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Among the last of the "thinking man's epics" and one of the best.
GulyJimson5 October 2002
At the time of it's release in December of 1971, "Nicholas and Alexandra" must have seemed like an anachronistic piece of film-making, especially when compared with fellow Best Picture Nominees, "A Clockwork Orange", "The French Connection" and "The Last Picture Show". Based on a best-selling work of popular history, it was film making on a grand scale, boasting for it's cast a veritable who's who of the English speaking stage, a sweeping love story spanning many years, thrown over thousands of miles, using the conflict of World War I and the Russian Revolution as it's background. It must have seemed to many like the best film David Lean never made. And superficially it does resemble Lean's epic of a few years earlier, "Doctor Zhivago". Indeed three of Lean's close associates, Producer Sam Spiegel, Production Designer John Box, and Cinematographer, Freddie Young all shine in this production. Unfortunately having arrived late in the historical epic film cycle, it was largely dismissed at the time of it's release by critics, but time has revealed it's many virtues.

Produced with lavish care and attention to detail by Sam Spiegel for Horizon Pictures, "Nicholas and Alexandra" is among the last of the great "thinking man's epics" and one of the best. This is due in no small measure to the wonderful screenplay by James Goldman. Goldman, who also scripted "The Lion in Winter" and "Robin and Marian" had a fine ear for dialogue, and "Nicholas and Alexandra" is a pleasure to listen to as well as to behold. Like Robert Bolt's "Lawrence of Arabia", Charles Wood's "Charge of the Light Brigade" and Robert Ardrey's "Khartoum", all fine historical epics, Goldman's "Nicholas and Alexandra" is elevated by an intelligent script laced with fine dialogue. Transposing history onto the screen is never an easy task, but the story of the last years of the Romanov Dynasty is well served by Goldman. He skillfully telescopes events, while still remaining basically true to historic fact. One way or another, all films dealing with history compromise fact for drama. The best of them achieve a balance between the two. Those pedants who quibble over this fact of life, please refer to the historical plays of Shakespeare for it's validation.

Among the film's many pleasures is the high level of acting by an impressive cast. Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman are simply magnificent in the lead roles. It was an uncanny and bold choice using two unknowns to star in a film of this scope, and they have no problems carrying the three hour film. Both create complex, three-dimensional characters, deeply flawed, yet appealing, sympathetic and infuriating. it is the film's unwillingness to portray them as simply victims that gives it tragic grandeur. A special note must be made of Tom Baker's performance as Rasputin. Too often in previous movies film-makers have exploited the sensational events of the man's life and nothing more. This film actually had the courage to downplay those lurid elements, striving instead for complexity of character. Here we have a tortured individual, a charlatan and a monk, lascivious yet craving spiritual redemption. The Imperial Children are also sensitively depicted, with a standout performance by Roderic Noble as the hemophiliac only son, Alexis. The internal angst he brings to the part in his later scenes is impressive. Franklin J. Schaffner's able direction keeps the film moving along, and at no time is there any danger of the film losing focus on the two leads. This was no mean feat considering the powerhouse supporting cast that included, Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Harry Andrews, Irene Worth, Jack Hawkins, Ian Holm, Michael Bryant, Brian Cox, Eric Porter, Timothy West, Peter McEnery, Julian Glover, Roy Dotrice, Maurice Denham, Alan Webb, Guy Rolfe, Steven Berkof and John Wood, all of whom do memorable turns.

In the first half of the movie, the filmmakers vividly bring to life the isolated fairy-tale world the Imperial Family inhabited. The beautiful palaces, and villas provide a striking contrast to the shabby, squalid prison quarters of the film's second half, which deals largely with the Romanov's exile and imprisonment in Siberia. The murder of the Royal Family in the basement of the Ipatiev house, the so called "House of Special Purpose" is one of the most strikingly directed scenes in the film. The brutal suddenness with which it is depicted packs quite a wallop. Filmed in Panavision, the film is gorgeous to look at. John Box's recreation of Imperial Russia at the turn of the century truly deserved it's Academy Award for Best Production Design, as did Yvonne Blake for Best Costume Design. Freddie Young's stunning cinematography and Richard Rodney Bennett's haunting music score were also nominated, though they both lost to other films. Finally it is a beautifully edited film, a marvelous example of invisible editing used to create a subtle, but powerful sense of irony. A superb film that deals intelligently with the problems inherent in transposing history onto film.
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Jodi Goldfinger11 February 2001
Nicholas was King George V's cousin and Alexandra was Queen Victoria's granddaughter, so the casting of British actors Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman was a stroke of genius (and they are hardly "unknown" actors, at least in Britain). You actually believe they ARE the couple. Michael Jayston is truly remarkable as Nicholas and even resembles him. The rest of the cast is superb, especially Tom Baker's portrayal as Rasputin . . . marvelous!

The movie sticks pretty much to the facts. Keep in mind, Nicholas was not a bad man, but he didn't want to be Czar. He would have preferred to be a potato farmer. You feel the fear growing as Nicholas and his family slowly withdraw into their own world because of Alexis' Hemophilia. Nichola's stand that "God meant for me to rule" causes him to rarely listen to the good advice of the people around him and not heed the warning that he not go to the front to "take charge." Add to this the rumor of Alexandra being a German spy, Rasputin's death by Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dimitry, the loss of thousands of soldiers, the starving Russian people . . . and Nicholas leaves the door wide open for Lenin and his eventual return to power. After he abdicates, he and his family are shuttled around until they end up in Ekaterinburg and "The House of Special Purpose."

This is a great movie. See it if you have a long afternoon with nothing to do, you won't regret it.

BTW, the DVD version adds deleted scenes that sew up some loose ends.
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Nicky And Alicky - Interesting Piece If Somewhat Flawed
Noirdame795 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a beautifully filmed epic, but let me forewarn you that it's not always accurate (but then, few are). Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman excel as the doomed Imperial couple, whose love for each other and their children is touching, but whose incapability to rule their country makes them appear insensitive to their subjects. Tom Baker as the infamous Grigory Rasputin fits the bill for the role, and he even manages to insert bits of humor in this much portrayed character. The incomparable Sir Laurence Olivier is impeccable in his turn as Witte. One of the most memorable scenes is the murder of Rasputin, again, somewhat fictionalized but highly watchable and entertaining. Martin Potter (Prince Felix Yussopov) is fascinating and repellent, while Richard Warwick (RIP) as Grand Duke Dmitry is boyishly and deliciously captivating. Irene Worth as the Dowager Empress is so natural, and the majority of the characters (I've noted some exceptions below) came off very well. The reconstruction of Bloody Sunday, WW1, and the execution were expertly presented.

