(director/writer: Sergei Eisenstein/ Grigori Alexandrov; cinematographer: Eduard Tisse; editor: Sergei Eisenstein; music: Dmitri Shostakovich – added music in 1967; cast: Vasily Nikandrov (Lenin), N Popov (Kerensky), Boris Livanov (Tereschenko), Nikolai Podvoisky (Bolshevik), Eduard Tisse (German Soldier); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sovkino; Corinth Video; 1928-Russia-silent)

An arty experimental pic filled with rousing spectacles and intellectual montages.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The historic drama by the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (“Battleship Potemkin”), co-directed by Grigori Alexandrov, was commissioned in 1927 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. It covers the downfall of the monarch Alexander III and reenacts the historic week -and-a-half in October, 1918, when Kerensky’s regime was toppled by the Bolsheviks. The motto of the Bolsheviks was Bread, Peace, Land and Brotherhood.

It’s an arty experimental pic filled with rousing spectacles and intellectual montages. The blend of symbolism and realism made it a difficult film to follow clearly, as it was too abstract. But because of moving scenes such as the raid on the Winter Palace and the raising of the Petrograd Bridge (the city was later renamed Leningrad) and the topping of the czar’s statue, it allows it to withstand its passing of time period urgency to be viewed today as a worthwhile curio but not as a particularly entertaining film. But it’s about as close as we can get to an eyewitness report of those revolutionary events. The viewer should realize that Eisenstein’s pic, turning out as a propaganda piece, was government sponsored and placed great constraints on him. Of note, Nikolai Podvoisky, the leader of the October Revolution, was a film consultant. It resulted in an unhappy reaction from the government sponsors, who forced the cutting of scenes with Trotsky since his revolutionary days had become a pariah to the government. Ironically the images were so technically sound, they were over time used as real newsreel images of the revolution.