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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bondarchuk's "War and Peace" released by RUSCICO
A gargantuan version of Tolstoy's national epic, approached as a priority as important as the Soviet space program, War and Peace is surely the biggest production ever put on film, with entire armies filling the screen and covering vast landscapes. The recreation of the Napoleonic era in St. Petersburg and Moscow is a wonderment. Director Sergei Bondarchuk makes the story...
Published on May 21 2004

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire film.

In plain english, the picture quality is fine in a still shot, but during camera pans and quick movement in a shot there are very noticeable jagged edges to the picture (the picture...
Published on Jan. 4 2004


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bondarchuk's "War and Peace" released by RUSCICO, May 21 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
A gargantuan version of Tolstoy's national epic, approached as a priority as important as the Soviet space program, War and Peace is surely the biggest production ever put on film, with entire armies filling the screen and covering vast landscapes. The recreation of the Napoleonic era in St. Petersburg and Moscow is a wonderment. Director Sergei Bondarchuk makes the story work even better at the intimate level. The romantic adventures and heartbreaks of the story's central trio, Pierre, Natasha and Andrei lead to at least 4 or 5 devastatingly emotional highpoints.
Previously, there was the 1956 Dino DeLaurentiis version. Except for some awkward casting, it wasn't half bad, but it pales beside the opulence and scope of this colossus. Ruscico's version is both longer and better-presented than previous releases, and Image has packaged it with helpful extras and easily-navigated menus. More on that below.
Savant was excited to see this pricey-but-exceptional DVD release; Ruscico has a reputation for quality releases of hard-to-see Soviet pictures, and War and Peace is certainly the prize title, at least for Western audiences unfamiliar with the majority of Mosfilm's output. I saw the American release when 16 years old, serialized over two weeks in a fancy theater in San Bernardino. I can't say I followed the story well, and mostly remember the grainy, washed out picture and the distracting English dubbing - Natasha's voice squeaked like Minnie Mouse. But the eye-popping visuals stayed burned into my memory, especially a God's eye view, receding into the heavens, of the Austerlitz battlefield spread out below. It looked as if it took in miles of smoke and fighting.
In Russian with subs in a number of languages, the new Ruscico / Image DVD is a completely different viewing experience. The Russian voices are beautiful, and it's easy to catch cultural things we had only read about, such as the St. Petersburg elite opting to speak French for many conversational details. It's not 70mm, but on a big widescreen television, the scope of the visuals can be almost overwhelming.
Ruscico's DVD of War and Peace is handsomely presented on 4 discs in a thankfully easy-to-understand package. The transfer image isn't going to be able to compete with restorations done here, however. War and Peace was shot in a Soviet color system in 70mm, and the colors are a muted set of pastels we aren't used to. Either the age of the elements, or the reduction printing, or bad storage has given many scenes a dupey look, with slightly fluctuating contrast. The image is stable and intact, but there are occasional scratches and slight damage.
Either that one bad shot was an isolated instance, or most of the time we're too caught up in the story to notice such things. I should point out that I viewed the discs on a 65" monitor that magnifies these kinds of flaws, so many viewers will probably be completely unaware of them.
The DVD producers have included a generous allotment of extras, listed below. A fifth disc contains a couple of Soviet docus on Tolstoy and an elaborate commemorative behind-the-scenes piece. It starts with the stars at a Moscow premiere, and then backtracks to show how many scenes were filmed. The cameraman is on roller skates in the ballroom scene, and a trucking scene through the battlefield shows exactly how some of the more amazing shots were captured. The cameramen use portable 70mm cameras of a kind I've never seen, that look every bit as sophisticated as ours.
In one of the interviews, the President of the Mosfilm studio says that after the years of filming, War and Peace wasn't unanimously praised in the Soviet Union. Everybody saw it, but not everyone thought it was a masterpiece. Audiences are audiences, Russian or American, and after those 4 or 5 transcendant moments in the picture, the ending does seem rather downplayed and anti-climactic. But seeing the show now after 35 more years of film history, this enormous epic seems more of an accomplishment than ever.
P.S. To watch the movie preview video clip you can on russianDVD.com website for free.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best battle sequences ever filmed, Jan. 5 2006
By 
Gayle Gibson (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
The Russian version of War and Peace is quite wonderful on CD. Many scenes not available in the old video are here, and the colour, sound and over-all quality of the images is far superior.
The battles are just as terrifying as i recall from seeing it in the Theatre, thirty years ago. Borodino is particularly moving, filmed on the site, at the right time of year, and with the Russian army standing in for the French under Napoleon and for the Russian army. There's a world of difference between seeing hundreds of thousands of real men on a real landscape, and watching a CG battle. No film gives a better sense of what those old battles were really like.
