Taras Bulba


Action / Adventure / Drama / History / Romance / War

IMDb Rating 6.4 10 2962


Uploaded By: OTTO
Downloaded 602 times


Yul Brynner as Taras Bulba
Tony Curtis as Andrei Bulba
Paul Frees as Narrator
Brad Dexter as Shilo
1.85 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 2 min
P/S 0 / 8

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by thefinalcredits 4 / 10


'I gave you life. It is on me to take it away.'

In an era where historical epics were received well both in the theatres and critical circles, this one failed to resonate, and ended costing United Artists the considerable shortfall of some $4.5million. Described by it's star, Tony Curtis as a 'Ukrainian Romeo and Juliet', this feature marked a turning point in the fortunes of its director, J Lee Thompson, who had previously enjoyed an unbroken chain of box office and critical successes from 1958's 'Ice Cold in Alex' onwards. One wonders whether he had this specific project in mind, and, in particular, the memorable scene featuring a test of courage of a deadly crossing of a ravine on horseback, when he mused: 'I've learned by experience that it's fatal to accept a poor script because it contains one or two good scenes which you long to shoot'. Originally slated as a Robert Aldrich project, with Anthony Quinn set to embody the titular character, financial constraints led to it being bought by the independent production company headed by Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster. When this company dissolved in 1960, Hecht continued alone and his former partner relinquished the starring role which would pass to Curtis. As for Brynner, whose mother was said to have both Russian and Mongolian roots, he was at the height of his popularity and held out the highest of expectations for the production. Very loosely based on a short story by Nikolai Gogol, one major change in characterisation had Andrei transformed into the oldest brother to more easily enable the casting of 37 year-old Curtis in the lead role. In fact, Curtis was just five years younger than Yul Brynner who played his father, the eponymous Cossack rebel of the Ukrainian steppes. There can be no question that Brynner gives a barnstorming performance, while Curtis lacks both an appropriate physique and accent to be convincing in the slightest. Friction was constant on set as a result of Brynner's disatisfaction with not having received top billing. The offscreen antics of the cast also included the well- publicised love affair between Curtis, whose marriage to Janet Leigh was on the rocks, and his leading lady, Christine Kaufmann. On the evidence here, it is astonishing to believe that just twelve months earlier she was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer for her eye-catching role in 'A Town Without Pity' alongside Kirk Douglas. The overtly saccharine love- story she shares on screen with Curtis lacks enough depth to heighten the tragedy of the final father-son fight to the death. One wonders whether much of the film's weakness in terms of the plot was largely the result of the studio's comprehensive cuts imposed on the director.The studio had baulked at original screenplay writer, Howard Fast's wishes to bring much more historical accuracy to the story-line, especially concerning the Cossacks' anti-Semitic purges against Polish Jews. Consequently, the writing team of Karl Tunberg, Oscar nominated for 'Ben Hur', and previously blacklisted Waldo Salt, later to enjoy much greater critical success for the likes of 'Midnight Cowboy', produced a sub- standard bland vehicle for the heart-throb Curtis. By contrast, Thompson's direction is much more assured in capturing the spectacular battle scenes set in the expanses of the Argentinian landscape, substituting for the steppes. These scenes also benefit from the skilled hand of cinematographer, and three times Academy Award nominee, Joseph MacDonald, who a decade earlier had majestically shot his native Mexico for Kazan's biopic, 'Viva Zapata'. However, the picture's greatest feature has to remain the stirring score provided by Franz Waxman, which utilised Russian folk music, and was hailed by Bernard Hermann as one of the greatest scores ever written for the screen. How indelible an impression is made by the rousing accompaniment to the Cossacks' banding together on the 'Road to Dubno'.Yet, so disappointed at the final product was Brynner that he is said to have broken down and wept at his first private screening, and his belief in the artistic integrity of Hollywood irretrievably crushed.

