Goryachiy sneg (The Hot Snow) (1972)
Director: Gavriil Egiazarov.
Starring: Georgi Zhzhyonov (Bessonov), Anatoliy Kuznetsov (Vesnin), Vadim Spiridonov (Deyev), Boris Tokarev (Lt. Nikolai Kuznetsov), Nikolay Eryomenko (Lt. Volodya Drozdovsky), Tamara Sidelnikova (Tanya), Ara Babadzhanyan (Lt. Davlatyan), Yuriy Nazarov (Ukhanov), Aleksei Pankin (Chubarikov), Valentin Grachyov(Nechayev), Konstantin Tyrtov (Rubin), Aleksandr Kavalerov (Sergunenkov), Bolot Beyshenaliev (Kasymov), Igor Ledogorov (Col. Osin), Kh. Shvejts (Maj. Titkov), Aleksandr Zimin (Mitya), Boris Smorchkov (Vasya), Vladlen Biryukov (Skorik), Aleksandr Arzhilovsky (Golovanov), Gennadi Korolkov (Dzhermachyov).
one engagement in the epic battle of Stalingrad
"The war was in its second year. The fighting was drawing ever closer to the Volga River. In November 1942 Soviet troops went over to the offensive and closed a ring around von Paulus's group of German fascist armies totaling 330,000 men who had been besieging Stalingrad for over four months. This was the beginning of the turning point of the war. Hitler's general staff was striving to regain the strategic initiative at any price, to come to the aid of their encircled troops, and to maintain its positions near Stalingrad regardless of consequences. This is the story of just one engagement in the epic battle of Stalingrad."
Russian soldiers are waiting by the trains to move out. A soldier named Sergunenkov starts dancing for the troops to the accompaniment of another soldier playing the guitar. The nurse Tanya walks over and the men start singing a song for her. She smiles and asks what's happening to the First Battery? She then asks Lt. Volodya Drozdovsky for the attention of his battery. The lieutenant says he knows what she's here for -- a check for body lice. The guitarist, Sgt. Nechayev says no one has lice in their group.
The conversation is interrupted by an air raid on the trains and soldiers. The Lt. grabs a machine gun and starts firing at the airplanes. Tanya throws herself on him begging him to get down. He breaks away from her. As the planes leave the sergeant says that they will get even with the Germans.
Semyon Ivanovich informs the staff that the situation in the southwest has become very critical. On December 12 the fascists broke through the Russian defenses and forced their way across the Aksay. [The city of Rostov-on-Don is located on the Don River near the far north-east section of the Sea of Azov. Aksay is a town and the administrative center of Aksaysky District of Rostov Oblast, located on the right bank of the Don River, 18 kilometers northeast of Rostov-on-Don. 249 miles (401 km) northeast of Rostov-on-Don is Stalingrad (now Volgorad).] The German forces have moved 45 km toward Stalingrad.
The commander-in-chief, Gen. Pyotr Alexandrovich, orders a messenger to get him Division Commander Deyev. He then asks the Lt. Col. where is our air support? The fighter planes have just taken off. The commander-in-chief tells the Lt. Col. that he could pay with his life for a performance like that. The Lt. Col. apologizes for his performance.
The commander-in-chief says the only obstacle in the path of the Germans is the River Myshkova. After that there is only the flat steppe to Stalingrad. And the Germans could possibly reach the River Myshkova by tonight. And it's possible that Gen. Manstein's tanks could move the 45 kilometers in 24 hours to hook up with the forces of Paulus.
In the German first echelon is the 57th Tank Corps composed of two tank divisions and two regular divisions. This means from 400 to 450 German tanks. The commander-in-chief now tells Col. Deyev to move his forces to the River Myskova. Deyev must take up defensive positions by nightfall. They must use their artillery to eliminate the German tanks, which are the main threat to the Russians.
Col. Deyev's men are on the move. Tanya walks with the troops for a while before hopping back into the medical corps vehicle. Their way is blocked by three Russians tanks. The commander-in-chief speaks to the man in charge of the tanks and has him arrested, to be held for court-martial, because he retreated from the enemy. Alexandrovich now tells a lieutenant that he will give him five minutes to unload his broken-down supply truck and get the truck out of their way.