One way in which this version is superior to either the old American or more modern British versions, is that the actors are Russian, and look Russian. This most Russian of stories really needs to have an authentic cast. The expanded time allows for longer scenes with some of the older actors, veterans of the Moscow Art Theatre. It's a treat to watch them.
The film is skillfully dubbed, with much more attention to lip-sync than the old Video. The new voices match the quality and timbre of the Russian actors' own voices much more closely. Oddly, not all of the film is dubbed. Within a single scene two characters may be speaking together in Russian with clear subtitles in English, but when a third character comes in, they all start speaking English! In some scenes, the language switches several times. Characters speaking in French are neither dubbed into English nor subtitled. This is a little odd at first, but one quickly becomes used to it, and begins to enjoy the sound of the Russian actors' voices.
I am quite delighted with this set, and recommend it highly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Fiction and History, Oct. 18 2002
This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
Ok, it is over six hours long but would you want it any other way. Hollywood tried to bring Tolstoy's epic to the screen in 1956 and produced one of the worst translations from novel to film in history. This is a Russian story as big as the nation itself. Only a Russian as brilliant as Sergei Bondarchuk could understand the complexities of the struggle of the Russian people against a tyrant. We see history unfold through the eyes of a naive Pierre, and as he experiences the torments of war and class struggle, he changes. So will you when you watch this film.
The visuals of battle have never been matched. Private Ryan is as close as an American film has come to depicting the beauty and horror of battle. The music creates the perfect undercurrent of romance and adventure. The acting is both strong and sincere. It is the Russian Gone with the Wind. Buy it and it will absorbed you. This is one of the greatest films ever made. If Kubrick had made Napoleon, it would have looked like this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort, Jan. 4 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire film.

In plain english, the picture quality is fine in a still shot, but during camera pans and quick movement in a shot there are very noticeable jagged edges to the picture (the picture quality is similar to the bonus material on your average DVD). This problem is very apparent when this film is viewed on a big screen TV.
This defeciency coupled with the subtitles and the length of the film can result in quite a headache for the viewer.
I'm not certain why a dvd produced in 2002 would have this problem. There are 4 disks (3 of which are about 90-100 minutes) so there should be sufficient disk space for a higher quality picture.
The sound (dolby digital 5.1 in Russian, English and French) is quite good. Much better that the usual 5.1 remix of a mono movie. Sometimes the 5.1 mix is a bit overdone (when a actor is speaking from off camera their heavily reverbed disembodied voice is emmited from one of the rear channels) but in general it is apparent a lot of effort was put into the remixing. This is a lot better that the usual mono to 5.1 remix where half of the music cues are processed but 80% of the sound goes solely to the center speaker. It is a real shame that Ruscico didn't put the same effort into the picture quality.
There are some other small technical difficulties with the disk (as mentioned in previous reviews) and the english dubbing is terrible (as it was when the film was theatrically released in North America). However, all of this pales in comparison with the picture quality which ruins the entire effort.
I have decided to write this review to forwarn anyone contemplating shelling out the $100 bucks that I did.
Unfortunately, the only other option is the Kultur pan and scan version. Although, I have not seen the DVD version I have seen it on VHS and can advise that this is a movie that must be seen in widescreen to be fully appreciated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort, Jan. 4 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire film.

In plain english, the picture quality is fine in a still shot, but during camera pans and quick movement in a shot there are very noticeable jagged edges to the picture (the picture quality is similar to the bonus material on your average DVD). This problem is very apparent when this film is viewed on a big screen TV.
This defeciency coupled with the subtitles and the length of the film can result in quite a headache for the viewer.
I'm not certain why a dvd produced in 2002 would have this problem. There are 4 disks (3 of which are about 90-100 minutes) so there should be sufficient disk space for a higher quality picture.
The sound (dolby digital 5.1 in Russian, English and French) is quite good. Much better that the usual 5.1 remix of a mono movie. Sometimes the 5.1 mix is a bit overdone (when a actor is speaking from off camera their heavily reverbed disembodied voice is emmited from one of the rear channels) but in general it is apparent a lot of effort was put into the remixing. This is a lot better that the usual mono to 5.1 remix where half of the music cues are processed but 80% of the sound goes solely to the center speaker. It is a real shame that Ruscico didn't put the same effort into the picture quality.
There are some other small technical difficulties with the disk (as mentioned in previous reviews) and the english dubbing is terrible (as it was when the film was theatrically released in North America). However, all of this pales in comparison with the picture quality which ruins the entire effort.
I have decided to write this review to forwarn anyone contemplating shelling out the $100 bucks that I did.