However, several scenes (some not included in the video release, but restored on DVD) are fictionalized or downright false. On the DVD, for example, the part where Grand Duchess Tatiana (the late Lynne Fredrick, RIP) exposes herself to a Bolshevik guard in Ekaterinburg is fabricated and ridiculous. The supposed 'attempted suicide' by Alexei was again misrepresented - the actual incident which occurred at Tobolsk was accidental. Yakovlev (Sir Ian Holm) is portrayed as a hating, nasty man, when in actuality, he treated the Czar and his family with the utmost respect, despite his membership with the Bolsheviks. Jacob Yurovsky (Alan Webb) is shown to be a kind, elderly gentleman, which he was most certainly not. The Imperial daughters were not given much to do, and their characters were never fully developed. We pretty much had to guess which daughter each actress was portraying (until the climax), and the actresses did not resemble the real people at all!!! The eldest daughter was too dark-haired, thin-lipped and sharp-featured (not to say that she was unattractive), while the second was the wrong physical type, the third again had hair that was too dark, wrong body type and was too short. The youngest was too tall, and her hair was too light. And those 70s hairstyles! I guess I'm too picky, but considering the excellent job of casting with the main characters, they were way off here!

On the whole, worthwhile viewing, but I recommend that people read biographies of the Romanovs before seeing the movie, and try to get it on DVD if possible. The final scene is hard to watch (at least I thought so) and on the DVD print watch for 'movie mistakes'!!! But don't miss it. And oh, those costumes and locations!

An interesting note: John Wood, who plays Colonel Koblinsky here, later played Prime Minister Stolypin in 'Rasputin: Dark Servant Of Destiny'.

"Take your girls - or, your boys - frolic in the provinces, but get him out of here!"
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Decent But Dense
bkoganbing23 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Nicholas And Alexandra covers a lot of the same ground that Dr. Zhivago does and a good deal more. The difference is that Zhivago views the Russian Revolution and its aftermath from the view of several fictional, but real composite people author Boris Pasternak knew.

Robert K. Massie however was writing history, not fiction, and his story is intertwined with the personal story of Nicholas Romanov and Alexandra of Hesse who were a rarity among royalty, a love match. The only other one like it that comes immediately to mind is that of Charles Stuart and Queen Henrietta Marie of Great Britain. And both monarchs came to the same tragic end.

I read the book many years ago, 1971 to be precise. It was in the day room of the basic training company I was assigned in that garden spot of the universe, Fort Polk, Louisiana. For several weeks I went to that room and read about Nicky and Alix and their times. I became the Romanov expert of Fort Polk. Too bad there wasn't a call for my knowledge. Mr. Massie is also one incredibly slow writer, in this case I really recommend you see the movie rather than read the book.

The story covers the time from the birth of their last child, the Tsarevitch Alexis to the deaths of the Romanov family. Perhaps if Nicholas had not been the good and caring father he was, dealing with Alexis's hemophilia, he might have paid more attention to stirrings in his country and the course of world history might have been different.

Nicholas was an autocrat though, the last among the major European rulers. Even his cousin the Kaiser had given his country an elected Parliament and was far more advanced industrially. He had what most reckoned was the best army in the world, the best trained, the most mechanized and a mighty industrial machine. All Russia had was a vast population which took a bad beating in two wars, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I in Nicholas's time.

Nicholas thought as his predecessor Alexander I did, that he could outlast the outsiders as his people did under Napoleon's invasion. The problem was that he never grasped that he was not giving his people a reason to fight and Lenin and the Bolsheviks were giving them every reason to quit.

Michael Jayston plays the complex role of Czar Nicholas II, a man both decent and dense at the same time. Janet Suzman was the Czarina Alexandra, a woman who insisted on her royal prerogatives on all occasions.

Suzman, who was nominated for Best Actress but lost to Jane Fonda for Klute, has the most interesting role. Hemophilia is hereditary and while men get it, the women are the carriers. Her guilt over that and remember were not just talking an ordinary family, but a royal heir caused her to seek out every quack remedy going and ultimately to the influence of the malevolent Rasputin.

If Rasputin were alive today he'd be a starting a televangelist movement for the Russian Orthodox Church. To this day no one really knows what powers and abilities he had over the young Tsarevitch and his ability control the bleeding, but whatever it was, it did work. He gained ascendancy over the Tsarina because of that.

Tom Baker, best known as the Fourth Doctor Who, plays the charismatic and cunning Rasputin. This is probably is best performance outside the Doctor Who series. Why he wasn't given Oscar consideration, the Deity only knows.

Out of the large supporting cast Laurence Olivier stands out as Count Witte, the best of Nicholas's ministers. Witte in his career was responsible for the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and was able to negotiate a peace that involved great saving of face for Russia which was beaten badly in the Russo-Japanese War. In the film and in real life Witte was not listened to.

Nicholas and Alexandra is both entertaining and historically accurate. Besides Janet Suzman's nomination the film received several other nominations and won for Best Art&Set Decorations and Best Costume Design. Director Franklin J. Schaffner was overlooked for Best Director, then again he won the previous year for Patton. Nicholas and Alexandra was also up for Best Picture, but lost to The French Connection. I wouldn't miss it if it's broadcast.
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I do not understand the reservations
jbuck_9194 August 2002
It may have something to do with the fact that I was at Princeton at the same time as the screenwriter's hemophiliac son, but everyone seems to be falling over themselves in finding fault with this nearly perfect movie. Tom Baker didn't "fade into obscurity," he became the most famous Doctor Who. The principals are exemplary and totally true to every historic account I've read. One commentator mentions inanely that Nikolaus was a cousin of King George while Alexandra was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Excuse me folks, we all know that. It makes them first cousins, which is one of the reasons the heir to all the Russias had a deadly hereditary disease. (Nikolaus, George V, and Kaiser Wilhelm were all first cousins.) This movie knocks one out with its combination of costume drama and realism. I don't make ten favorites lists but if I did it might be there. An absolute must see, over and over again.
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Dynasty - with a superior, intelligent script
manuel-pestalozzi5 July 2006
This truly beautiful movie with considerable artistic value should not be watched for its historical accuracy or its lack of geographical precision. It is mainly a story about a marriage of two weak but lovable people who somehow should not have been where fate put them. You could call Nicholas and Alexandra an anti-monarchistic manifesto.

The script really is first rate, it doesn't matter that all the characters are far more English than Russian, what counts is the way a tragic situation unfolds in front of the viewers. For many the last czar probably was a monster as he ordered the death of hundreds of thousands. Yet watching the movie you want to believe that he is the victim of circumstances, far removed from everyday life and a husband and father who cares deeply and, in spite of all his outrageous decisions and non-decisions, wants „to be good". Strange as it seems, but the intimate scenes between him and his wife are the highlights of the movie, as they really bring out the affection between two people who are attracted to each other although they are only too familiar with each other's flaws. It makes the tragic ending of the movie all the more sad.

