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50 Years of Janus Films

Dennis Price , Alec Guinness , Akira Kurosawa , Alfred Hitchcock    Unrated   DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Sergei Eisenstein's landmark tale of Russia thwarting the German invasion of the 13th century was wildly popular and quite intentional, given the prevailing Nazi geopolitical advancement and destruction at the time. It can still be viewed as a masterful use of imagery and music, with the Battle on the Ice sequence as the obvious highlight. Unfortunately, the rest of the film pales in comparison. A great score by Prokofiev was effectively integrated by the Russian filmmaker, but stands on its own merit as well. --Bill Desowitz

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun movie to watch. Oct. 15 2004
By Esn024
Format:DVD
This movie is certainly best viewed with the knowledge that it was made during the Stalinist era and only just before WW2. Eisenstein has a knack for creating jarring, interesting images (such as the skeletons in the opening shots) but this is also simply a fun film to watch, and one that unabashedly does everything that the Soviet censors of Stalin's time could possibly want from a film; it's a lot like how how most Hollywood directors nowadays make really similar types of films to please their producers, only it's interesting to see what was considered "popular culture" at the time of Stalinist Russia.
In case you don't know the story, it involves the Novgorod Russians (Novgorod is a city far north of Moscow, considered to be one of the major foundations of the Russian civilization) fighting against the invading German Teutonic Knights in 1242. The film does not attempt to portray this part of history as it WAS; rather, it is portraying history as it SHOULD HAVE BEEN (at least from the point of view of the Stalinist era). The Teutonic Knights are unabashedly evil, throwing Russian babies into raging flames and throwing evil glances from under dark cloaks. Also, they all look and speak Russian (in contrast to post-WW2 Russian films, where Germans usually spoke German). The Novgorod Russians, by contrast, are unabashedly heroic and valorous, "we must free the Russian soil!"
The characters in this film are really secondary to everything else, but for the first while this doesn't hurt the film since it floats by on interesting images and events (did I mention that the costumes are wonderful?).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, bad DVD June 5 2002
By Phil J
Format:DVD
I have watched Alexander Nevsky more times than I've watched any other movie. It is a great movie, deserving 5 stars. This particular DVD, however, is the worst transfer to DVD that I have seen. At first I intended to watch it on my computer. The image was so jumpy I could not watch it more than a few minutes.
There are at least two versions of this movie with English subtitles on VHS. Both are worth watching. Some are older and have the "mistaken" music track. A new version was released in 1995 with new subtitles and a newly recorded score. There are editing changes in the 1995 version as well.
I see that there is a version of Alexander Nevsky that is part of a 3-dvd set.
But at this date (May, 2002) there doesn't seem to be a single dvd of Alexander Nevsky that is worth watching.
There are Russian versions without subtitles and a few versions with English subtitles. I hope someone does a good tranfer of at least ONE of the versions to a single DVD soon.
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Format:VHS Tape
It is amazing to think that when this film was released in1938, many dismissed it as merely propaganda, as war loomed ahead with Germany. Though certainly the conditions of the time influenced the script, the film is an epic masterpiece. The history depicted in the story is of the Russians in 1242, already oppressed by the Mongols, being invaded by the Teutonic Knights.
Director Sergei Eisenstein, one of the pioneers of editing for dramatic effect, here created filming on a scale that is astounding. The famous battle sequence takes place on a frozen lake, with a cast of thousands, many who were a part of the regular army.
Eisenstein also collaborated extensively with the great classical composer Sergei Prokofiev, whose magnificent score is so intricately meshed with the cinematography by Eduard Tisse, and along with the spectacular battle scenes, the sweeping panoramas of desolate plains are also extraordinary.
Nikolai Cherkasov's charisma and majestic presence fill the screen as Nevsky. He's considered one of Russia's greatest actors, and here as the warrior prince, he is a larger-than-life heroic figure, with blazing eyes and resonant voice.
An epic film that has influenced many of today's filmmakers, this is one not to miss.
There are a few signs of age in this film, it has been well restored, though the subtitles are sometimes in awkward syntax. Total running time is 108 minutes.
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3.0 out of 5 stars perhaps a little too hyped in my own opinion... April 8 2004
Format:DVD
I have just recently become interested in the classic cinema, or classic world cinema in this situation, and I have not delved too far yet into fully understanding cinema in general, but being an extreme history enthusiast I was compelled and influenced by outside forces to purchase the Eisenstein Sound Years Criterion set. I thoroughly enjoyed the "Ivans", but unfortunately the "Nevsky" film and dvd fell a little short of oustanding. The film itself I believe is an important lesson in understanding Soviet propaganda and the limitations set on artists during Stalin's regime, but the actually story and pace of the content is a little...old?(!) I also do agree with this being a milestone in the terms of film epics, and the costumes and cinematography seem to be very good for its time. The only problem I have is you barely begin to understand any characters for the film can only have so many sequences before the epic battle scene, but perhaps I am saying this for I believed both "Ivans" to be artistic and in-depth looks at a complex human being. I will have to show a little dismay also in the dvd, for I know tranfers must be hard to accomplish but the score and film itself are still somewhat grainy. I will not go into the cons very much, for I still see this as a very important film for modern times, and you can easily see the influence in nowadays epics (ie. Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings). I guess my main point is not to come towards the film after reading about it and expect one of the most amazing pieces of art ever made, but instead pull it in as a study of modern propaganda and Soviet Philosophies. As stated, I enjoyed the "Ivans" much more, but considering the restrictions Eisenstein had faced prior to making "Nevsky", it is still a film far above par and unique.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone attacking Rus is treading on thin ice
The year is 1242. Looks like Rus is being invaded by Teutonic Knights. There can be only one Roman Empire and Rus will be part of it in spite of its self. Read more
Published 9 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone attacking Rus is treading on thin ice
The year is 1242. Looks like Rus is being invaded by Teutonic Knights. There can be only one Roman Empire and Rus will be part of it in spite of its self. Read more
Published 9 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone attacking Rus is treading on thin ice
The year is 1242. Looks like Rus is being invaded by Teutonic Knights. There can be only one Roman Empire and Rus will be part of it in spite of its self. Read more
Published on May 25 2007 by bernie
3.0 out of 5 stars A Review for Alexander Nevsky
This is a Russian film released in 1938, just before the start of World War II. Although the film features battle sequences between the Germans and Russians, it is not about World... Read more
Published on Dec 19 2003 by Lynn Douglas
5.0 out of 5 stars A Kept Promise
Russia in the 13th century: The opening shot shows the relics of the last invasion: moldering uniforms, human skulls, a horse's skeleton. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2003 by Eva25at
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Eisenstein classic
For those familiar with this classic of the Russian cinema, little need be said. For others, here are the high points: the story is set in medieval Russia and it essentially is... Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2003 by George Grellas
5.0 out of 5 stars I agree with Moreno
Note that this was released as RCA Red Seal on laser disc. On laser disc, it is spectacular. A pity that none of the RCA laser dics have been transfered to DVD .. yet?
Published on March 27 2003 by Telstar
3.0 out of 5 stars not a patch on Ivan
It seems that Eisenstien had a particularly tough transition to the world of sound in cinema. After delivering starteling visuals in Battlship Potemkin, Eisensitein seems to have... Read more
Published on Dec 22 2002 by andrew morris
4.0 out of 5 stars TIME FOR HEROES
Alexander Nevsky.
This is a story of war, pain and glory,
Tragedy, slavery, death and the sorrow,
Heroes and honesty, strength of denial,
Life on your knees -... Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2002 by Boris Zubry
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