Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5.
United Kingdom, 1971. Horizon Pictures. Screenplay by James Goldman, additional dialogue by Edward Bond, based on the book by Robert K. Massie. Cinematography by Freddie Young. Produced by Sam Spiegel. Music by Richard Rodney Bennett. Production Design by John Box. Costume Design by Yvonne Blake. Film Editing by Ernest Walter.
If the real Romanovs were this boring it’s no wonder they were all shot. Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman play the famed Czar and Czarina of Russia, the last two monarchs to rule the Imperial nation before the Revolution broke out and changed the history of the world forever. The listless production starts from the birth of the couple’s son Alexei (who came after four daughters) through to the political upheavals brought on by Nicholas’s tyranny and general ignorance of his populace’s living conditions. The last third deals with the outbreak of revolution when the entire Romanov family became prisoners of the Bolsheviks, with the odd scene of Lenin, Stalin or Trotsky shouting to the masses (or each other) helping to place the film in historical context. Mostly, though, the film concerns itself with the goings-on inside the palace of St. Petersburg, where the loving couple talk endlessly to each other about what worries them most (their son’s haemophilia among other things). The cast is uniformly good, and screenwriter James Goldman does his best to give some grit to the story with his very well-written dialogue, but it’s very little more than a boneheaded epic effort by Sam Spiegel to prove he still has what it takes to make another Lawrence Of Arabia. Even the film’s ridiculously generous running time of three hours seems to be intended more as a mark of its ‘prestige’ as opposed to its need to tell a story in so large a span of time (and indeed there isn’t nearly enough story to fill the entire film). Gorgeous to look at, but so are lots of less intolerable films.
Academy Awards: Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actress (Janet Suzman); Best Cinematography; Best Original Dramatic Score
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Tom Baker)