An officer pleads with the commander-in-chief to go easy on the tank man. So Alexandrovich relents and lets the tank man go back toward the river. The tank pushes the unloaded supply truck off the road and into a creek. Both of the officers that the commander-in-chief confronted were very young. The supply officer was just 18. The men with Alexandrovich talk about how young the lads were. Alexandrovich says that he has one son with the 2nd Shock Group who is now reported missing in combat.
Lt. Kuznetsov gets into an embarrassing situation. Waiting for soldier Ukhanov, the commander-in-chief stops to tell him that his men are in their way. He tells the lieutenant to move in just one direction: forward. A little later, Lt. Volodya Drozdovsky, balls out Kuznetsov saying that he is disgracing the First Battery. Kuznetsov talks back to Drozdovsky and a brief argument starts up.
The Russians finally reach the river and they start digging in, which is not easy because the ground is frozen hard. The men get a little worried because they expected the Germans to be shooting at them by now. One soldier says the Germans are sneaking up on them.
Tanya comes to visit with Kuznetsov. She also mentions that it's really quiet here. Kuznetsov complains about some of the men in his group. Tanya complains that when she comes to visit him, it just ends up in his getting angry about something. She doesn't want to make him angry whenever she visits him. Kuznetsov objects that he can't have an open affair with Tanya. He can't become someone all the men gossip about. And yet he breaks down and starts kissing her, saying that he's so afraid. And one of the things that he is scared of is Tanya betraying him with another man. Tanya says that will never happen. She promises.
The couple's interlude is broken up when an inspection of the position is announced. As the inspection starts to proceed, a huge German air force approaches their defensive positions. The inspection is halted and the men told to get in their shelters. The bombs start dropping and inflicts light damage on the Russians. And now, here come the German tanks!
Kuznetsov waits until the German tanks get very close and then he orders the men to fire away. One big problem is that there's so much smoke on the battlefield that it's hard to take aim at the enemy tanks. In other areas, the German tanks are on top of the Russian defensive positions. Kuznetsov orders the artillery piece turned to the left.
Kuznetsov now runs to see why the neighboring gun is not firing. He finds out that all the men are dead except a fellow from Kazakhstan, but he's badly wounded and can't function. Tanya arrives to help the wounded man, but Kuzetsov orders her to grab an artillery shell and load the gun. She does so and Kuznetsov fires at a tank extremely close to his position. Then everything goes bright red.
Kuznetsov gets up. He sees two German tanks burning and wonders why there are two tanks burning since he only fired at one tank. He is afraid that Tanya got hit but she says she's okay. He tells her to watch over Kasymov. He now goes back to the artillery piece. He's like a man possessed, firing shell after shell. Tanya brings him a shell and he asks what is she doing here? She says she's been here all the time. He tells her to get the hell out of here. But now the German tank shells start hitting very close to them and dirt is thrown into their faces.
The Russian commander-in-chief shows up. The officer on the battlefield, Colonel Deyev, tells him that the Germans broke through the left bank area. And they have thrown fresh forces at their left flank. He has had to throw in their last reserve, Khokhlov's armored battalion. The commander-in-chief says there will be no withdrawal. They will fight to the very last shell.
Deyev gives the order to knock out the bridge the German tanks are using. He even says to fire two Katyusha rockets at the bridge.
Kuznetsov realizes that his gun is now disabled. Drozdovsky arrives on the scene. He tells soldier Sergunenkov to crawl out and put the two anti-tank grenades they have under the German tank. Sergunenkov is killed without harming the German tank. The tank now starts coming closer to Kuznetsov. He throws an anti-tank grenade at the tank, but it doesn't stop it. The tank comes toward Kuznetsov. It fires a shell and Kuznetsov gets covered with dirt in the shallow trench. Then the German tank is hit by a shell and goes up in flames. Two tank men crawl out of the escape hatch, but Rubin and Drozdovsky shoot them down. Drozdovsky tells Kuznetsov to go to Ukhanov's gun position.
