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Since time immemorial, the simple-minded boisterous people of Malava, a small Polish town near the border of imperial Russia, have lived on horse-stealing, horse-trading and horse-smuggling. Life changes abruptly when a Russian garrison, commanded by Captain Stoloff, occupies the town and, in the name of the Czar, requisitions all the horses for the Russian-Japanese War. With no more horses to steal, Kifke cannot afford to marry Estusha and all the young men in the village are likely to be incorporated into the Russian army. This state of affairs cannot continue and Zavill will take care of things. Written by
It's hard to make a judgment on a film that you might want to say is far better than it appears. But the DVD I saw of Romance Of A Horsethief had the most horrible sound quality, one of the worst I ever heard with a film that had some justifiable reasons to consider it good. I must have missed any number of witticisms that came from Joseph and David Opatoshu, the father and son original creators of the work.
The same rueful acceptance, the same cynicism that characterized Fiddler On The Roof without the joyous music is found in Romance Of A Horsethief. It's 1904 and the Czarist armies are needing cavalry horses for the upcoming war with Japan which ironically enough turned out to be a naval war. So it's not like the American west where the cavalry actually bought and paid for mounts and cavalry horses became the fulcrum of many a western good and bad. No, in an absolute monarchy the Czar merely requisitions what he needs from the peasants be they Christian or Jew. Stealing from both you would think might get them to thinking we have a common enemy, but that fact takes a long time in realization.
Yul Brynner is the Cossack commander sent to the Russian part of occupied Poland whose job it is to run that part of Poland and get the Czar's horses. Eli Wallach is the amiable horse-thief whose profession has found a new status of honor he never expected in his life. He becomes a revolutionary in spite of himself.
Romance Of A Horsethief almost could have been a musical, there are places some numbers could have been dropped. Best in the cast is Lainie Kazan who makes quite the fool of Brynner the occupier. Who could resist Lainie's twin weapons of mass destruction?
A really bad sound quality keeps this last work of Abraham Polonsky from being a classic.
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