Sergei Eisenstein, long regarded as a pioneer of film art, changed cinematic strategies halfway through his career. Upon returning from Hollywood and Mexico in the late 1930s, he left behind the densely edited style of cel... more »ebrated silents like Battleship Potemkin and October, turning instead to historical sources, contradictory audiovisuals, and theatrical sets for his grandiose yet subversive sound-era work. This trio of rousing action epics reveals a deeply unsettling portrait of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and provided battle-scene blueprints for filmmaking giants from Laurence Olivier in Henry V to Akira Kurosawa in Seven Samurai.« less
"This box set is one of the Criterion Collection's best releases yet. In this set are 3 films.Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible (Ivan Grozny) parts 1 and 2.Alexander Nevsky is based on the true story of 13th century Prince Alexander Nevsky who helped fend off Teutonic (German) soldiers out of what is now Russia. The film has an excellent score composed for the film by Sergei Prokofiev. The acting in the film is also very good also. The film was very popular and was temporarily banned by Stalin after Germany signed a nonagression pact with the Soviet Union.The film is on disc 1 and has the following special features.
Restoration demonstration, Production stills and storyboard drawings, a multimedia essay by Russel Merrit on Sergei Eisenstein's work with Sergei Prokofiev on the film's score, an feature length essay on the film by David Bordwell, who wrote a book on Eisenstein's films, and there is also stills and dialog from Eisentein's unfinished film, Bezhin Meadow with photos of the film's set.Ivan the Terrible parts 1 and 2 are the first two parts of an unfinished trilogy. Several scenes of part 3 were filmed but only one scene is known to survive today.The film follows the life of Tsar Ivan Vassilivich also known as Ivan the Terrible (Ivan Groznyy). He is credited with uniting the people of Russia into a single nation. The first film covers his coronation and a battle that was fought to reclaim lost territory. The film is also very famous and has music by Prokofiev.The first part on disc 2 has the folloving special features:
The deleted prologue sequence covering part of Ivan's childhood where he witnesses the poisoning murder of his mother and also contains another deleted scene. It also has the surviving fragment of the unfinished part 3 There are also a slide show of production stills and drawings, and an essay on the history of the film.Part 2 covers the time where Tsar Ivan roots out the traitors who helped poison his wife and executes them. The film has an excellent Color sequence cofering much of the last 30 minutes of the film. The Agfacolor film stock was captured from the Germans during WWII and was used for this film. The cinematography is really gpood and there is a flashback sequence from the deleted prologue of part 1Disc 3 also contains an audio essay by Yuri Tsivian on the stunning cinematography of the film.The set is well worth the $79 if you are a fan of Russian Cinema like I am. This set remains one of my favorites and it is really worth looking into."
Ivan The Terrible...a bizarre classic
Jerry Jancarik Jr. | Pacific Northwest | 05/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Alexander Nevsky is a lively pro-Soviet propaganda piece partially intended as a warning to Hitler at the time not to invade Russia. The epic battle on the frozen lake is justly famous and the sheer scope of the logistics of filming are impressive. Some of the characters are somewhat cliche stock creations of the time including the two soldiers fighting for the love of one woman who must prove themselves in battle, but overall it's a modest success.The real prize in this three film Criterion set however is of course Ivan the Terrible parts 1 and 2, a great masterpiece, Eisenstein's most "enjoyable" film(s) and indeed one of the oddest works to emerge from Soviet cinema of the time. Highly expressionistic visuals combine with a melodramatic (and slightly revisionist) take of Ivan's life to create one of the stranger filmic experiences one will see. Eisenstein clearly had a very highly developed visual style and the numerous extreme close-ups of faces are extraordinary as are the sets and costumes. Part 2 doesn't quite live up to the promise of part 1 but nevertheless brings the characters to an appropriate conclusion. Bizarrely humorous (perhaps unintentionally at times) Ivan is nevertheless a film more for afficionados than for the casual viewer looking for another classic in the mould of Casablanca. Regarding the transfers, they are superb and anyone expecting better prints is simply not being realistic regarding the age of the material and the conditions in which they were kept. While not as pristine looking as other recent releases of 40's films on DVD such as Shadow of a Doubt or Monsieur Hulot's Holiday they are more than adequate considering given the circumstances."
