In 1547, Ivan IV (1530-1584), archduke of Moscow, crowns himself Tsar of Russia and sets about reclaiming lost Russian territory. In scenes of his coronation, his wedding to Anastasia, his campaign against the Tartars in Kazan, his illness when all think he will die, recovery, campaigns in the Baltic and Crimea, self-imposed exile in Alexandrov, and the petition of Muscovites that he return, his enemies among the boyars threaten his success. Chief among them are his aunt, who wants to advance the fortunes of her son, a simpleton, and Kurbsky, a warrior prince who wants both power and the hand of Anastasia. Ivan deftly plays to the people to consolidate his power.Written by
Eisenstein's 'Ivan the Terrible' once featured in an American book of the 50 worst films of all times, along with 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' and 'Plan 9 from Outer Space'.
But as true cinemaniacs acknowledge, 'Ivan', along with 'Ivan the Terrible Part 2', is one of the great masterpieces of the screen. Its style is highly artificial, the acting operatic with no condescension to realism. But the viewer is swept away by the stylised pacing, the way each scene is so precisely plotted and designed -- each camera shot becomes a precious ornamented jewel. The film is, like the earlier 'Alexander Nevsky', as much a vehicle for the great Russian composer Prokofiev as for Eisenstein -- the two attained a cinematic union of image and music which has been rarely equaled since.
The two 'Image' Region 1 DVDs for Ivan Parts One and Two are spartan affairs, with no added features. The orchestral soundtrack is definitely low-fi. But the print sources must have been excellent -- the black-and-white prints are as lustrous as the finest modern movie, the images sharp and clear. And when the film suddenly switches from black-and-white and erupts in colour, the colour is dense and brilliant, unlike the bleached and pale versions usually doing the art-cinema rounds.
How fantastic to have available such treasures on DVD, in such pristine condition! Buy! Buy! Buy!
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