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Ivan the Terrible (Russian Иван Грозный, Ivan Groznyy) was Sergei Eisenstein's second (and last) sound film, a spiritual successor to Alexander Nevsky. Made under direct supervision of Joseph the Terrible, who idolized Ivan IV and personally intervened in the movie's production.

The first film of the projected trilogy was released in 1944, to critical applause; the director was awarded the Stalin Prize (Soviet Nobel Prize-cum-Oscar). The reasons for critical success were pretty obvious: the movie presented Ivan the Terrible, a controversial and polarizing figure at the very least, as a national hero who bravely fought external and internal enemies in his quest to unite Russian lands.

The second part, shot back-to-back with the first one, was released only in 1958, five years after Stalin's death. The reasons were also very clear: It dealt with the dark side of the tsar's personality, and depicted his Oprichnina terror campaign as Necessarily Evil - but evil nonetheless. After having been shown the completed Part II in a private screening, Stalin flew into a rage, calling it a "horror of a film" and threatening to "take care" of its creators. The movie was shelved, the director fired, and production of the third part cancelled. The third film exists only as a script, a series of sketches, and several filmed scenes first shown to the general public in 1988.

Despite the fact that some believe the movie hasn't aged well, it is regarded as a classic of Soviet/Russian and world cinema. You can watch it on Russian Film Hub.

This film provides examples of:

Judging from many historical accounts, Truth in Television.

  • Cultural Posturing: Both Ivan the Terrible and his enemies (e.g., the Tatar envoy and the Polish king) go through their share of national chest-thumping.
  • Dawson Casting: Nikolay Cherkasov, 41, as Ivan the Terrible, 17 to mid-thirties.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The boyars.
  • Defector From Decadence: Prince Kurbsky is hailed as one at the Polish court.
  • Drag Queen + Villainous Crossdresser: Feodor Basmanov. Yep, your heard that right. In a 1945 Soviet movie. I am so totally not making this up.
  • Epic Movie: One of the most lavish spectacles of Stalin-era cinema.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: The tsar wears some really wealthy clothing.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Efrosinia, of all people, has one of these moments in Part 2, when the Bishop[?] tells her he plans to let Philip be condemned, so they'll have a saintly martyr for their crusade against Ivan: "White is the cowl but black the soul!"
  • Executive Meddling: Two words: Josef Stalin.
  • Face Heel Turn: Andrey Kurbsky and, arguably, Feodor Kolychov
  • Foe Yay: Ivan and Vladimir Staritsky, particularly in the second movie.
  • Foreshadowing: To Real Life, paralleling Russia's suffering in the time of Ivan the Terrible with its suffering in the Great Patriotic War.
  • Gravity Master: Ivan, judging from his Badass Beard.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: While fighting against insidious, immoral, and corrupt boyars, the tsar slowly descends into brutality, paranoia and outright madness.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The film glosses over most of Ivan's failures and vices, presenting him as a heroic personality (at least, in Part I). However, Part II makes Ivan look like a sociopath, and even Part I has a seething critique lurking riiiight under the surface.
  • Hollywood Mosfilm History: The movie takes many, many liberties with history. For instance, most of Ivan the Terrible's opponents are conflated into Eufrosinia Staritskaya and her son. In reality, Ivan the Terrible had seven wives; only one is shown in the film. Many events from his life are omitted or rearranged in sequence, etc. All this was done to present him as an unambiguously positive figure, a direct predecessor of the film's sponsor.
  • Ho Yay: Ivan and Fedor Basmanov the Cross-Dressing Oprichnik. Truth in Television, as rumours of a "sodomic liaison" between the two were spread by the tsar's enemies and sorta confirmed by Ivan himself.
  • Kick the Dog: Kurbsky's needless cruelty towards the Tatars foreshadows his betrayal of the tsar.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Both Ivan and Andrey Kurbsky wear ornate, shining plate armor during the siege scene.
  • Lonely At the Top: The entire premise of the movie.
  • Lost in Translation: Ivan's sobriquet, "Groznyi", really means more "Fearsome" than "Terrible"--but the modern English connotation of the word makes it sounds like, say, Pope John XII (AKA "Pope John the Bad")
    • YMMV, but it certainly fits the "Inspiring Terror" meaning of it, which-while its' been out of style for quite a bit- *has* been making a comeback.
  • Name Drop: Averted (in Part 1)--nobody calls Ivan "the Terrible".

  "Henceforth, I shall be as you name me! I shall be...Ivan the Terrible!!"

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