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Ilya Muromets (Deaf Crocodile) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Ilya Muromets (Deaf Crocodile) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Deaf Crocodile
    Released on: May 31st, 2022.
    Director: Aleksandr Ptushko
    Cast: Boris Andreyev, Shukur Burkhanov, Ninel Myshkova
    Year: 1956
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    Ilya Muromets – Movie Review:

    Also known as The Sword & The Dragon, the title used for its U.S. release when it was recut and dubbed to be distributed by none other than Roger Corman, Aleksandr Ptushko’s 1956 fantasy epic Ilya Muromets is an odd Russian fairy tale-type film that really kick off when a woman named Vassillisa (Ninel Myshkova) is kidnapped by the invading Tugar hordes. Vassillisa is engaged to a brave knight named Ilya Muromets (Boris Andreyev) who, under normal circumstances, would certainly rush to her rescue, but he is, when she is kidnapped at least, paralyzed.

    Ilya, however, is resourceful and well-connected and through said connections is able to get his hands on a potion that heals him and gives him back the use of his legs. Armed with his wits and a magic sword, Ilya heads deep into Tugar territory to face foes both natural and supernatural, leading up to a seriously years long quest and an awesome battle with a multi-headed dragon (a minor spoiler, maybe, but consider the film’s alternate U.S. title and you kind of know it’s coming, right?).

    A legitimately impressive effort, Ilya Muromets is a pretty gripping movie once you let yourself get lost in it. Aspects of the production show their age but the timeless quality of the fairy tale elements definitely work in the movie’s favor and there’s no shortage of action, intrigue and excitement on display throughout the movie’s running time. Presented here in its original, uncut, widescreen Russian edition, the film is much easier to take seriously than the bastardized The Sword & The Dragon edition which was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1994 during the show's seventh season. The poor quality of the English dubbing did that version no favors and the seeing it in a proper edition such as this really does make a lot of difference.

    The acting is solid and it feels ‘right’ for the fantasy world that Ptushko and his team clearly worked so hard to create. Boris Andreyev plays the brave and noble titular knight with plenty of gusto, he’s a lot of fun to watch in the role. Ninel Myshkova is an atypical but effective damsel in distress and the supporting cast is all entertaining in their respective roles.

    Just as, if not more important, however, are the production values on display. This is a wildly creative film with some absolutely gorgeous set design and background work. Everything from the eerie trees of the woods that our hero must traverse to the decadent decor noticeable inside a castle to the lavish costumes to the effects used to bring the dragon to life in the film's big finish is all a joy to behold. On top of that, there are plenty of impressive stunts on display and the fight choreography is fairly advanced and the movie benefits from an appropriately sweeping score and some impressive widescreen scope cinematography that gives it an appropriately ‘big’ feel.

    Ilya Muromets – Blu-ray Review:

    Deaf Crocodile brings Ilya Muromets to Region A Blu-ray framed in 2.35.1 in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that uses up 23GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Taken from a new 4k restoration of “original 35mm CinemaScope picture elements by Mosfilm,” the ninety-one minute feature looks really strong here. Colors are quite good and there’s nice detail throughout. There isn’t any print damage to complain about, the picture is always very clean. Some shots look a little smooth, there might have been some mild DNR applied in spots, but otherwise this shapes up nicely and is free of noticeable compression artifacts and edge enhancement issues.

    The only audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in Russian only. Optional subtitles are provided in English. Audio quality is quite good, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Range is a bit limited, but for an older single channel track, there’s nothing to complain about here.

    An audio commentary track by Steve Bissette gets the extras features started off right. Equal parts crash course in Russian fantasy cinema and historical dissection of the movie itself, he covers the backgrounds of the film’s director and main cast members, some of the themes that the movie explores and exploits, the state of Russian cinema at the time that the movie was made, how it compares to other Western efforts and plenty more. Bissette is always worth listening to, this latest track is no exception.

    A new restoration trailer, menus and chapter selection finish off the supplements on the disc, but it comes bundled with a full color insert booklet containing an essay titled Remembering Russian Film Scholar Alan Upchurch by Dennis Bartok, a second piece called Russian Fantastika Part One by Alan Upchurch (originally published in an issue of Video Watchdog) and a third piece called The Making of The Sword and the Dragon by Aleksandr Ptushko (translated by Alan Upchurch). There’s a lot of helpful information packed into this book, lending welcome context to the feature.

    Ilya Muromets - The Final Word:

    Ilya Muromets is as weird as it is wildly entertaining, a wholly unique slice of fantastic cinema that’s absolutely worth checking out for fans of the stranger side of international cinema. Deaf Crocodiles’ Blu-ray release presents the film in its proper form in very nice shape and with a valuable commentary and insert booklet as the main supplements. Recommended!


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Ilya Muromets Blu-ray screen caps!

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