The Adventures of a Bronx Cossack
Cowboy Buddha | Essex UK | 06/24/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Taras Bulba could have been a very good film - possibly even a great one. But Hollywood values killed any chance of that. Instead, we have a reasonably enjoyable mess of a movie with two outstanding ingredients that rise above the rest - Franz Waxman's rousingly inventive music and a suitably over the top performance by Yul Brynner. As the title character, Brynner looks every inch a Cossack - swaggering and posing like a macho peacock, delivering his lines with that growling accent, and wearing his costumes as though he had lived in them all his life. Brynner was a hugely undervalued actor - a larger than life performer whose presence saved many a film. But the odds were really against him here.Instead of focusing on Brynner, the film makes Tony Curtis, as his son, the central character. Curtis makes absolutely no effort to look like a Cossack so it is not surprising that he doesn't act like one either. While the rest of the Cossacks are swarthy, burly, scalplocked he-men, the sons of Taras Bulba look more like a couple of surfers who have wandered in from the film next door. Worse still is Curtis's love interest - the enemy girl he falls in love and betrays the Cossack Brotherhood for. She is played with wan listlessness by Christine Kaufmann in a performance so wooden it's a wonder Curtis didn't get splinters in their love scenes. Still, in real life, he must have fancied her because he left Janet Leigh to marry her.Even with its insipid love story, Taras Bulba could still have achieved greatness through sheer spectacle. The costume department certainly did their bit - although some of the Polish uniforms are needlessly naff. The music thunders and roars - except for the obligatory love song sung by an oversweetened choir over the equally obligatory sixties montage sequence. Filming in Argentina may have been a good fiscal decision, but it doesn't help the look of the film - pampas are not steppes. Still, there are some exciting and effective sequences, notably the Ride To Dubno during which Brynner's followers grow from a handful to an army. The battles scenes are as lively as the Polish university scenes are dull. Sometimes the scale of the enterprise impresses. But you end up wanting to like the film more than you do.Perhaps the film's uncertain tone is best illustrated by a post-production anecdote. At a pre-release screening, director J. Lee Thompson supposedly turned to Yul Brynner and said: "I still don't see why you had to shoot Tony.""
Rousing, Moving, Brynner/Curtis Epic
Terence Allen | Atlanta, GA USA | 12/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally, the much-loved version of Gogol's Taras Bulba has come to DVD. This grand, large-scale production manages to entertain with great action sequences while moving the viewer by telling the story of founded in love.
Taras Bulba, played by Brynner, is a great Cossack leader who fights with the Polish who continue to take more and more Cossack territory. His young son, Andrei, played by Curtis, is the only thing he loves as much as he does his people and his country. But when Curtis falls in love with a Polish girl, and sides with the Polish, he sets the stage for conflict and tragedy.
Bulba loves his son, his people, his way of life, and his country. Andrei loves his father, but also loves the Polish girl. In the midst of a great adventure story, Taras Bulba manages to be a story about love, and the great sacrifices and challenges love causes us to make.
This is a great movie, and very much deserving of a high-quality DVD release."
Put Your Faith In Your Sword....
David Westerby | Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear United Kingdom | 09/26/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's great to see that the 'Epic' has made a comeback with the release of GLADIATOR. I therefore urge those of of you who enjoyed it you to view and admire this sweeping, swashbuckling panorama of charging horsemen, ringing blades and booming cannons which explores a fascinating but little-reported (in the west) chapter of history. Set amid the Cossack struggle for independence from the Polish empire, this tale of warrior chief Yul Brynner and his relationship with his favourite son is full of dash and derring-do from beginning to end, and for me sits alongside 'El Cid' as the top epic of the 1960's which wasn't about ancient Rome. The highlight of the film is the stunningly-filmed sequence in which the Cossack cavalry regiments gather on the road to the city of Dubno, but the film contains several other fine moments: a gripping duel to the death as two cossack horsemen jump a yawning chasm until one tires and topples to their doom, and the scene in which Yul Brynner as Taras Bulba claims the leadership of the Cossack army and deposes the previous 'hetman'. The film's acting honours go unhestatingly to Brynner, who swaggers and struts superbly in the title role, while Tony Curtis is...well Tony Curtis. Franz Waxman's excellent score mixes gentle folk tunes and stirring evocations of galloping horseman. For film buffs: watch out for Brad Dexter, well-known as the Brynner co-star in 'The Magnificent Seven' who didn't make it to stardom, in the role of Taras Bulba's right-hand man. The last word goes to Brynner, who as he attempts to persuade the Cossacks to join his cause, delivers the classic line (to any Polish readers: no offence!)'There's only one way to keep faith with a Pole...put your faith in your sword, and your sword in the Pole!'"