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East Side Story
East Side Story
Actors: Margarita Andrushkovich, Chris Doerk, Erich Gusko, Helmut Hanke, Barbara Harnisch
Director: Dana Ranga
Genres: Indie & Art House, Kids & Family, Music Video & Concerts, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2000     1hr 18min

All singing! All dancing! All proletariat! Who knew the Soviets made musicals? The evidence is there in Dana Ranga's giddy documentary, which offers clips from dozens of musicals made between 1930 and 1970 from the Communi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Margarita Andrushkovich, Chris Doerk, Erich Gusko, Helmut Hanke, Barbara Harnisch
Director: Dana Ranga
Creators: Mark Daniels, Dana Ranga, Guido Krajewski, Andrew Horn
Genres: Indie & Art House, Kids & Family, Music Video & Concerts, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Music Video & Concerts, Educational, Documentary, Film History & Film Making
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 09/05/2000
Original Release Date: 06/25/1997
Theatrical Release Date: 06/25/1997
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 18min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Bulgarian, Czech, German, Polish, Romanian, Russian

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Movie Reviews

Bizarrely Entertaining
Kronprinz | New York, NY USA | 02/18/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This look back at an obscure socialist cultural legacy -- a series of peppy musical films -- is both intriguing and weird. The clips themselves show a fantasy world of giddy happiness and lurid color not much different from other forms of East European communist propaganda. But what is both amusing and unexpected is seeing the extent to which Western popular musical sounds and images of the time (blaring saxophones, flippy hairdos and hip teens) were grafted onto a socialist framework. Sure there are the obligatory warbling peasant girls and lusty singing collective farm workers, but there are far stranger treats in store, including a tuxedo-clad suitor gliding through a suspiciously lavish living room on ice skates, courtesy of the Czechoslovak People's Republic. Surprisingly, the more orthodox and repressive Soviet satellites (GDR, Bulgaria) contribute some of the most entertaining examples of this all-but-forgotten genre. Interviews with local people who made and enjoyed these films puts them in perspective and rounds out the program."
Not just 'Girl Meets Tractor'
mattquirk | 12/23/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is a very comprehensive history of Soviet and Communist European musical films, including film clips and interviews with many of the surviving actors and directors. The movies discussed range from blantant propaganda where happy workers sing the praises of the new wheat harvesting machine to touching family stories. It's unfortunate that some of these films aren't widely available. One in particular is an outstanding East German film where the actors portray movie producers who have been ordered to produce a musical comedy, and they sing about how hard it is to get a funny musical movie about communism past the state review board. It would also have been interesting to see communist Chinese movies in a similar vein."
Socialism with a jingle...
D. E. Lyons | Tipp City, OH United States | 12/09/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A very entertaining look at the 40 or so musicals that were produced in the Eastern Bloc nations from the 1930's up through the 1970's. Although highly propagandist in nature, (no more so than the "happy" muscials that were being produced in Hollywood,at the same time,)there is this innocent naiveté about the monstrous happenings during the Stalin regime. Where as in the West, musicals made us temporarily forget, depression, war and everyday sacrifices, the musicals in the East in addition, promoted the heroism of the common worker(proletartiat)and the value derived in working for the goals of building socialist nation."
If only socialism had been more fun
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 03/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"My credentials as a fan of screen musicals are suspect. In 56 years, I can count on one hand the number I've seen that I thought worth viewing more than once: CHICAGO (2003), EVITA (1996), HELLO DOLLY (1969), THE KING AND I (1956), and (dare I admit it?) MARY POPPINS (1964). Having said that, however, I found EAST SIDE STORY illuminating. During the Bad Old Days of the Cold War, what average American would've thought that the Warsaw Pact/Evil Empire was making musicals? And had been doing so for many years.

EAST SIDE STORY is a documentary roughly covering the period 1930-1970, when the Soviet Union, and its satellites after 1945, struggled to create Hollywood-like entertainment for the proletariat masses without sacrificing the central tenants of socialism. The fact that only forty musicals were filmed during this period suggests that the two concepts blended as efficiently as oil and water.

Chronologically, the documentary begins with the 1934 Soviet musical comedy, THE JOLLY FELLOWS, a rather unsocialist production that apparently only made it to the local cinemas after Stalin overrode the censors - a bad career move for them, no doubt - and personally approved it. As a matter of fact, Uncle Joe was a big fan of the genre, and gave a copy of a favorite reel to FDR as a gift. In any case, the visual narrative proceeds through several more Soviet releases, including the 1939 film with the catchy title TRACTOR DRIVERS and the 1946 COSSACKS OF THE KUBAN featuring synchronized wheat harvesting, and ending with the Polish, Czech, Romanian and (mostly) East German musicals of the 50s and 60s. Indeed, the costuming, hairstyles, and choreography of the DDR productions are so similar to Tinseltown fare that, if I squint my eyes against the cheesy sets and block out the German lyrics, I might just as well be watching a teenage beach blanket saga filmed in Southern California.

EAST SIDE STORY is liberally sprinkled with interviews with aging actors, production lackeys, and cinema historians. (Early on, it's pointed out that none of the films' directors have survived. A purge maybe, or just old age?) They establish quite clearly the dichotomy that existed between the desire to entertain audiences with big box office hits and the doctrinaire restrictions imposed by socialist ideology that tended to cramp the screenwriter's style. One of those interviewed wistfully observed, "If only socialism had been more fun." Gee, I don't know. I can see Stalin reprising Dick van Dyke's role as the dancing chimney sweep in MARY POPPINS, can't you?"