Reviews & Ratings for
"Playhouse 90" The Plot to Kill Stalin (1958)

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Superb drama from the Golden Age of TV

Author: gjampol from United States
2 July 2006

I saw this as a teenager, when programs like "Playhouse 90" offered thoughtful entertainment that would go over the heads of the majority of the dolts who make up today's commercial TV audience.

The excellent cast -- and P-90 attracted some of the best actors in the industry -- was well-chosen.

The story of Stalin's death has long been the subject of much speculation. But it's widely believed that in 1953 Stalin was knocked out by a blackjack wielded by Beria, the head of the secret police and, through neglect,was allowed to die from a "stroke." Others believe that he suffered a stroke and was left to die without medical attention. The Red Butcher died just as he was about to purge Jewish doctors (the so-called doctors plot). Beria himself was executed later in 1953.

If my memory serves me, the Soviet government was outraged by the program that it either took or threatened revenge on the network that broadcast the it.

Perhaps someday, we'll see a release of the best of "Playhouse 90." Sadly, teenagers and people in their 30s are too ignorant to know and care about history.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Propaganda...but essentially true.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
20 August 2012

This is one of the weirder episodes I've seen of "Playhouse 90". That's because it was most likely meant as anti-Soviet propaganda AND it's essentially true. Being a retired history teacher, I realized that the details of what occurred may not have been exactly correct (some simply is conjecture because it wasn't like the Soviets at the time wanted to talk about the incident), the overall film was essentially true. It shows Stalin as a paranoid genius who was completely without scruples--which is absolutely true. The guy was responsible for the deaths (directly and indirectly) of millions and the term 'monster' doesn't seem to be overstating it. In fact, the film could have been MUCH worse in discussing his atrocities. Instead, it focused exclusively on his paranoia and purges just within the upper ranks in the USSR. As for the other characters, they, too, were pretty close to who they really were. And, yes, doctors were afraid to treat Stalin after his stroke and the way they showed this portion of the film was pretty close.

As for the dramatic qualities of "The Plot to Kill Stalin", it was exceptional due to good writing and an amazing group of character actors including Melvyn Douglas, Eli Wallach, Thomas Gomez, E.G. Marshall, Oskar Homolka and Luther Adler. While many of these names might not be familiar, they were among the best in their craft and the only teleplay from the era with a more impressive cast that I can recall is the original TV version of "12 Angry Men". Well worth seeing, tense and exciting.

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Dive into the snake pit

Author: GUENOT PHILIPPE ( from France
17 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Terrific and terrifying show I am talking about. Of course many of us will probably say that it is pure propaganda. A sort of anti soviet piece of work. But how the hell could have it been different? Those events happened this very way. I guess nothing was invented. Stalin was a butcher, Soviet Union was a genuine meat chopper during his reign. A gigantic, monstrous meat chopper. And this awesome TV movie is an accurate and terrifying study of how the whole system worked. Suspicion and plots within plots among wolves, the wolves consuming one each other. A sequence is absolutely unforgettable, the one where one big army officer is asked by Eli Wallach's character - Beria I guess - how to get rid of Stalin, and then you find out that Stalin is just in the next room, listening to the conversation, in order to detect a potential traitor... And another scene is also worth watching: during a party full of high rate army officers and other politicians, one peeping tom spy watches through a hole in the wall, reading on the guests lips whilst they talk.

Yes, I am very happy to have caught such an excellent movie. So close to reality.

A deep dive into the evil pit. The darkest hours of Russia history.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Eli Wallach when he was younger and less ugly

Author: Cristi_Ciopron from CGSM, Soseaua Nationala 49
20 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This Teleplay gives an idea of what superior TV means, when made with some genuine dramatic instinct, not to mention a vintage cast; e.g., Wallach gives here one of his top performances, eager, like those young '50s actors, to show what he's able of. Melvyn Douglas plays comrade Stalin, Wallach is Poskrebyshev, Homolka is Khrushchev, Marian Seldes is Molotov's wife, and, as a curiosity, the play following this one was THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. The Stalin play is exciting, lively and enthralling; content—wise, it recycles the facts generally known, like Khrushchev doing the _hopak and Beria being the scariest of them all, but for the American audiences of the '50s it might have been truly informative. It resembles the Borgia Teleplays, and Wallach takes over the movie with his sure performance.

Former seminarian Iosif Stalin has murdered millions of Ukrainians and bears the responsibility for the massacre of other millions of Russians and of countless Eastern Europeans. The producers of the TV play we are discussing cared mainly about the Jewish physicians; and less about the millions of Christian Orthodox and Greek Catholics. They also seemed to care little about the Christians, physicians or not, murdered by Vladimir Lenin and Lev Trotsky. The murdered Christian Russia.

Lenin expelled from the medical schools the sons of priests. This chapter in the political history of the Russian medicine interests less.

A quite tendentious play about the alleged anti-Semitism of Iosif Stalin, THE PLOT TO KILL STALIN serves the not so subtle try of presenting the process of the Jewish physicians as Stalin's worst iniquity; maybe a play about the Holodomor would have been of greater significance. Other than that, the play is lively, interesting and admirably played—beginning with a young and greasy, oily, cunning, soft—spoken Elli Wallach.

Beria, Ignatiev, Hruşciov (i.e., Khrushchev), are the puppets in this lively Punch 'n 'Judy show. As an educational TV play, STALIN is an average patching or sewing together of easily recognizable scenes, _clichés and conventional representations, interesting for Wallach's performance. Wallach dominates effortlessly and masterly the stage. Here is one actor whose career brought less than what the actor was able to provide.

Seen from East, Iosif Stalin's gruesome misdeeds have been others than the scandal of the Jewish physicians and the set—up from the Botkin Hospital. But it's nonetheless interesting how things are seen from afar, the simplified, dummies' version of the destinies of the Bolshevik East—the Jewish physicians, Hungary, Praga and the Solidarity. It's also interesting how American citizens vote for governments whose policy outside will affect peoples about whose histories and destinies the Americans know next to nothing—but nonetheless vote, sending the troops here and there. What I find consternating is not the American ignorance, ignorance has no country; but the nerve to propose to the American people to decide or ratify interventions, etc., in countries whose history is plainly ignored.

From the whole Stalinist period, the American popular culture has been interested, apart from the WW 2, in the Jewish physicians' set—up, that's what scandalized the sensitive Americans, not the Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine of the '30s, not the massive anti—Christianity. Before being an anti—Semite, Stalin has been anti—Russian, anti—Ukrainian, anti—European, etc..

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