Unfortunately, the only other option is the Kultur pan and scan version. Although, I have not seen the DVD version I have seen it on VHS and can advise that this is a movie that must be seen in widescreen to be fully appreciated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disk set ruined by poor bit rate, Jan. 4 2004
By 
J. Tymchyshyn (Calgary, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire film.

In plain english, the picture quality is fine in a still shot, but during camera pans and quick movement in a shot there are very noticeable jagged edges to the picture (the picture quality is similar to the bonus material on your average DVD). This problem is very apparent when this film is viewed on a big screen TV.
This defeciency coupled with the subtitles and the length of the film can result in quite a headache for the viewer.
I'm not certain why a dvd produced in 2002 would have this problem. There are 4 disks (3 of which are about 90-100 minutes) so there should be sufficient disk space for a higher quality picture.
The sound (dolby digital 5.1 in Russian, English and French) is quite good. Much better that the usual 5.1 remix of a mono movie. Sometimes the 5.1 mix is a bit overdone (when a actor is speaking from off camera their heavily reverbed disembodied voice is emmited from one of the rear channels) but in general it is apparent a lot of effort was put into the remixing. This is a lot better that the usual mono to 5.1 remix where half of the music cues are processed but 80% of the sound goes solely to the center speaker. It is a real shame that Ruscico didn't put the same effort into the picture quality.
There are some other small technical difficulties with the disk (as mentioned in previous reviews) and the english dubbing is terrible (as it was when the film was theatrically released in North America). However, all of this pales in comparison with the picture quality which ruins the entire effort.
I have decided to write this review to forwarn anyone contemplating shelling out the $100 bucks that I did.
Unfortunately, the only other option is the Kultur pan and scan version. Although, I have not seen the DVD version I have seen it on VHS and can advise that this is a movie that must be seen in widescreen to be fully appreciated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant film, Jan. 2 2004
By 
Sam Clemens (Greenbelt, Maryland United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: War & Peace (VHS Tape)
I just finished watching the 4-disk DVD version of this film. I had seen it long ago, at a theater in Boston where they did it right: they took a break in the middle and everyone filed into the lobby for champagne and finger foods. It holds up.
Much was made of the opening battle scenes in "Saving Private Ryan," but this film conveyed the confusion and horror of war quite as effectively, many years before. Fans of "shaky cam" cinematography should note its effective use here.
Once again I was spellbound by Natasha, and her transformation from child to mature woman; I doubt there will ever be another movie in which the actors actually grow, along with their characters, over its span.
This is one film in which the DVD presentation of separate "scenes" mirrors the actual structure. Many of the scenes are separate compositions in their own right, with their own music and tone. Natasha's first ball, with its sweeping waltz music and swirling camerawork, is one example.
I will have to borrow my son's projection video unit to screen this again: even on a fairly large SONY Wega screen, you simply can't appreciate the scope and detail.
Aside from assorted glitches and awkward moments (and a certain understandable Russian jingoism), as other reviewers have noted there is one major flaw: the use of cinematic gimmicks that were never very effective and now seem dated as well. Some of the techniques, such as the shaky cam, the crane shots, the endless sweeping pans with choreographed action at multiple levels, are very effective. But generally the acting and directing was sufficient; it was unnecessary to glitz it up with multiple images, blue-screen tricks and so on. In fact, now that computer-generated effects are so much more sophisticated, the power of this movie lies in the scenes that AREN'T done by special effects. Some day, when I have a computer large enough to stuff this whole production into it, maybe I'll try producing a version with the more egregious gimmicks excised. I bet it would be even more stunning.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the movies you have to see, Jan. 3 2004
By 
This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
The spring of 1968 was tumultuous to say the least. The Cold War raged between the United States and Soviet Union, even as the American people became bitterly and forever divided over the war in Vietnam. The Tet offensive only months earlier had shaken domestic confidence and college campuses were awash in protest. The President of the United States had suddenly withdrawn as a candidate for re-nomination, and Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in early April while leading a sanitation worker strike in Memphis. Race riots rocked American cities.
Even Brezhnev and his Politburo in charge of the Soviet Union felt threatened by China and Mao in the East and a democratic movement in Czechoslovakia forever known as the Prague Spring. The world was tense and the threat of nuclear war lay within every crisis.
In those days Soviet cultural exchange consisted of sending the Kirov Ballet and some dancing bears to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Americans sending Louis Armstrong to Moscow in exchange.
Yet almost overlooked that spring was the American debut of Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace, an eight hour subtitled masterpiece. Offered in two four hour sittings on separate days the film managed to be profoundly patriotic while being quite obviously subversive. This is a war film of such scope and breadth that the lessons of the intrinsic horror of war is delivered time and time again. Napoleon's invading army is a thinly guised Wehrmacht while the bumbling nobility are proxies for the neo-Stalinists in the Kremlin.
