Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Glasnost Film Festival, No. 9

  • Marshal Blucher: Portrait against the Background of an Epoch
  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $59.95 Series (public): $575.00
  • Date: Copyright 1988. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: Blucher, Vasily. Soviet Union - History. Stalin, Joseph. Communism.
  • Production Information: Live action, Archival footage, Film transfer. Produced by Vladimir Eisner. Color, b&w. Russian. Subtitled. 70 min.
  • Available from: The Video Project 5332 College Ave., Ste. 101 Oakland, CA 94618 (510) 655-9050, (800) 4-PLANET
  • Cataloging: 947.0842 Soviet Union - History - 1925-1953
  • Print Entry #: 1:1930
  • Reviewer: Wayne Campbell

    As with so many things coming out of the Soviet Union these days, this film would have been unimaginable five years ago. Coming to grips with the excesses of the Stalinist purges of the 1930s is a difficult task but this episode of the 22-part Glasnost Film Festival series accomplishes it admirably.

    The best thing about this program, besides its numbing glimpses of Soviet cruelty, is the great amount of rare archival footage used. Film buffs, historians, teachers, and Soviet experts will find this footage fascinating. There are clips of the civil war of 1918-21 that probably have never been seen in the West. There are also glimpses of such historical figures as Lenin, Gorky, Bukharin, Dzerzhinsky, and Ezhov (head of the Cheka and NKVD respectively), Trotsky, and that cruel fox, Stalin.

    It is depressing to watch pile after pile of corpses and execution after execution by the government of its own people, not even some enemies in wartime. Where are all the uplifting accomplishments of man? Were there any architectural, scientific, or consumer-benefiting attempts to make life better - or were piles of dead bodies the only thing Stalin's system was good at producing? At first there were show trials of Stalin's "enemies," but these were soon disbanded and people just started disappearing, either turning up in slave labor camps or with a bullet in the back of the head in some nameless mass grave.

    Marshal Vasily Blucher was a Red Army commander who opposed, in his own way, Stalin's excesses. He disregarded orders to execute civilians during the civil war. Though an able commander, he soon became an enemy in Stalin's paranoid eyes.

    Blucher hung on to his post until 1938, when the purges turned particularly virulent against the top military commanders. Recent interviews with his widow provide an emotionally moving account of these days. Whatever may happen to Mr. Gorbachev, he has already done his own people and the world an inestimable service by lifting the curtain on a largely undocumented period in the history of the world.

    Although a lot of the names and events alluded to aren't going to be known to the general viewer, there is enough here to hold most people's interest. Can you imagine a picture of Stalin projected on the clouds over Red Square while troops march by underneath? Or little girls in frocks presenting Uncle Joe with flowers and kisses as the vulpine tyrant smiles benignly? It's all here.

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