Take a Drink: whenever Ivan enacts a scheme or powerplay
Take a Drink: whenever a subject acts like a loyal dog
Take a Drink: whenever you see somebody who looks like they stepped out of Lord of the Rings
Take a Drink: for poison!
Do a Shot: for Yo Momma burns
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Stalin loved Ivan the Terrible: Part I, but Part II would not see the light of day until 14 years later, well after both the dictator and director Sergei Eisenstein’s death. Apparently Ivan’s (quite historical) slide into paranoia and increasing cruelty felt a bit too close for comfort for Stalin to allow it to be released.
You don’t say…
Part II picks up right at the end of the last film, when the Boyars have made their move, poisoning Ivan’s wife and hatching their long-gestating plots against him. He cannily leaves Moscow, only returning by the popular acclaim of its common citizens, giving him the populist support he needs to make his power absolute. Faced with betrayal on every side, his suspicions grow, and he begins to earn his nickname.
Part II boasts the same masterful mis en scene, expressionist lighting, and evocative camerawork of Part I, as Eisenstein remains Eisenstein, and some aspects of the production, like the flamboyant costuming of the Polish court, are even an improvement.
Elton John’s got nothing on the Polish.
It also maintains the broad Shakespearean-style acting and sweep of its predecessor, but delves deeper into Ivan’s psychology as it becomes more complex and dark. It flashes back to Ivan’s childhood, where his mother is killed by Boyar noblemen and he’s treated like a puppet by them and their European connections. Nikolai Cherkasov gets to sink his teeth into his lead role much more than the previous film. He’s the protagonist, but slowly takes on the mien and characteristics of a supervillain. I mean, just look at that devil-bearded profile. That we still root for him attests to his performance.
This film suffers from several inescapable problems due to its release. It feels a bit like The Empire Strikes Back, but there’s no Return of the Jedi. And Luke Skywalker becomes Darth Vader in the end.
Still woulda been better than this.
Besides the nonexistence of Part III, this part even seems incomplete, or at least unpolished. There are a few full color interludes that don’t make any thematic sense, and it sometimes feels like the film was cobbled together from whatever takes were left after a studio fire or something.
The random aria that Efrosinia bursts into out of the blue is random to say the least. Prokofiev also goes way over the top with his score, taking “operatic” a little too literally. Was this supposed to be a musical at some point? Who the hell knows?
Ivan the Terrible: Part II is almost unavoidably uneven, but what survives is a fitting companion to its superior predecessor, full of beautiful imagery and compelling acting in its own right.