Through it all it proclaims a great love of Mother Russia, its land and its people. If you listen carefully you can hear the artistic chains that entrapped producers, directors, and actors begin to break.
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5.0 out of 5 stars WAR & PEACE: A Magnificent Cinematic Achievement, Dec 5 2003
By 
Jay Fenton (Washington, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] (DVD)
I just finished watching the Image 16 X 9 five-disc box set of WAR AND PEACE. I'll admit up front that I haven't seen the Kultur full frame version, so I can't intelligently compare picture and sound quality. The Kultur version is available only in Russian with English subs, whereas the Image version gives you the choice of Russian, English or French language tracks along with more subtitle options than I've ever seen offered on any DVD.
First off, the film is an epic story and is powerfully cinematic. It's evenly divided between the war and peace sections. No film could really do justice to Tolstoy's great novel -----except perhaps a very long TV mini series------but at seven hours Sergei Bondarchuk had the scope to attempt it. The characters are extremely well drawn: the actress playing Natasha looks very much like Audrey Hepburn; however, the actor playing Pierre looked so much like one of Benny Hill's characters that I had a little trouble getting over it. The interior sets are nothing less than magnificent and the exterior cinematography dynamically sets the mood. The script condenses Tolstoy's masterpiece as well as can be expected for a novel close to twice the length of Gone With the Wind. There are some scenes of tremendous power that you won't soon forget and I've never seen a film make such narrative use of moving clouds. They almost become a character in the film.
As to quality: the sound is quite good. The picture, though, was obviously taken from a dupe negative. The close ups are fine, but the interior long shots are soft and grainy-------but are mercifully kept to a minimum. If you're going to watch it with the English track, turn on the subtitles because many times during the film an English dubbed translation is not available for certain passages, but is given in the subtitles. My guess is------because the print was assembled from several different sources and differs from the shortened version seen in English speaking countries--------that there was no English track for many scenes.
During this era, Russian was considered the language of the peasants. The aristocracy spoke French. On first hearing French, I thought the filmmakers were being historically accurate, but when I heard Russian and there was again no English dubbing, I came to a different conclusion.
The idealistic ending may bother some of the realists out there, but the "forgive your enemies-brotherhood of man" theme was very much a part of Tolstoy's novel.
The fifth (bonus) disc contains documentaries on Tolstoy, Russian history, interviews, etc. This is one of Image's most prestigious releases so far.
Jay F.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eccentric Epic, Nov. 19 2003
By 
Doug Anderson (Miami Beach, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: War & Peace (VHS Tape)
Bondarchuk made War and Peace between 1960-1967 and also did the 1971 film Waterloo. Both films are stand-outs when it comes to re-creations of famous battles. Waterloo is a great military story although Rod Steiger as usual plays Rod Steiger instead of Napolean. Christopher Plummer does a splendid job as Wellington. If you are looking for a military film I would recommend that one over War and Peace.
War and Peace is graced by a perfect cast of Russian-speaking actors(no Rod Steigers) who do Tolstoy's characters justice. Bondarchuk himself plays the fumbling but charming Pierre. As an actor I like him and as a director of battle scenes he is nonpareil but as a visual stylist he makes a lot of questionable judgements. Its too bad that he was given that enormous 100 million dollar budget in the sixties instead of the fifties for Tolstoy would have been better served by a more reserved Bondarchuk. Bondarchuk is one of those artists who just can't leave a good thing alone. He has enormous sets and excellent actors and the best source material on earth and yet he finds it necessary to accent his scenes with gaudy visual effects c. 1967. Surprisingly the gaudy effects do not steal too much away from the performances which are excellent. While watching this you will question Bondarchuks choice of style but you will not question his devotion to the material. And thankfully for the most important scenes like Pierre's duel and the debacle at Austerlitz and Napolean's subsequent invasion Bondarchuk adopts an appropriately grave and sober style.
I think the film is admirable and unique in that it doesn't water Tolstoy down one bit for entertainments sake. The characters all appear as complex in the movie as they do on the page and at times we feel like the novel has come to life right before our very eyes. I would however say that individual parts are stronger than the whole. I can pick out a dozen scenes that deserve to be praised and should not be missed. Some of Bondarchuks eccentric visuals do take away from the overall impression the film leaves however and so whenever asked about the film I recommend it but with a kind of cautious and qualified praise.
If you like the Napoleanic era, are excited by immense battlefield scenes, and you like brooding nineteenth-century Russian literature then this is a must see. A unique film for a select group.
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War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs]
War and Peace [Subtitled] [4 Discs] by Sergey Bondarchuk (DVD - 2003)
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