Reviewed by Martin Bradley 3 / 10

No one's finest hour

A look at the behind-the-camera credits of "Taras Bulba" and you might think you are watching, if not a masterpiece, then at least one of Hollywood's greatest and most intelligent spectaculars. So what went wrong? The director was J. Lee Thompson, fresh from a trilogy of terrific action pics, ("Ice Cold in Alex", "Northwest Frontier" and "The Guns of Navarone"), and one great thriller, ("Cape Fear"). Waldo Salt was one of the two scriptwriters, Joe MacDonald photographed it in Panavision and four of Hollywood's top editors had been merrily snipping away. In front of the camera we had Tony Curtis and Yul Brynner; okay, neither of them was Olivier but Brynner had an Oscar under his belt and Curtis had done "Sweet Smell of Success" and "Some Like it Hot" so we knew they could act and yet this rubbish is, if not quite a total disaster, neither memorable nor of interest. In fact, the best you can say of it is that it's no better, and probably a lot worse, than many a large-scale and totally anonymous western with its large cast putting on funny accents and pretending to be Cossacks, (except, of course, for the Brooklynese Curtis). It just about gets by as entertainment and is certainly no-one's finest hour.

Reviewed by James Hitchcock 6 / 10

The part of the Ukraine will be played by Argentina

"Taras Bulba" dates from the early sixties, at the height of the popularity of the epic film. Most of the epics of the fifties and sixties were based on either Classical antiquity or the Bible, but occasionally Hollywood could turn to subject matter less familiar to Western audiences, in this case to a novel by the Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol. (Gogol was born in the Ukraine, although he wrote in Russian).

The story is set in the seventeenth century, at a time when the Ukraine was under Polish domination. The title character, Taras Bulba, is the leader of a Cossack clan on the steppes. The Cossacks are Polish subjects, and an important source of manpower for the Polish Army, but are humiliated and treated as little more than barbarians by their overlords. The film deals with the relationship between Taras and his sons, Andrei and Ostap. He sends the two young men to the university in Kiev, at this time a Polish city, to obtain an education, but they learn little except how deeply the Poles despise them. Andrei does, however, fall in love with Natalia, an aristocratic Polish lady, and in future Andrei's loyalties are split between his father's cause and his feelings for Natalia. These divided loyalties will come to the fore when a Cossack army besieges the Polish-held fortress of Dubno and Andrei learns that Natalia is present inside the city.

The storyline is a complicated, and occasionally confusing, one, and although both Yul Brynner as Taras and Tony Curtis as Andrei play their roles with aplomb, in neither case is this really their greatest performance. The Austrian-born Christine Kaufmann as Natalia looks stunning, but does not display any great charisma and it is clear why she did not become a major star in the English-language cinema, although she was well-known in Germany and Austria. (She did, however, go on to become the second Mrs Tony Curtis, following his divorce from Janet Leigh).

The film was directed by the British-born J. Lee Thompson. During his British period of the fifties, Thompson mostly worked in black-and-white and specialised in small-scale social-realist dramas, films noirs and war films like "Woman in a Dressing Gown", "Yield to the Night", "Tiger Bay" and "Ice-Cold in Alex". Moving to Hollywood seems to have given him the chance to work on a larger canvas; his next film after this one was to be "Kings of the Sun", another large-scale epic also starring Brynner.

The main attraction of the film today lies in its visual appeal and in its action sequences. The Ukrainian steppes seemed like the ideal setting for sweeping photography and shots of massed cavalry thundering across the plains, although at the height of the Cold War the film could not actually be shot there. Instead, the Argentine pampas stood in for the Ukraine. The action scenes are well staged, notably the opening and closing battles and the scene when Andrei and a man who has accused him of cowardice have to jump across a chasm on horseback until one of them falls in. "Taras Bulba" may the sort of film they don't make any more, and we may be none the worse off for that fact, but we can still enjoy watching it when there is nothing else to do on a wet weekend. 6/10

Some goofs. The King of Poland is referred to as "His Imperial Majesty". No Polish King ever used this title, which would only be used by an Emperor. In the film the Polish flag is a gold eagle on a green field. In reality the Polish eagle has always been white on a red field.

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