IVAN THE TERRIBLE, PARTS I & II (1944 & 1946) B/W & C 100m & 88m dir: Sergei Eisenstein

w/Nikolai Cherkasov, Ludmila Tselikovskaya, Serafima Birman, Pavel Kadochnikov, Mikhail Nazvanov, Andrei Abrikosov, Alexander Mgebrov, Vladimir Balachov, Mikhail Zharov, Amvrosy Buchma, Piotr Kadochnikov, Vsevolod Pudovkin

Be forewarned: the following material contains specific story information you may not want to know before viewing the film:

From The Movie Guide: "These are the first two parts of Sergei Eisenstein's intended trilogy about the 16th-century Russian hero Czar Ivan IV. Part I, completed in 1945, chronicles the ruler's coronation, his marriage, his illness and sudden unexplained recovery, the poisoning of his wife, and his battles against conspirators. By the end, he declares his intention of returning from Alexandrov to Moscow at the will of his people. Part II (subtitled 'The Revolt of the Boyars'), filmed shortly after Part I but not released until 1958, follows Czar Ivan on his return, and depicts his confrontations with his enemies, the poisoning of his mother, and his discovery of an assassination plot. The heretofore black-and-white film ends with a brilliantly colored banquet scene.

"Although the scenario for Part III ('The Battles of Ivan') was approved by Stalin (oddly enough, since Stalin censored Part II because of its negative portrayal of Ivan's secret police), Eisenstein, who died in 1948, never completed the project. Viewers familiar only with Eisenstein's BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN will find the shift from that film's revolutionary editing style to IVAN's emphasis on composition and lighting quite a surprise. A vast, important, and occasionally difficult historical effort that closed Eisenstein's legendary career, IVAN THE TERRIBLE includes a remarkable score by Sergei Prokofiev."

From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "Production began in 1942 in Alma Ata despite terrible difficulties due to the war. Part I was completed in Moscow in 1944 (premiere, December 30, 1944) and Part II (including the long sequence in the Agfacolor process captured from the Germans) in February, 1946. Stalin banned the release of Part II, saying that Eisenstein had misunderstood the ''progressive' nature of the 'Oprichniks,' the secret police guard that protected Ivan. Eisenstein, meanwhile, designed Part III, which was to be in color, but never recovered sufficiently from a heart attack in 1946 to undertake its production. He died in 1948.

"The two parts form an inseparable whole. The first part, on its own, seems weaker than Alexander Nevsky ... but, seen together with Part II, is unsurpassable. Famous sequences: Part I: The coronation of the young Ivan; the peasant insurrection led by a mystic beggar ([the great Russian director] Pudovkin); the siege of Kazan; Ivan's apparently mortal illness and the boyars' treachery over the succession; the poisoning and funeral of the Tsarina. Part II: The procession of people to recall Ivan to the throne; Ivan's conflict with the Metropolitan; the child Ivan's first defiance of the boyars; the murder of the boyars; the allegorical mystery play presented in the cathedral; the assassination plot; the banquet and the extraordinary dance (in color); the entrance of the intoxicated Vladimir into the cathedral, his murder, and the execution of the boyarina. The tragic climax of the complete film, Ivan finally secure on the throne but more lonely than ever, lies in this final scene whose black and white images seem as powerful as the earlier color scenes.

"'The grandeur of our theme,' wrote Eisenstein, 'necessitated a grandiose design. Usually, one tries to show a historical character in a dressing-gown. For Ivan, on the other hand, we had to show our characters in a stylized way and make them speak in declamations often with a musical accompaniment.' Eisenstein planned his film from a series of sketches without using a shooting script. He forced his actors into the shapes demanded by his visual compositions and designs; everything was sacrificed to the rhythm, design, and emotional structure of the sequences. The unique collaboration of Eisenstein and the composer Prokofiev, which had begun with Alexander Nevsky, is here developed to its height, with Prokofiev using a similar contrapuntal technique to mold the score to the images.

"Gosfilmofond, the Soviet Film Archives, has two sequences (about 20 minutes long) that were not used in the film. One of these, showing Ivan's childhood, was planned as a prologue to Part I. It isn't clear why it wasn't included in the release version, but a part of it, at least, is used in a flashback in Part II. Perhaps one day it will be possible to see the film complete with its admirable prologue."