I had the chance to visit Nicholas' palace in Yalta a few years back. It is full of family snapshots, as the czar was an avid photographer (and also movie maker). It is striking how modern those pictures are, how relaxed and „middle class" the imperial family, always in bathing suits or some elegant leisure wear, appears. In a strange way the Russian emperor comes through as being much less crusty than his contemporaries on the throne of Britain, Germany or Austria-Hungary. It gives you the idea that he was a modern man. Strangely, whenever he himself is in the photos, he is never in the center of the picture but always somewhere in a marginal position, seeming to be either bemused or slightly embarrassed. What a sad career!

An interesting side-effect of the movie is the fact that it shows that at the outset of World War I the crowned heads of Europe, many of them related to each other and on relatively intimate terms, could have prevented the bloodshed. They failed colossally and thus sealed the fate of a continent that still tries to find unity and a common denominator.
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Dazzling cinema, disappointing drama
carmi47-16 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Robert Massie's _Nicholas and Alexandra_, basis of this film, appeared to acclaim in 1968. Massie gave the first straightforward look at Nicholas II and Alexandra, last sovereigns of Old Russia. Most people knew only outlines of their tragedy--their son was hemophiliac, victim of a condition hereditary in Alexandra's family: the boy might bleed to death from any injury. His poor health left Alexandra vulnerable to a charlatan, Rasputin, who gained unchallenged influence over her. Massie put flesh and blood on these bones. But his own son was hemophiliac, and his outlook blinkered by personal knowledge of his wife's agony as a mother responsible for her son's sufferings. Inescapably, Massie's book is sympathetic to Alexandra and until the 1990s, most accounts of the Romanovs echoed him: the empress' excesses were excused as those of a distraught mother in the grip of guilt and grief.

After 1989, Russian archival material radically changed this picture. Letters and diaries by politicians and the Romanov family prove that Alexandra was strongly disliked and distrusted. Her uninformed political meddling arose from undue confidence in her own limited abilities and was a main factor in the events of 1917-18. Domestically she was a hypochondriac tyrant, emotionally distant from her daughters and smotheringly watchful over Alexei who, like his sisters, never developed social skills appropriate to his age.

Against these revised views on the Tsar and his wife, "Nicholas and Alexandra" seems almost quaint today. It is nonetheless visually glorious cinema; sumptuous interiors, beautiful uniforms and gowns, and staggering wealth displayed in jewels, delight the eye and visualize the isolated world these people inhabited. The contrast between imperial wealth and urban poverty is, however, too sharply drawn. We see how factory workers lived, but the film ignores Russia's growing middle class when increasing wealth and education favored a flourishing cultural life--the works of such men as Tchaikovsky and Gorky. Massie's book dealt with such developments; but the film ignores them, so viewers' image of late Tsarist Russia is skewed.

Dramatically, "Nicholas and Alexandra" is rarely anything but turgid. In only one scene did James Goldman, a gifted screenwriter, rise to the level he achieved in "The Lion in Winter"--the dialogue between Nicholas and Alexei after the boy races his sled downstairs into a closed door: Goldman sensitively develops their words into a dialogue between the disgraced Tsar and Russia itself. With one brief exception(see below) the film doesn't sustain that level.

We rarely get a satisfying sense of the relationship between Tsar and empress, who either express undying love for each other or quarrel over Rasputin and how Nicholas should run his government. One of the clearest glimpses of the relationship comes late in the film, as Nicholas argues not with his wife but with his mother over Alexandra's influence. The film more successfully maps Alexandra's relationship with Rasputin, as witness the first scene between them at the dowager empress' birthday party. Here we see how deftly the pseudo-monk played on Alexandra's fears.

Goldman alters chronology for dramatic effect even when the historical record is dramatic enough. The film has Alexei's near-fatal illness at Spala followed by celebrations for the Romanovs' 300th anniversary, and the shooting of Prime Minister Stolypin. In fact Stolypin died in 1911, Alexei's illness was in 1912 and the Romanov tercentenary in 1913. What Goldman hoped to achieve by shuffling these events is unclear. Possibly it was to juxtapose Alexei's recovery at Spala, and Rasputin's consequent vindication, with the outbreak of World War I, when Alexandra, acting for an absent Nicholas, appointed hopelessly unqualified ministers Rasputin recommended, men in whose hands the Tsar's government collapsed in 1917. But if this was Goldman's intent, he failed to make his meaning clear.

Many scenes are sanitized, especially the last. We know they'll be shot. The director's endless delay of that moment as the family sits in that basement room is unbearable, if not inexcusable. The shooting itself is so brisk that but for the guns, we would hardly know what was happening. That said, I hope no film ever recreates the family's last minutes as Greg King and Penny Wilson reconstruct them in excruciating detail, using archival accounts by members of the firing squad and the forensic evidence of the bones recovered in 1979 (King and Wilson, _The Fate of the Romanovs_ Hoboken, 2003, chapter 12.)

Reviewers here criticize the scene, invented by Goldman, in which Tatiana disrobes before a young guard. Astoundingly, however, King and Wilson found documentary proof that during a snap inspection of the Ipatiev house on June 27, 1918, Grand Duchess Marie was found in a compromising "situation" with a guard named Ivan Skorokhodov (King and Wilson, _Fate of the Romanovs_, pp. 243-47). Documents proving this were still hidden away in Goldman's day. His invention of Tatiana's self-exposure thus reveals that he did have a dramatic sense of, and made an effort to portray, the feelings he realized these tragic young women experienced as they endured confinement and faced death. The documents do not reveal details of Marie's "situation," but the event proved that security at the house was unreliable. With the White Army approaching Ekaterinburg, Marie's peccadillo led to the local Soviet's decision to execute the entire family three weeks later.
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Moving Modern Epic
James Hitchcock15 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Nicholas and Alexandra" is an example of what might be called the "modern epic", the genre which sought to apply the scale and techniques of the Biblical or Classical epic to episodes from nineteenth or twentieth history. Although ancient history epics fell out of favour after the mid-sixties, the modern epic had a longer shelf-life, surviving into the eighties ("Gandhi", "The Last Emperor") and even the nineties ("Titanic").

Perhaps the greatest exponent of the modern epic was David Lean, the director of "Bridge on the River Kwai", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Dr Zhivago", and "Ryan's Daughter". He also attempted to make "A Passage to India" in a similar style, although it is a style not really suited to Forster's novel. It may have been the success of "Dr Zhivago" which persuaded the makers of this film to try another epic with a Russian theme, although this time based upon fact rather than a work of fiction. It tells the story of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, and his wife Alexandra. Although it is a lengthy film, around three hours in length, it does not tell the story of their courtship (which might have made an interesting film in itself, given Nicholas's father's opposition to Alexandra as a daughter-in-law), nor of the early years of their marriage. It begins around 1904, the time of Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and of the birth of the couple's only son, Alexis.

