Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. Yugoslavia/USA, 1962. Avala Film, Harold Hecht Productions. Screenplay by Waldo Salt, Karl Tunberg, based on the novel by Nikolai Gogol. Cinematography by Joseph MacDonald. Produced by Harold Hecht. Music by Franz Waxman. Production Design by Edward Carrere. Costume Design by Norma Koch. Film Editing by Folmar Blangsted, Gene Milford, William Reynolds, Eda Warren. Academy Awards 1962. Golden Globe Awards 1962.
Anyone looking for a how-to guide on being the perfect Cossack need look no further than this bloated but strangely enjoyable drama starring Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis. Brynner is part of a band of warriors who are duped by the Polish into giving up their beloved Steppes; many years later, he raises his son (Curtis) to hate the Polish but also to learn their ways. He sends both his children (the other being Sam Wanamaker) to university in Kiev once the Polish-controlled Ukrainian government allows Cossacks into their educational system in the hopes of future cooperation. It is not to be had, unfortunately, and battle soon breaks out between the warring factions that gets in the way of Curtis’s romance with a Polish nobleman’s daughter (Christine Kaufmann, whom Curtis later married). Great production values of the highest degree, plus the irresistible vigour of Brynner’s performance, but the historical aspect of the experience is laughable and Curtis is painfully miscast.