Sam Spiegel comes up with a rarity: the intimate epic, in telling the fascinating story of the downfall of the Romanovs.
The tone is set from the opening sequences depicting the birth of the Russian Emperor and Empress’ first boy and heir to the Romanov throne, followed closely by the tragic discovery that the child is haemophilic. Slowly, intrusively, the viewers get to know more about the dominant Alexandra and the frequently vacillating Nicholas, whom she influences in misguided political decisions.
Complicating factors, of course, are the growing unrest of the Russian people culminating in its confused revolution, the constant, distracting worry about the ‘bleeding’ Czarevitch and, most of all, the dominant influence on the Empress of Rasputin, without whose occult, hypnotic presence she feels the heir will die.
Scripter James Goldman (with an assist from Edward Bond) has provided literate, sparse dialog in fashioning a crystal-clear picture of a confused and confusing period. Certainly, as in the Robert K. Massie book, there’s a feel here for tragically opposed worlds both heading blindly on a collision course towards the inevitable bloody clash.
Michael Jayston makes a most believable Nicholas, while Janet Suzman is also just right in the perhaps more difficult role of the Empress.
1971: Best Art Direction, Costume Design.
Nominations: Best Picture, Actress (Janet Suzman), Cinematography, Orignal Music Score