familiar to me- but I think a real classical epic could have come out of Nicolai Gogol's famous novel with a more elaborated script (as a reviewer correctly stated here).
J. Lee Thompson's product seems sort of "cheap" and lacks spectacle (except for some real good battle scenes) although I admit if has some very good moments. A somehow impressive one is when the big doors of the sieged city open slowly and André (Curtis) appears in a frontal close shot wearing a Polish armor and helmet for he will make a run for food too feed the starving citizens inside in a clear treason to his country and father for the love of a woman. Also the final dark atmosphere Thompson achieves when Taras (Yul Brynner) confronts his favourite son after a treason he can't possibly understand and even less when André just explains "I did what I had to do".
Brynner's performance though a little overacted is good enough and he fills the role of Taras easily. Tony Curtis makes a great effort and gets some good moments as André though he clearly lacks the appropriate "physic du rol". The rest of the cast gives a good support, among them Sam Wanamaker, Brad Dexter, Guy Rolfe and George MacReady. German actress Kristine Kauffman shows her beauty.
All in all "Taras Bulba" comes out as an entertaining and amusing film in its genre and a decent intent on Gogol's book, but no much more than that.
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