Nicholas was a strange and contradictory character. In his public life he was determined to defend Russia's autocratic system of government, even though his weak and vacillating personality made him an unlikely and unsuitable autocrat. In private, however, he was a kindly man, deeply in love with his wife and a loving father to his children. (Similar contradictions can be seen in the characters of two other monarchs who fell victims to revolutions, Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France). Alexandra, however beloved she may have been by her husband and family, was never popular with the Russian people. This was partly due to her German background (the Germans, for political reasons, were often disliked in Russia at this period), partly because she was seen as cold and aloof and partly because she had fallen under the influence of the mystic Rasputin, who was widely though incorrectly believed to be her lover.

Epics about turn-of-the-century royalty have not always been successful; "Mayerling", made a few years earlier about another doomed pair of royal lovers, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his mistress Marie Vetsera, was sumptuous to look at but otherwise uninteresting. "Nicholas and Alexandra", by contrast, is as visually attractive as the earlier film but a much better film all round. Whereas "Mayerling" featured two big-name stars, Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve, in the leading roles, Nicholas and Alexandra are played by two relatively unknown actors, Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman, and it is the unknowns who come off best. In the hands of Sharif and Deneuve Rudolf and Marie remain dull and inert, whereas Jayston (who bears a close resemblance to the late Tsar) and Suzman succeed in making their characters three-dimensional and well rounded, sympathetic despite their all-too-obvious flaws. There are some other excellent contributions from Tom Baker (the future Doctor Who) as Rasputin, here portrayed not as an outright villain but as a man possessed of a certain spirituality despite his own character weaknesses (such as a taste for strong drink and pretty women), from Michael Bryant as Lenin, played as an arrogant autocrat-in-the-making, and from Timothy West as the Imperial Family's loyal doctor.

After the Revolution of 1917 the Communists tried to portray their seizure of power as the inevitable result of ineluctable historical forces. In reality, the replacement of a bad system by a worse one was anything but inevitable. Although Tsarist autocracy was, by the early twentieth century, an anachronistic institution, and one that was probably unsustainable in the long run, many Russians still retained a certain affection for their "Batyushka", or Little Father, and the system might well have lasted much longer but for chance factors. We see Lenin and his comrades in their Zurich exile, lamenting the seeming indestructibility of the Russian monarchy and fearing that their own movement is doomed to failure. What sealed the doom of Tsarism and allowed the Communists their chance was the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the poor performance of the Russian armies, leading to popular unrest to the fall of the regime in March 1917, and the final triumph of the Bolsheviks in November of that year after a brief, doomed attempt to create a liberal democracy. (John McEnery is very good as the idealistic Kerensky, leader of the democratic forces, whose idealism is frustrated first by the stubbornness of the Tsar and then by the ruthlessness of the Communists).

The most moving scenes in the film are the final ones, when the Romanovs are being held prisoner. The tone of these scenes is cold, bleak and forbidding, a deliberate contrast to the visual splendours of the earlier scenes in the Imperial palaces. There is yet another good performance from Alan Webb as the hypocritical Yurovsky, the family's jailer who welcomes them with seeming politeness while all the time plotting their murder on the orders of his superiors in Moscow. The final scene when Nicholas, Alexandra, their children and their servants are gunned down by Yurovsky and his men is unbearably poignant. A fitting end to this excellent film. 8/10
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Great Movie..great acting!
clee790314 July 2004
I have always been fascinated by Russia's last tsar and his family. I have literally read dozens of books as well as articles about them. This movie puts into perspective what I have known all along. I came across this movie (VHS form) over 10 years ago. I've read Robert K Massie's book and although the movie can never be as concise as a book, it skillfully captures the mood and developed the plot really well as the movie progresses. The casting also deserved a big applause. Jayston and Suzman did a wonderful job portraying the real tsar and tsarista. The only thing I guess (and it is not fault of theirs) is perhaps better sounds and graphics. I had to turn up my volume really high to hear what they are saying especially if the actors speak softly as demanded by the mood of that scene. Oh's the early 70's..what can we expect. Great movie...i would recommend it to everyone.
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Impressive Period Piece Details The Fall Of Russian Royalty
ShootingShark17 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In the early twentieth century Nicholas Romanov is the Tsar of Russia, presiding over an empire from his palace in St Petersburg, and his wife Alexandra has just given birth to a son and heir. All is not well however; the child is gravely ill with haemophilia, a war with Japan in the East is going badly and another with Germany in the West awaits, there is widespread poverty and resentment, and bolshevik agitators are planning revolution ...

Epic historical biopics are often stodgy and overlong and whilst this one (based on a book by Robert K. Massie) could probably do to lose a reel or two, it is nevertheless a powerful, moving and impressive account of the downfall of the royal house of the Romanovs and the Red Revolution of 1917. It's certainly an amazing true story about a couple who literally lost an empire, a mad monk who played a crucial role in their downfall and the transformation of a huge nation from one form of tyrannical oppression to another. It's also a very moving tragedy - Nicholas was not immoral, but his foolish pride in his noble lineage ultimately led to millions of wasted lives and his ignorance of his people's plight sealed his family's fate. The drama focuses on their descent from opulent splendour to powerlessness, exile, house-arrest and ultimately assassination at the hands of the communists. Produced by the legendary Sam Spiegel, the film is filled with amazing sets and costumes, all beautifully photographed by Freddie Young. The largely unknown cast are excellent, most notably Baker as the rapacious Rasputin, who wormed his way into the Empress' affections, and in his own way was more of a revolutionary than Lenin, Stalin or Trotsky, and Olivier as prime minister Witte, who delivers an impassioned speech on the folly of the Great War. This is a great drama and an enjoyable epic, but also a pointed history lesson for those interested in what eventually befalls all nobility. Do you think the Windsors have seen it ?
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Biopic shot in Spain about the last Russian Czar with historical detail , luxurious sets and outstanding acting
ma-cortes18 March 2012
Historical film correctly based on real events about Russian CZar Nicholas II (Michael Jayston , though press reports at time of pre-production said that Rex Harrison) , wife (first cinema film of Janet Suzman , and Audrey Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave considered to play Alexandra) and sons Aleksey Nikolaeyvitch Romanov (Roderic Noble was chosen due to his resemblance) , Anastasia (Fiona Fullerton who had an interesting career as teen) , Tatiana (Lynne Frederick who subsequently married and inherited to Peter Sellers but she died early) . Czar Nicholas II, the inept monarch of Russia , insensitive to the needs of his country , is overthrown and exiled to Siberia with his family . In the film appears several historic personages as Kerenski (John McEnery) , The Queen Mother Marie Fedorovna (Irene Worth) , Trostki (film debut of Brian Cox) , Lenin (Michael Bryant) , Stalin (Hizeldine) , Rasputin (it was Laurence Olivier who first suggested Tom Baker to be cast and Peter O'Toole was asked to play Rasputin) , he was killed by Prince Yussoupov (Martin Potter)

