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This is a fairly elaborate film about Ivan the Terrible, handled in a mainstream style. It is lacking somewhat in its direction and in some of the technical areas. It's a pity that it was not co-produced with the French, who really seem to have excelled in historical dramas in recent years.
Ivan's frequent nightmares are the result of his tainted past, and these dreams make for some of the film's more interesting sequences.
The worst excesses of Ivan's reign are certainly *not* shown, although there is one scene very near the end where one of Ivan's opponents is boiled in a vast cauldron, while a second is burnt at the pyre. A third is about to be impaled on a very nasty-looking greased stake when a holy fool suddenly appears, holy fools being a common feature of Russia in the Middle Ages. Is he Basil the Blessed, for whom St. Basil's in Red Square is named, and who figures prominently in the stories surrounding Ivan? I could not tell for certain.
Our first glimpse of Ivan in this film shows him wearing a priest's vestments, the same way in which he was buried according to the historical record. In general, the film takes a much softer line with Ivan than it could. He is really more of an Ivan the Formidable, another possible English translation for the Russian "Grozniy".
One hopes this film will surface one day with English subtitles, and in a cleaner video transfer than the one released by Soyuz. However, with Soyuz, it's possible that a conversion from SECAM to NTSC is to blame for the picture quality; the original may be much better.
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