Kuznetsov finds Ukhanov resting in the shallow trench. Ukhanov says that they just did run out of shells and he sent his men to bring back some more.
The German tanks are really rolling along now. The Russian commander-in-chief receives a message. The Germans are attacking the Russian's north flank, accompanied by massive air support. Alexandrovich orders an immediate counter-attack on the north flank. More information flows in. Cherepanov's regiment, two artillery divisions and Khokhlov's tanks are encircled, but still fighting. The commander-in-chief tells his right-hand man, Vitaly Isayevich, that they have to let the German tanks through and then the Russian reserves will strike them.
Cherepanov and Khokhlov are both killed and their men are out of ammunition. Vitaly Isayevich wants the commander-in-chief to let the soldiers on the line withdraw, but Alexandrovich says no, not yet. Col. Osin arrives and wants to escort Isayevich and Alexandrovich out of harm's way. Isayevich refuses to go with him.
When Isayevich returns to the front line, the command-in-chief tells him it's time to send the Russian tank corps into action. "The Germans show signs of fatigue." He tells Isayevich to go to the tank corps. Isayevich is to see to it that their tanks strike a crushing blow on the Germans with everything they've got. And now Isaysevich tells Colonel Osin that he will be going with him after all. They all pile in two cars and take off. The only problem is that the German tanks are now in their way. Both vehicles are hit.
Isayevich says they are going to make their stand right here. He fires his pistol at the oncoming Germans. He is hit by a German bullet and goes down. Col. Osin goes down too. The last Russian standing tries to get Isayevich over to a nearby house.
Ukhanov and Sgt. Nechayev watch as the Germans sing one of their songs. The two Russians figure the German must have broken through. Ukhanov and Nechayev hook up and go to the shelter where they find Nechayev, Tanya and some other soldiers. Tanya soon says she has to go. She leaves. Ukhanov asks the men what are "we doing"? Rubin says: "Waiting to die."
The Russian sentry fires a shot. The men in the shelter rush out to see what's going on. The sentry shot a man who said he was a Russian, but he couldn't take a chance on his being German. The wounded fellow turns out to be a Russian. Someone is sent to go get nurse Tanya. The wounded Russian says he has a important German prisoner in a fox hole only 100 yards away. Tanya arrives to take care of the wounded man. The others run over and grab the German prisoner. Kuznetsov finds soldier Golavanov wounded. Then he finds Tanya dead.
All the men are upset about the loss of Tanya. Lt. Drozdovsky blames their German prisoner for the loss of Tanya and he wants to kill him. The other men hold the lieutenant back.
The important German prisoner tells his interrogators that the 17th German tank division is in action as of yesterday. The commander-in-chief says that this means that German General Manstein has to put his last reserves into the battle. He says: "So, we'll strike tomorrow morning." Now a messenger tells Alexandrovich that Isayevich has been killed. They ran into some German tanks. The commander-in-chief has to take a minute to process this bad news. He then says he's ready and is told that their reserve armor has been deployed on the right flank.
The commander-in-chief goes to the front line. He is told that the northern half of the village in the area has been cleaned out. He goes down to check on the last standing Russian artillery piece, but finds that there are no survivors left. Comrade General says there has to be survivors Then they spot the few survivors of the front line battle, the survivors left from the shelter. There are seven men and Comrade General asks for seven Orders of the Red Banner. He hands out the medals, telling each man thank you for what they did here. He adds that he wishes he could do more for them.
Some of the survivors were Drozdovsky, Kuznetsov, Nechayev, Rubin and Ukhano,
The Russians are up against a German army of some 330,000 soldiers headed for Stalingrad. Their job is to delay the Germans to give Stalingrad more time to set up its defensive positions. So a unit is sent to the River Myshkova to hold back the Germans. The unit is so small compared to what they are facing from the Germans. The men fight heroically against terrible odds. Of course, some men run from the Germans, but most stand by their artillery pieces. And this is saying something because the German tanks were knocking out one artillery piece after another.
The film is filled with battle scenes. Nurse Tanya provides the love story in the film.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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