Sergei Eisenstein, long regarded as a pioneer of film art, changed cinematic strategies halfway through his career. Returning from Hollywood and Mexico in the late 1930s, he found that the potential of the Soviet Revolution had devolved into totalitarianism, and Stalin’s ever-tightening rule demanded that future Eisenstein projects be works of propaganda. Leaving behind the densely edited, montage style of celebrated silents like Battleship Potemkin and October, Eisenstein turned to historical sources, grandiose scores, contradictory audiovisuals, and theatrical sets for his work in the sound era. This trio of rousing action epics reveals a deeply unsettling portrait of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and also provide battle scene blueprints for filmmaking giants from Laurence Olivier (in Henry V) to Akira Kurosawa (in Seven Samurai). The Criterion Collection is proud to present Alexander Nevsky and Ivan The Terrible, parts I and II, in a Special Edition three-disc box set. Ivan The Terrible (Parts I & II): Navigating the deadly waters of Stalinist politics, Eisenstein was able to film two parts of his planned trilogy about the troubled 16th-century tsar who united Russia. Visually stunning and powerfully acted, Ivan the Terrible charts the rise to power and descent into terror of this veritable dictator. Though pleased with the first installment, Stalin detected the portrait in the second film - with it's summary executions and secret police - and promptly banned it. Criterion is proud to present Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II, in new digital transfers with extensive image and sound restoration. Alexander Nevsky: Eisenstein drew on history, Russian fold narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience. This story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky's tactical brilliance resonated deeply with a Soviet Union concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany. Widely imitated - most notably by Laurence Olivier's Battle of Agincourt re-creation for Henry V - the Battle on the Ice scene remains one of the most famous audio-visual experiments in film history, perfectly blending action with the rousing score of Sergei Prokofiev.
Ivan The Terrible:
Multimedia Essay on the History of Ivan The Terrible by Joan Neuberger, director of the Center for Soviet Studies at the University of Texas at Austin / Deleted Scenes / Drawings and Production Stills / Multimedia Essay on Eisenstein's Visual Vocabulary by Yuri Tsivian, Art History Professor at the University of Chicago
Gorgeous New Digital Transfer, with Extensive Image and Sound Restoration / Audio Essay by Film Scholar David Bordwell, Author of The Cinema of Eisenstein / Russell Merritt's Multimedia Essay on the Eisenstein-Prokofiev Collaboration / A Reconstruction of Eisenstein's Unfinished Film Bezhin Meadow by the Eisenstein Museum's Naum Kleiman, Plus Scholar Jay Leda's Photos and Documents from the Set / Drawings and Production Stills / Restoration Demonstration
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