This overlong film contains drama , emotion and notorious deeds dealing with the over-detailed depiction of happenings preceding Russian Revolution until the deaths of Czar and family . Gorgeous sets and spectacular production design by John Box and Gil Parrondo ; being mostly filmed in Spain , as the Royal Palace of Madrid . It's marvellously photographed by Freddie Young in magnificence color . Evocative and sensitive musical score by Richard Rodney Bennnett . The picture is well directed by Franklin J. Schaffner . He directed excellent motion pictures as "The Planet of the Apes", "Patton," "Papillon", ¨"Nicholas and Alexandra", after the flop of his film titled " Islands in the Stream ", in which went on to coincide with the actor of "Patton," George C. Scott, decided to embark on a project more commercial and successful as "The Boys From Brazil" , however ¨Sphinx¨ ,¨Lionheart¨, ¨Si Giorgio¨were others flops . Rating : Better than average , worthwhile watching

The picture based on facts , it begins when Japan's own territorial ambitions on the Chinese and Asian mainland. Russia is involved in a costly war with Japan over the Korean peninsula and the Czar rejects all recommendations that he bring the war to an end. War began in 1904 with a surprise Japanese attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur, without formal declaration of war and Russia is defeated by Japan . The Romanovs (Michael Jayston, Janet Suzman) are absolute rulers, among the last of their kind in Europe, living in luxury while the vast majority of Russians live in absolute poverty and take place revolts . As on January 1905 , Gapon (Julian Glover) began his march . Locking arms, the workers marched peacefully through the streets. Some carried religious icons and banners, as well as national flags and portraits of the Tsar. As they walked they sang religious hymns and the Imperial anthem, 'God Save The CZar'. All of the converging processions were scheduled to arrive at the Winter Palace . Throughout the city, the marchers found their way blocked by lines of infantry, backed by Cossacks and Hussars; and the soldiers opened fire on the crowd . The official number of victims was 92 dead and several hundred wounded. By the time of Stolypin (Eric Porter)'s assassination by Dmitry Bogrov, a student in a theatre in Kiev on 18 September 1911, Stolypin had grown weary of the burdens of office . Because of the fragility of the autocracy at this time, Nicholas and Alexandra chose not to divulge Alexei's condition to anyone outside the royal household. In fact, there were many in the Imperial household who were unaware of the exact nature of the Tsarevich's illness. At first Alexandra turned to Russian doctors and medics to treat Alexei; however, their treatments generally failed, and Alexandra increasingly turned to mystics and holy men . One of these was an illiterate Siberian , Grigori Rasputin (Tom Baker) , appeared to have some success. Rasputin's influence over Empress Alexandra, and consequently the Tsar, had grown stronger ever since 1912, when the Tsarevich nearly died from an injury while the family was on vacation at the hunting lodges at Bialowieza and Spala ,now part of Poland . The Czar's decision, against advice, to authorize a general mobilization in 1914 leads to disaster on the front . As the government failed to produce supplies, there was mounting hardship creating massive riots and rebellions. With Nicholas away at the front in 1915, authority appeared to collapse , while Empress Alexandra ran the government from Petrograd from 1915 , and the capital was left in the hands of strikers and mutineering conscript soldiers . At the end of the "February Revolution" of 1917 , Nicholas II chose to abdicate . He firstly abdicated in favour of Tsarevich Alexei, but swiftly changed his mind after advice from doctors that the heir-apparent would not live long apart from his parents who would be forced into exile .The abdication of Nicholas II and the subsequent Bolshevik revolution brought three centuries of the Romanov dynasty's rule to an end. The fall of autocratic Tsardom brought joy to Liberals and Socialists in Britain and France and made it possible for the United States of America, the first foreign government to recognise the Provisional government, to enter the war early in April fighting in an alliance of democracies against an alliance of empires. In Russia, the announcement of the Tsar's abdication was greeted with many emotions . However , revolutionaries abound and the rise of the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin (Michael Bryant) and Trotsky (Brian Cox) , slowly begin to gain an advantage . Before the year is out the Bolsheviks will be in power and the Romanovs in custody. In Siberia takes places the eventual execution of the entire family - the Czar, Czarina, four daughters and one son - in July 1918.
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The sadly forgotten epic
clarne5 October 2013
"Nicholas and Alexandra" is one of the last of the grand, sweeping epics that dominated the box office in the 50's and 60's. With the new wave of young, reckless directors who took to the scene in the 70's this kind of filmmaking seemed strangely dated. Ironically enough it kind of mimics the fate of the Romanov family, holding on to ideals that can no longer protect them. The genre, which had started with aplomb with movies like "Gone With The Wind" didn't draw the numbers it used to, and after seeing this movie I can't help but think of what a shame that is.

The movie is off to a slow start, and doesn't really grab the viewer until after the introduction of Rasputin. From there on in it's pure cinematic joy to witness the fate of the Tzar and his family unravel.

The actors do a tremendous job. It's obvious that the producers wanted their actors to look as much like their characters as possible, and while this doesn't necessarily strengthen the movie by itself it clearly gives it a stronger feel of authenticity. Furthermore they perfectly embody their flawed characters. The czar, beautifully played by Michael Jayston is a warm, caring man who unfortunately is totally unfit to be a czar. He is out of touch with his people, and feebly clings to his autocratic power. Jayston manages to portray an almost absurd certainty in his divine right, and ability to rule while at the same time exposing his uncertainty and fright. Janet Suzman is equally impressive as the loving, but domineering Alexandra.

The look and feel of the movie is also fantastic. The jaw-dropping visuals of Russia perfectly accommodates the story, and the music is wonderful all the way through. The pace is slow, and it's easy to see why critics who had just witnessed the exhilarating pace of movies like "A Clockwork Orange" or "The French Connection". But this was how these kinds of movies were made, and "Nicholas and Alexandra" does not shame the genre. It's actually a beautiful end to a spectacular genre which is well worth a look for anyone with a soft spot for David Lean-like movies.
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Impressing period movie,with a note of eeriness
Cristi_Ciopron2 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This period film is bitter and quite well-written—as a matter of fact, it's admirably written; anyway, it is wonderfully detailed. It is also strikingly and surprisingly original ,and thrillingly dramatic and almost suspenseful.

One finds here a real feeling for those scary times and for the inner natures of those who had a part in the sinister, frightening events described. The Czar, his empress, their daughters (some of them, beautiful) are not _cartoonish characters; they have in themselves, one feels it, the dramatic impetus needed for such a drama. The portraying is balanced and tactful, the script is admirable.

Very good film—and, I may presume, extremely underrated. The director has a very keen and obvious sense for the dramatic movement, and he creates his film much above the level of the illustration of an album. (Think about those "Anastasia" biopic things, with a decrepit Sharif as Czar Nicholas, etc., their Sandra Brown dullness, etc.! On the other hand, the allegedly scandalous facts, the Gregory Rasputin affair, etc., are tactfully managed. Rasputin is a sleazy subject; it naturally generates the same kind of interest; we are happily spared here of the scandalous side of the healer's passing through the imperial milieu .As far as I am familiarized with the Western films about the last Czar and the dawns of the Russian revolution, "N&A" seems to be the best of them.)

