Sunday, February 25, 2018


Ivan surveys his subjects in Ivan the Terrible, Part I
...or is this from Part II?

"Every frame in it looks great-it's a brilliant collection of stills-but as a movie, it's static, grandiose, and frequently ludicrous, with elaborate angled, overcomposed photography and overwrought, eyeball rolling performers slipping in and out of the walls, dragging their shadows behind them."-Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

"It is Eisenstein's most ornate film, with the actors reduced to gesturing gargoyles, their bodies subordinated to his all -important visual shapes, themselves an unhealthy mixture of iconography and melodrama."-David Thompson, A Biographical Dictionary of Film

"Eisenstein's sound films displays a self-consciousness in the handling of montage that was deadening to the vitality and the exuberance of the method he applied so instinctively in his youth."-Gerald Mast, A Short History of Movies

"Ivan the Terrible, Part I is a film of awesome and monumental impressiveness, in which the senses are saturated in medieval majesty."-Bosley Crowther, New York Times, March 10, 1947

"Ivan the Terrible, Part II is murkily monolithic and monotonous series of scenes with little or no dramatic continuity and only fitful dynamic quality."-Bosley Crowther, New York Times, November 25, 1959

"The Ivan the Terrible films are cold, starkly beautiful pictures, difficult to watch, gloomy and compelling at the same time. Perhaps they offer a closet critique of Stalinist tyranny and the cult of personality."-R. Barton Palmer, 501 Movie Directors

Let it also be noted, comrades, that Ivan the Terrible also made Michael and Harry Medved's book the 50 Worst Films of All-Time. Critical reception for this film over the years has been mixed, to say the least.
The grandeur and the majesty are certainly there, but Eisentstein's actors seem to be more suited to performing in one of his silents than in a film with actual dialogue. I think if he had made it as a would be viewed today as more of a classic...Obviously, some still view it as a classic, anyway! From the above reviews, I still can't get over how much Bosley Crowther loved Part I and hated Part II. I didn't see that much artistic distinction between the two films, but so it goes.-Comrade Cox, 1001: A  Film Odyssey


  1. I suppose also movie critics gets smarter over time....
    Eisenstein never got out of the silent era. these movies are almost painful to watch.