Anthony Clarke | Woodend, Victoria Australia | 08/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Given Criterion's attention to picture and sound quality, this three-DVD set of Eisenstein's sound films 'Alexander Nevsky' and 'Ivan the Terrible' parts One and Two, should rank as one of the great DVD releases of the year. View them alongside Leni Riefenstahl's 'Triumph of the Will' which is being released by Synapse, and see how totally opposed propaganda viewpoints created cinematic history. These Eisenstein movies created a new kind of cinema -- operatic cinema, each frame carefully composed for great rhetorical effect. And Russian composer Prokofief worked alongside Eisenstein to create some of the most powerful music ever composed for the cinema to this day. These films are not just an indispensable part of cinematic history. They are films you will return to through the rest of your life."
Criterions's Finest Offering!
firstname.lastname@example.org | WA, USA | 12/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II" is a film of greatness, so great in fact that after seeing it only once I would probably include it among the ten finest films I have ever seen. It is a work of bold compositions (visual, aural, verbal, rhythmic, textural, political, etc.) arranged into a dense and exciting network of sensual and intellectual information. The interaction of motifs and ideas, symbolism and iconography into a sort of cinematic Russian fresco is absolutely thrilling. This often has a bizarre effect. The actor's movements are so deliberate as to be completely alien; after all, these are not human beings, they are representations of human beings on a screen, like portraits on a canvas, an idea which adds greatly to the purity of the film's artifice (of course, this is actually even more complex, having something to do with biomechanics, a theory I know too little of to discuss here). The film is completely engrossing, and is really a treasure trove hidden references and information, which really makes it fascinating. Honestly, I can not praise this film enough. It is grandiose and spectacular, a stunning work of depth and complexity.
"Alexander Nevsky" on the other hand would seem to be a very simple film, simple to the point of being stupid. In fact it is very complex (if not quite so much as "Ivan"), and only seems stupid because of a ridiculous political purpose and mindset that weighs it down. Its embarrassingly propagandistic, and politically compromised, something which greatly dulls the films underlying brilliance. "Ivan" is a complete reversal and a far superior film, at least in my view, in that it is able to subvert political expectancies, transforming what was intended as Stalinist propaganda into a disguised Stalinist and Communist critique, even lament. "Nevsky" lacks this independence, and while it is still fascinating as a work of form, structure, and motif (among many other Eisenstinean devices) it is ultimately too compromised to be as great a piece of art as "Ivan."
In spite of that, Criterion's treatment of both films (or three, depending on how you look at it) is absolutely grand. The transfers, aside from some rather rough spots on "Nevsky," are really quite good, the extras are fascinating and deeply insightful, and the packaging is far more attractive than it looks on amazon's picture. I probably own around 20 or more discs by Criterion, and all absolutely fantastic packages, but this one is the best! Absolutely one of the most solid purchases you'll ever make! And it's so wonderful to see these kind of films being given the royal treatment usually reserved for the more recent, popular, and... cough-shallow-cough releases. Long live The Criterion Collection, and God bless the soul of Sergei Eisenstein!P.S. Oh, and God bless Sergei Prokofiev, composer of these films' beautiful and justly renowned musical scores."
Martin E. Edwards III | Arlington, VA | 05/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has always been hard to enjoy these movies because of the poor prints available, but Criterion has undertaken the trouble to restore these three great movies to their original (almost) quality. It was worth the wait. Sergei Eisenstein was a master of merging image upon image with a musical background. In Alexander Nevsky, you almost feel like you are watching a Prokofiev score, rather than just watching a movie. Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II are even better; they are materpieces of image and symbolism. I can't believe Eisenstein was able to make these movies under the oppressive watch of Stalin, but the fact that he did makes these works all the more impressive. These pictures don't take the Hollywood instant gratification route, so they require the viewer to concentrate. Stick with them; they are wonderful. Highly recommended."