The few women in this movie—those from the Tzar's family—the Empress, a couple of her daughters- give a note of restrained but intense and genuine sensuality. A discreet and authentic note of sensuality and beauty, integrated in the context of sincerely described human relations. The psychologies are skillfully and plausibly deepened, to the story's advantage.

The roles are all generously well played (see the very noticeable cameos and small roles like those of Olivier and Holm); the spirit of the film is the right one, with touches of an almost surrealist bizarre—like for the last days of the Russian imperial family. I wouldn't exaggerate calling some of the roles pitch-perfect performance. As the narration approaches the end, and the Czar's family is confined to the Ural Soviet's arrest house, the film fully develops a magnetic weirdness, translating into an uncannily elegant shape the brutality of those events. The Czar's guardian, a dry oldster that will head the execution, is one of the most disturbing villains of the cinema.

A few words about the director: the spiritual point he so clearly wishes to make, the properly cinematographic character of his uncanny poem, the feel for the atmosphere and for the economy of the story indicate him as an author that sets himself up for something and is sometimes inspired and amazing.

Franklin J. Schaffner made relatively few movies;Planet of the Apes (1968) ,Patton (1970) ,Papillon (1973) ,Islands in the Stream (1977),The Boys from Brazil (1978) ,Sphinx (1981) (with Lesley-Anne Down ),Welcome Home (1989) are some of them.

Janet Suzman is a delicious empress.Ania Marson,Candace Glendenning,Lynne Frederick complete the cast.
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Fair Epic But Let Down By A Lack Of Narrative Drive
Theo Robertson25 March 2005
I'm still trying to decide if NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRIA is a good film or a bad film . Truth be told it's a bit of both . Unfortunately I'm going to have a problem deciding if the bad overwhelms the good or vice versa .

This is epic film making by Sam Spiegal , but is far from being the best movie he's produced . I had a problem with the script for BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI and I've got a problem with the one here . I know it's an epic film but overlong doesn't equal epic . For instance one of the characters suffers from haemophillia and this is mentioned in one point in the movie , but then it's mentioned 15 minutes later , then 15 after that , then again after another 22 minutes . Just mentioning the condition once would have been quite enough . We also see characters like Lenin , Stalin , Kerensky popping into the narrative and then disappearing without little rhyme or reason . It does become obvious by the end that their inclusion probably wasn't necessary and gives a feeling that when they do appear they are under written anyway . Rasputin especially suffers from this type of scripting and the whole movie would have worked much better if it solely concentrated on his relationship with the Tsar's wife instead of giving us a history lesson on the last two decades of Russian imperial history . If truth be told it's not very good history either

There are good aspects to the movie , and the cast are probably the best one . Perhaps Spiegel wanted so many characters included because he wanted to cast the cream of British talent . We've got Olivier and Redgrave both knights of the British stage alongside Julian Glover , Harry Andrews and Jack Hawkins . What a cast and as you'd expect they give very good performances . But let's not forget the two best performances belong to two unknown actors called Michael Jayston and Tom Baker . It must have taken some courage casting these two actors in such prominent roles Jayston still occasionally appears in TV roles while Baker found world wide fame as DOCTOR WHO . And let's not forget that a few other unknown actors like Brian Cox and Ian Holm appear in cameos .

A good film for those wanting a three hour epic or seeing a host of big name actors when they weren't house hold names in their own household , but not really a film for serious students of Russian history
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historically accurate, dramatically flat
greenforest5618 November 2005
This picture is historically quite accurate, a good history lesson. Unfortunately, as drama, it is quite dreary. The score is essentially non-existent. The cast in workmanlike but uninspiring as is the directing. The script, too, is factual and well done as history but never quite rises to great drama. In other words, this is no 'Dr. Zhivago'. The film makers rather hammered home the fact that Nicholas and Alexandra 'loved' each other, but it never rises to the passion or interest of Zhivago and Laura.

Perhaps the real problem are Nicholas and Alexandra themselves. They were average, decent, conscientious, church going people as we would know them today. Nicholas would have risen to middle management, would have been a good lieutenant in the Fire Department.

But that's the dramatic problem, they were just pretty damned average people placed in extraordinary power and circumstances in which they were completely unsuited to cope. They have no intrinsic interest themselves anymore than your neighbors do. Do you want to sit through a three hour picture about your neighbor? How 'bout a three hour movie about Paris Hilton? No….. rich but boring.

The areas the picture does excel is in costumes and sets, where it quite justly won Academy awards. However, this is not sufficient to redeem it.

If you are someone who is not inclined to read a book but would like to know something of the history of this period, this would be an excellent picture for you to view. However, if you are already well versed in the subject the movie will seem rather dull.
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Fascinating look at Czarist Russia during the Revolution...
Neil Doyle7 November 2009
This lavish version of NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA will especially appeal to anyone who is fascinated by their legendary story and the bitter fate which awaited the family of Nicholas Romanov. One of his daughters was Anastasia. Her story, too, has been told in films and books.

JANET SUZMAN is excellent as the woman who turns for comfort and hope to a madman, Rasputin, while her ineffective husband is unable to convince her that he is a charlatan. MICHAEL JAYSTON is effective as Nicholas, inhabiting the role so completely that you feel he is the man himself. TOM BAKER, who bears a striking resemblance to the real Rasputin, is also up to the demands of his role.

There's a vast canvas of historical background filmed in splendid Technicolor with obviously no expense spared in all the costuming and production design details. The only real drawback is a lack of pacing in several key dramatic scenes, especially toward the end when the family's execution turns into an endless wait for the assassins to enter the room. Many scenes could have been more tightly edited to reduce the running time of over three hours.

The supporting cast includes famous names like LAURENCE OLIVIER and MICHAEL REDGRAVE in what amount to bit roles. The daughters have little to do but the hemophiliac son, Alexis, is played with great sensitivity by RODERIC NOBLE.

The realization that she is responsible for carrying the genes that gave her son his condition, is what torments Alexandra and leads to her unwise decision to take counsel from Rasputin.

Dramatically, the film suffers from the slow pacing--but the story itself is so compelling that it makes up for this deficiency by providing scenes of epic grandeur and stunning cinematography.

It fully deserved its Oscars for Best Art Direction and Costume Design. It was nominated for several other Oscars but Janet Suzman lost to Jane Fonda of KLUTE and the Best Picture award went to THE FRENCH CONNECTION.
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I couldn't stop watching.
gkeith_116 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
My musings about this movie. As a History Major at Ohio State University, I studied History of Imperial Russia recently. This was all about the Russian czars, from Peter the Great and Catherine the Great up to and including Nicholas II, the main subject of this movie. The course has a slogan, "It started with a bang and ended with a bang." The familial execution of Nicholas II and his beloved family was all too soon replaced by the Soviet Union and Leninism permanently, or so it was thought.

