Ivan Groznyj II

(Ivan The Terrible Part II)

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1946 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 84:52 minutes Other Extras Menu Audio and Animation
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Sergei Eisenstein

Force Video
Starring Nikolai Cherkassov
Serafima Birman
Mikhail Zharov
Mikhail Nazvanov
Pavel Kadochnikov
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Sergei Prokofiev

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 224Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    Those who have happened across this film on the Internet Movie Database may be a little puzzled by the year of release quoted above, which is somewhat at variance with the year of 1958 quoted at that site. There is a simple explanation: after completion of the film, prior to its general release, a special showing was given at the Kremlin for Stalin, the result of which was the instant banning of the film. The film was not eventually shown in public until 1958, long after the death of both Sergei Eisenstein and Josef Stalin. Thus this film became Sergei Eisenstein's lasting monument, noted too for containing the master's first use of colour film. But please note, you will not see it here despite the wording on the cover slick for the DVD: the relevant scenes are actually in black and white on this DVD.

    The story starts in 1560 with the return of Ivan to Moscow at the behest of the people, which happened to coincide with the surrender of the Russian Army by Prince Kurbsky, perhaps Ivan's closest friend, to the King of Poland. In the face of this treachery, Ivan started down the path of his reign of terror that earned him his nickname. This path was strengthened by the opposition of the Church to his decisions, which lead to a showdown in the cathedral in Moscow, where Ivan vowed to become what they called him - Ivan The Terrible. What follows is the usual tale of intrigue, politics, family dispute, plot, counterplot, execution and murder. Ivan faced increasing opposition from the boyars, lead by his aunt Efrosinia Staritskaya, and became the subject of assassination attempts, most notably involving the appointed assassin of the boyars in Pyotr Volynets. Unfortunately, Ivan was a little more intelligent than the boyars gave him credit for, with the result that he tricks his cousin Vladimir Staritsky (whilst in a drunken stupor) to pretend to be the Tsar and lead the royal procession into the cathedral for evening devotions, with rather dire consequences. In one foul swoop, Ivan had eliminated the main thrust of the boyar plot to overthrow him.

    Another poor synopsis of Russian history of the period, but it is an interesting comparison with the events of the 1940s and 1950s which were very similar: hence the reason that Stalin had the film instantly banned. There is no doubt that this is not a sequel to Ivan Groznyj I but rather a continuation of that film. As a result there is an amazing consistency between the two films, although the story here is a little less coherent than that of the first film. The standard of acting is naturally very much the same and Nikolai Cherkassov in the lead is still the power behind the film.

    Whilst this is generally not considered quite the equal of Ivan Groznyj I, this is nonetheless another powerful effort from the master of Russian film. It is a great shame that his life was cut relatively short and that he never got to complete Part 3 of the trilogy.

Transfer Quality


    Given the consistency of this film with Ivan Groznyj I, there seems little further that can be added to the comments made in that review regarding the transfer, and so the comments are given a brief recap here. If you require more detailed comments, then I encourage you to read the earlier review.

    The transfer is presented in a full frame format.

    The transfer suffers from a wide degree of inconsistency in the visual aspect of the transfer. Occasionally sharp and well detailed, at other times it became quite soft and a little murky in detail. Detail at times is poor, which does little to help the film, but overall is quite decent and occasionally ascends to better than respectable. Overall it is hard to suggest that the film has any degree of clarity to it. Shadow detail is not especially wonderful at any point of the film, but this is rather in keeping with the age and origin of the film. There does not appear to be any low level noise problems with the transfer. It should be pointed out that there are a couple of quite noticeable lapses in focus during the film.

    Whilst the film does occasionally demonstrate a depth to the blacks and a nice clarity to the whites, it is unfortunate that there is no consistency in this regard. Some scenes show a distinct lack of any depth to the blacks in particular and really capture the murky greys that really ruin black and white films. In general this film suffers somewhat more poorly in this regard than the first film.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be many significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, apart from one rather noticeable green flash at 47:39 which really disrupts the viewing experience. The problem in this transfer is the film artefacts and this is certainly a problematic transfer in this regard. Apart from the expected dirt and scratches, there were some rather noticeable blotches on the print which really are more reminiscent of a film far older: this is definitely an indicator that the original print suffered badly from poor storage, albeit slightly better than the first film. The film also suffers a little from the odd jump and odd continuity problem. Overall, the artefacts were a little disruptive to the enjoyment of the film.

    Somewhat unusually I felt, the brief opening credits were in English, although most of the credits were by way of a voice-over detailing the main cast members. The closing credits were in English. Once again the English subtitles are not selectable, but rather are burned into the picture. Compounding this however is the fact that the subtitles are again in white lettering which is extremely difficult at times to read against the light background of the film. In this regard however, the font of the subtitles changes at around the 58:00 mark, and thereafter they are a little easier to read. The subtitles are again anything but complete and only give a broad picture of what is actually being spoken in the film.


    The audio transfer is virtually identical to that of the first film, and thus ranks quite low on the scale of desirability.

    There is just the one audio track on the DVD, a Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. You should note that the track is flagged as an English track but it is definitely Russian. I would not be surprised to discover that this is the very original sound recording for the film, as it is again a quite muffled effort. This really is another poor example of a mono soundtrack and if I thought that little restoration work had been done on the video, then I can practically guarantee you that none has been done on the audio. It is a very constricted sounding effort and suffers noticeably from mild distortion virtually throughout. At times, it was very difficult to listen to the dialogue (making the problems with the subtitles even worse). About the only thing positive here is that there did not seem to be any significant problems with audio sync.

    Like Ivan Groznyj I, the music score comes from Sergei Prokofiev, and the same comments apply here as with that earlier film. This really deserved far better sound.

    Once again the sound is so bad that it is again like listening to a 1960s television show with your speakers covered by plastic bags. The vocal track is very recessed in the mix and extremely frontal, so that there is no doubt that this is coming at you straight from the centre speaker with nothing from any other channel. Toss in the mild distortion and you really have something pretty woeful indeed. Purists would probably be well satisfied with this, arguing that the context of the sound has been retained. Whilst I am not asking for nor expecting a full 5.1 digital remastering, I would have thought that a cleaning up of this constricted effort would not have been asking too much. Without doubt the equal worst example of sound that I have yet heard on a DVD.


    Another rather limited effort indeed here, but at least consistent with previous efforts from this source.


    The audio enhancement is dubious at best as it suffers from the same constricted, mildly distorted sound as the main feature.


    A brief history of Ivan The Terrible, so at least you get a bit of historical context about the man. Another of those scrolling efforts in common with other Force Video releases. The only problem here is that once it gets to the end of the notes it doe not stop. If you do not push the enter button on your remote you will spend the evening boning up on the life of Ivan The Terrible.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that the Region 4 release is pretty much identical to the Region 1 version, at least as far as the package is concerned. Whether the transfer is the same, I would not be able to advise as reviews of this film are rare indeed, but assuming a similar transfer then Region 4 is the region of choice.


    Whilst I would again love to extol the virtues of the film and encourage you to at least give this a rent, as the work of Sergei Eisenstein is well worth the effort, I cannot in all good conscience do so. This is so similar to the first film that again only the relative age of the film stops this from making the Hall Of Shame.

    A poorish video transfer.

    An appalling audio transfer.

    An uninspiring extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
15th May 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL