Ivan the Terrible, Part II (1946)
Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Starring: Nikolai Cherkasov (Czar Ivan IV), Serafima Birman ( Boyarina Efrosinia Staritskaya), Pavel Kadochnikov (Vladimir Andreyevich Staritsky), Mikhail Zharov (Czar's Guard Malyuta Skuratov), Amvrosi Buchma (Czar's Guard Aleksei Basmanov), Vsevolod Pudovkin (as V.I. Pudovkin), Mikhail Kuznetsov (Fyodor Basmanov), Aleksandr Mgebrov (Novgorod's Archbishop Pimen), Andrei Abrikosov (Archbishop Philip, formerly Fyodor Kolychev), Vladimir Balashov (Pyotr Volynets), Erik Pyryev (Ivan IV as a boy), Mikhail Nazvanov (Prince Andrei Kurbsky), Pavel Massalsky (King Sigismund of Poland), Ada Vojtsik (Elena Glinskaya, Ivan's Mother).
Continuation of "Ivan the Terrible, Part One." See that film for the historical background.
Spoiler warning: the below is a complete summary of Part II.
1564. Tsar Ivan forms a bodyguard, the Oprichniki (an early form of a secret service). Sigismund, the King of Poland says: "We must support the Boyars." Prince Kurbsky is given a medal by the King for his coming over to the Polish side against Russia. But then the entire court receives the cold news: "The Tsar is on his way back to Moscow!" The Poles all walk out of the ceremony, leaving Kurbsky alone with his thoughts.
In Moscow, Ivan's old buddy Fyodor Kolychev shows up, but now he is called Philip. He condemns Ivan for his terrible crimes against the Boyars. Ivan responds that Philip should pity him rather than condemn him. In a flashback, we learn that as a young boy, Ivan's father was killed and then his mom was poisoned. Before she dies, she tells Ivan to beware of the Boyars. The young Ivan is ruled by the Boyars with little say. He is manipulated by the struggles between two different , Boyar factions. He remains quiet for awhile, but then finally asserts his authority beginning the long struggle to put the Boyars in their proper place.
Ivan tells Philip that he feels alone and abandoned with no friends. He then adds that he will make Philip the Metropolitan Bishop of Moscow if he will support the Tsar's works. When Malyuta, the head of the secret service, learns of Philip's appointment, he warns the Tsar not to trust Philip. The Tsar then gives Malyuta the responsibility to make sure Philip respects the Tsar's word.
A casual remark by an aide about poison, finally makes Ivan realize why Anastasia died. It was mother Kurbsky that gave the cup of wine to him to give to his wife Anastasia. He does not immediately move against the murderer.
Malyuta has members of the Kolychev family (Philip's family) executed as traitors to the state. When Ivan sees the executed Kolychevs, he remarks: "Too few." The King is roundly condemned for the executions. This infuriates Ivan and he decides that he will be as bad as they say he is. He arrests Philip.
Mother Kurbsky plots to kill the Tsar. Pyotr Volynets, aide to the Archbishop, will do the actual deed then Vladimir will become the new Tsar. One problem: Vladimir doesn't want to be Tsar. But the plan goes forward. Vladimir and Pyotr will go to the Tsar's banquet. (The banquet scenes are in color, instead of black-and-white.) One of the dancers at the banquet asks what Pyotor, an assistant to Archbishop Pimen, is doing amongst the servants. Ivan gets Vladimir drunk and the drunk spills the beans: his opponents would like to see harm come to him and that he wants to be Tsar. Ivan starts to flatter Vladimir. He dresses the dim-witted man in the full regalia of the Tsar, complete with crown. He then forces Vladimir into a building where Pyotr is waiting. Fooled by the disguise, Pyotr kills Vladimir. Mother Kurbsky, thinking the Tsar dead, rushes out screaming that the Tsar is dead. Then Ivan appears the woman realizes that it is not Ivan, but her son Vladimir, that is dead. She is obviously devastated. Later, Ivan thanks Pyotr for having killed Vladimir, one of his worst enemies.
Good movie. Clever ending. But it's all pretty much fiction with an emphasis on the crimes of the Boyars rather than those of Ivan the Terrible, who is not so terrible in this movie.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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