I hear bad and good things about Nicholas. He crushed many groups of his enemies early on, and even toward the end of the nineteenth century. Also, that he was a victim of his growing oppositional forces, that there were three Russian Revolutions (one in 1905, and two in 1917), and that Rasputin sold Nicholas' whole family out which led to their grisly executions. Also, that Rasputin was hard to kill, it took many times to take hold, and that his dead body was eventually found in a river or canal. The boy just wouldn't die, even after poisoning that would have killed five to ten people by itself.

This movie was on for most of the night last night, to 3:30 this morning (TCM). I had to get up fairly early, but could not stop watching. Rasputin was the creepy villain I have always been told he was, with the mesmerizing effect on Alexandra. She believed Rasputin would save her son's life, like many people today in the U.S. who believe televangelists will save their loved ones' lives. I have seen, in other media, Rasputin portrayed by Lionel Barrymore and Alan Rickman. This particular Rasputin looked amazingly like pictures of the real Rasputin I have seen on the web. I have also heard that Rasputin was quite the ladies' man, and this movie alludes, and also on the web I learned about the preservation and worship of the enormous "member" that was removed from Rasputin at the time of his murder.

I have always wondered if there was truth to the stupid gossip about Rasputin hooking up with Alexandra. He was ugly to look at, but looks aren't everything.

The boy portraying Alexei was superb, and so was the actor portraying his father. I enjoyed recognizing the more known stars in the movie, although not in major parts, including Michael Redgrave, Laurence Olivier and Jack Hawkins. The four daughters were dressed and coiffed elegantly, at least until their time in Siberia. Even in the final room, these 'girls' looked quite professional despite I am sure no maids to bathe and dress them.

The sailor-nurse in charge of Alexei did a great job. I enjoyed seeing his historic uniform, as I am a student of historic fashion design as well as other things. I read online that the real Alexei had two male nannies attending to his needs.

The Lenin-portrayer gave quite a chilling performance, and I feel that his make-up, beard, etc. were perfect.

A character in the movie predicted that the Tsarist empire would go the way of the dodo-bird, ala the Roman Empire and other failed civilizations, and he was right. The irony is that the then-birthing Soviet empire is now a has-been, also.
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a truly grand epic...
hamlet-1627 October 2005
I remember seeing this film in its uncut theatrical form in 70mm.

It was breathtaking.

The performances, music, sets and costumes were overwhelming. But most of all I remember the tremendous sense of doom that pervades the film and the sense of lost chances to avoid catastrophe, both for Russia and for the royal family.

There are certainly historical inaccuracies but ultimately they do not get in the way of central theme of the film: the genuine love story between Nicholas and Alexandra. (Nicholas was only able to marry Alexandra because his father Tsar Alexander III relented on his deathbed despite substantial objections of the court and and Tsarina to Alexandra.) Michael Jayston and Janet Suzmann are superb in the title roles bringing a heartrending portrayal of two people in love but totally out of their depth ruling the great Russian empire.

The final moments of the film remain amongst the most terrifying and memorable of any film I have seen.

I recommend this film to any lover of fine film making.
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Expensive but terribly dishonest
kgwrote-854-1042403 April 2017
Tom Baker makes a great Rasputin, however the lead actors bored me terribly, so I suppose it doesn't matter that the script was often filled with hokey banal dialogue. The big sin with the film as Hollywood propaganda is that it put all the blame for Russia's problems on the Czar and ignored the treachery and vicious Old Testament-inspired violent sadism of the Bolsheviks, who were not thinking about the good of the Russian people at all, but how they could suck the country dry and use it to further other ambitions (like the globalism which has now led to the present immigration crisis). According to Mark Twain and others, Russia's problems with "usury folk" date back to the 1870s, with assassinations and bad dealings, it had little or nothing to do with Christian intolerance as we have heard.

If Hollywood and the Western media was to be believed, Lenin and his friends wanted to help workers, yet we know that perhaps millions of ethnic Russians were killed after the Bolsheviks took control (this was later blamed on Stalin even though he was not in power). The deaths tied to the Czar pale by comparison. Who was the real tyrant? We also learn that George Patton felt so strongly that Communists were the greatest threat, he concluded the US should have sided with Hitler against them! But he died from an "accident" before he could return stateside.

The movie serves as an example of how Hollywood sought to portray history in a way that slants it with less than noble aims.

Seems like the Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil was hinting at it too:

I stuck around St. Petersburg When I saw it was a time for a change Killed the Tsar and his ministers Anastasia screamed in vain
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A Beautiful, Forgotten Epic!
g-bodyl27 October 2015
Nicholas and Alexandra is one of those films that no one has ever seen, and unfortunately no one ever will. It's essentially one of those long-forgotten epics. But if you have seen the film, it's a film you'll never regret seeing. It's long and sometime can be tedious to sit through, but it's a very fascinating history lesson. One of the big films of 1971 was "Fiddler on the Roof," which viewed Russian life through the eyes of the peasantry. Now this film takes place during the Russian Revolution, through the eyes of the monarchy. The film talks about the tragic rule of Czar Nicholas ll, which led to the abdication of the throne and the collapse of the monarchy. The film is very romantic in the sense of being very beautiful to look at. The art direction is splendid and the costume design seems realistic for the time period it was set in.

Franklin J. Schaffner's film tells the story about Czar Nicholas ll, the monarch who showed indifference towards the peasants, in which caused over seven million deaths. Now being forced to fight in the Great War, the Russian people have had enough. The cities are being torn apart with riots. People and factions, such as the Bolsheviks, are plotting to overthrow the government. So Nicholas decides to abdicate the throne and he and his family are exiled in the frigid land of Siberia.

I think the acting was solid. The two leads are actors I have never heard of until my viewing of the film, but I was impressed at what I saw. Michael Jayston does well as Nicholas ll, and even has similar looks. He does a good job at showing indifference towards practically everything. Maybe he overacted with his facial expressions, but he did a rather good job. I really liked Janet Suzman's performance as the influential wife of Nicholas, Alexandra. She has great chemistry with not only Jayston, but also Tom Baker who portrayed the mystical Rasputin, a self-proclaimed man of God. We also get some good supporting turns from the likes of Laurence Olivier, Ian Holm, Brian Cox, and Jack Hawkins.

Overall, Nicholas and Alexandra is a beautiful film to look at mainly because of those fantastic period designs. The story is also very meaningful as it describes one of the world's most infamous revolutions to ever have happened. This is not the best epic set within this era. I believe that honor goes to Doctor Zhivago. I would have loved to see more about the revolution. The story itself seems impacted because the revolution itself wasn't the most significant part of the story. I would have loved to seen more of Lenin or Trotsky. But on the whole, I really enjoyed watching this tragic story of what happened to end Czarist Russia.

