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Cinema: Thud & Blunder

2 minute read

Taras Bulba. There are 10,000 magnificent Argentine horses in this picture, and the thing to do is look at them. If possible, don’t look at anything else. Above all, don’t look at:

1) The screen credits—they insist that all this thud-and-blunder, which cost $7,000,000 to make and takes two hours to sit through, is a serious cinemadaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s classic tale of the Zaporogue Cossacks.

2) The actors—Yul Brynner, who plays a great big brute of a Cossack chieftain, rides like a man Scotch-taped to his saddle; Tony Curtis, who plays his son, has an accent that will pass as Russian when the Gowanus flows into the Don.

3 ) The Eastmancolor—as mixed in this movie, it mixes the gaudy Cossack costumes and the rich green pampas of Argentina, where the film was shot, into the sort of colorful mess customarily seen in a nursery-school watercolor set.

4) The gore—great globs of it spurting from lopped limbs, huge piles of rotting plague victims.

5) The direction—J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone) did it, but with a cast of 10,000 men to manage he did little more than direct traffic.

It is also advisable to wear earplugs, especially while Showstakovich and Messorgsky and sometimes even Minsky-Korsetoff are booming in the background. But sometimes the dialogue is so dumb it’s funny, a thesaurus of ruptured Russian and unplanned puns. Funniest pun: the heroine (Christine Kaufmann), swelling voluptuously, looks up into the face of her lover and states passionately but improbably: “I’m a Pole.”

For looking at Actress Kaufmann, better bring binoculars.

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