The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966)


(director: Norman Jewison; screenwriters: William Rose/from the novel The Off-Islanders by Nathaniel Benchley; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editors: Hal Ashby/J. Terry Williams; music: Johnny Mandel; cast: Carl Reiner (Walt Whittaker), Eva Marie Saint (Elspeth Whittaker), Alan Arkin (Lt. Rozanov), Brian Keith (Lt. Rozanov), Jonathan Winters (Norman Jones) Theodore Bikel (Russian captain), Paul Ford ( Fendall Hawkins), Tessie O’Shea (Alice Foss), John Philip Law (Alexei Kolchin), Ben Blue (Luther Grilk), Cindy Putnam (Annie Whittaker), Andrea Dromm (Alison Palmer); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Norman Jewison; MGM Home Entertainment; 1966)

Over-rated but still holds up as a moderately amusing sit-com lightweight parody of the cold-war and small-town America.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Over-rated but still holds up as a moderately amusing sit-com lightweight parody of the cold-war and small-town America. It’s assuredly directed by the Canadian born Norman Jewison(“Fiddler on the Roof”/”Moonstruck”/”Agnes of God”). It’s based on Nathaniel Benchley’s novel The Off-Islanders, about summer residents of a fictitious holiday New England island (shot in Mendocino County in Northern California). The plot revolves around the accidental grounding on a sandbar of a Russian submarine on the island beach, who came too close to shore because the skipper was curious to see America. The skipper (Theodore Bikel) sends his top officer (Alan Arkin) to get help, in the form of a motor-boat to give it a tow. This gets the island community in an uproar.

The ordinary Americans featured are all summer residents and include vacationing Manhattan television writer Carl Reiner, wife Eva Marie Saint, and their two kids. Brian Keith is the sheriff and the only one on the island who stays for the winter, while the always funny Jonathan Winters plays his excitable deputy. Paul Ford is the super-patriotic self-appointed civil defense chief, who believes there’s an invasion going on and arms himself to the teeth. Tessie O’Shea plays the island’s harried telephone operator.

What stands out most about the film is its title. Otherwise its a rather long-winded and dullish affair, preaching to us not to worry about the Russians because both the Russians and Americans are basically alike and there’s nothing to fear.