My Grade: A-
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An excellent and sorely underrated film
GusF17 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
One of the last films in the great tradition of the historical epics which dominated the 1950s and 1960s, it begins with the birth of Tsarevich Alexei, the apple of his parents' eye, on August 12, 1904 and ends with the murders of the entire Romanov family on July 17, 1918. While the film suffers from a few pacing problems, it is nevertheless a hugely entertaining and very well written film with often marvellous dialogue. Franklin J. Schaffner of "Planet of the Apes" (my sixth favourite film of all time) and "Patton" fame does a great job as the director.

As the title characters, Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman are excellent, delivering subtle, understated performances. They have great chemistry. Throughout the film, you never doubt that they love each other. Nicholas II is depicted as a weak-willed, indecisive and not terribly bright man who loves his family but whose personality makes him utterly unsuited to his position. He fails to listen to the good advice of his prime ministers, most notably Count Witte, and often takes unwise courses of action at the behest of his strong willed wife. It is not until far too late, after he has already lost his throne, that he engages in some form of self-reflection and realises all of the mistakes that he made. My sympathy for him grew as the film progressed and he became an increasingly tragic figure. He may have been the Tsar but he always seemed to be someone's pawn rather than his own man. I think that, in the film at least, he became a better man after being forced to abdicate.

Alexandra - who was hated because she was German - seems to be more intelligent than her husband, who is under her thumb and tells her as much at one point. However, her judgement is as bad as his or possibly even worse as she falls under the influence of Rasputin. She is blinded to his crimes and misdemeanours by her love for Alexei and the mystic's apparent ability to control his haemophilia. She is a less sympathetic character than Nicholas, in part because she says expressly at one point that, on reflection, she could think of anything that she had done wrong in the years leading up to 1917. I've no idea if this statement has any historical basis whatsoever but it worked well in the context of the film as she appears to be as blind to her own faults as she was to those of Rasputin. I sympathised with her most strongly when it came to Alexei's poor health as it was a terrible burden for any mother to bear.

Laurence Olivier excels as Count Witte, the Cassandra of Russia whose consistently sensible advice is ignored by Nicholas and who, as in reality, warned that disaster would result from Russia's entry into World War I. I suppose that he was lucky that he did not live to see the Revolution. In his first major role, Tom Baker, cast at Olivier's suggestion, was perfect for the role of Rasputin, playing him with a wonderful sense of intensity. He comes across as a very dangerous, intelligent, manipulative and amoral man who was perhaps the worst possible choice for an adviser. The film has a very strong supporting cast overall: Timothy West, Ian Holm, John Wood, Roy Dotrice, Michael Redgrave (whose daughter Vanessa was considered for Alexandra), Julian Glover, Alan Webb and John McEnery as Alexander Kerensky, who died only a year and a half before the film was released. McEnery looks the image of him, incidentally.

On the negative side, the film is too long at three hours and six minutes. It suffers from pacing problems for a full half four (from about 60 to 90 minutes into its long run). They could have probably cut at least half an hour of flab here and there without it making much difference. While the scenes in the first half featuring the Bolsheviks were necessary for later in the film, they weren't terribly good or interesting. The film hues fairly closely to history but takes a few liberties. For instance, Stalin and Lenin meet a few years too early and Stolypin is assassinated in 1913 rather than 1911. I thought that it was rather odd that, while several of the events surrounding the 1905 Revolution were depicted or discussed, there was no direct mention of the Revolution itself. The film jumps forward from 1905 to 1913 very suddenly and it was a bit distracting as, even given the film's length, it felt like it was leaving something out. The second half, beginning with the outbreak of World War I, is much stronger than the first and the film rollicks along at a great pace from then onwards. There is a great sense of foreboding in the second half as the story draws to its tragic conclusion. The film does a fantastic job of contrasting the opulence of the Winter Palace with both the poor living conditions of the Russian people and those of the Romanovs themselves after the Revolution.

Overall, this is an excellent film which is neither as successful nor as well remembered as it deserves to be. Were it for its aforementioned problems, I would have certainly given it full marks.
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A Good Movie, Should Have Been A Great Movie
ToughXArmy27 January 2013
Robin Massie wrote one of the more riveting books I have ever read, Nicholas and Alexandra based on the last Czar and Czarina of Russia,

Director Franklin Schaffner who did such a brilliant job in directing 'Patton' fails here. The movie is pictorially magnificent and the interior set design impressive but at times dull when compared to the riveting book. Michael Jsyston and Janet Suzman able British actors do not have the charisma to play the Caar and Czarina The Empress was German born and since Russia was at War with Germany thought to be a spy Marlon Brando was offered Rasputin but turned down the role. Tom Baker does well but again as in the case of Jayston and Ms Suzman does not have the stature to play Rasputin. The central theme is that the Crown Prince had hemophilia and the mad monk Rasputin involved himself so unduly in the lives of the Russian Imperial family there were rumors that Rasputin and the German born Czarina were lovers! In Massie's book one chapter ends with the words " Day and Night" Rasputin and Alexandra brought down the Russian Empire" so hated was Rasputin that members of the Imperial Family plotted to kill Rasputin.

Legendary Producer Sam Spiegel who produced classics at Columbia such as 'The Bridge On The River Kaw' and 'Lawrence of Arabia' 'On The Waterfront' among other classic films had a star roster of stars who previously starred in his films such as William Holden, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando etc in his films. Those are the kind of stars that should have been part of this film.

I believe this was the last film Sam Spiegel made at Columbia ending a legendary relationship between studio and film maker that won Oscars for The Bridge On The River Kwai and a true masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia.
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I love this movie
snoman90129 April 2007
As a lover of history I am completely engrossed with this film each and every time that I watch it. It is well nigh impossible to cram so much of such vast importance in to a 3 hour movie so I'm assuming that there was a lot of intentional and necessary compromising with its direction and production. This is sometimes apparent with its occasional loose grasp of fact but generally speaking it is fairly accurate. This is much more than can be said for many other so called historical epics.

I recall the very first time that I saw Nick and Alex when I was a crew member aboard a Canadian Destroyer at sea in 1972. I was so completely engrossed that I could almost feel the impact of the bullets in the final scene when the entire Romanov family was murdered.

I recommend this first class film to anyone at all with an interest in history in general and Czarist Russsia in particular.
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An epic drama of Europe's amazing and violent transition out of a Monarchical system.
julianav721 May 2002
The shear length of this film should be evidence of the magnitude of the story. It is a riveting re-telling of a chapter of Russian history that changed the world. But the portrayal of the human, personal, experiences of the last Czar of Russia, makes this film even more impactful. Having studied the some of the actual historical accounts of the events, I was able to see how effectively the screenwriter and director shaped their version of the story for film. And the production values! The use of lighting, even if a bit obvious (the red lanterns for the spiritual moments, and Rasputin), was both mysterious and opulent. The colors....the composition within the camera frame....spectacular. The final room, where the Romanovs meet their tragic destiny, is so visually effective, it is like a character itself. No wonder this family has become "martyrs" to many in Russia. The decisions made and the actions carried out, should haunt them forever.
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