The true story of the fall of Tsar Nicholas II of
Russia and the rise of communism in his place.
Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by James Goldman
Starring Michael Jayston, Janet Suzman, Tom Baker,
Jack Hawkins, Michael Bryant, Jean-Claude Drouot,
John McEnery, Ian Holm, Laurence Olivier, Brian Cox
Based on the book by Robert K. Massie
Oscar Wins - Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actress (Janet Suzman),
Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (Richard Rodney Bennett)
In the early twentieth century, Russia underwent a monumental change. In the midst of World War I, the inept and despised Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the throne of Russia, ending a dynasty that had lasted for centuries. In his place rose the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, who established communist rule in a new Soviet Union. Of course, under both Nicholas II and Lenin, the people suffered. The Russian people starved and died under both leaders, and while this film may romanticize Nicholas's intentions, the fact remains that he led thousands of Russians to their deaths in the Great War and was an overall poor leader whose overthrow caused irreparable harm to the world over the next hundred years. This overly long and quite dull movie is his story, more or less.
Nicholas (Jayston) and his wife Alexandra (Suzman) rule Russia and all its people. But when the sinful witch doctor Rasputin (Baker) lies and cheats his way into court, he wins the favor of Alexandra. Nicholas is too weak to stand up to his wife, so his cronies kill Rasputin (no easy feat, if you know the legend). Nicholas has been abroad overseeing Russia's involvement in the war, leaving Alexandra at home to oversee affairs of state, with Rasputin whispering in her ear. Rasputin's influence causes Alexandra to mislead, which leads the Russian government to overthrow the Tsar and demand the Romanovs abdicate. That's the first two hours. The third consists of watching the Romanovs fuddle about in a Siberian prison until they are inevitably executed by the new regime.
Nicholas and Alexandra didn't need to be three hours long. It barely touches on the formation of Communist Russia under Lenin, which deserves its own movie, maybe a trilogy. Why make it a major focus of the movie if you're going to just leave it hanging? I also don't think it's fair how they painted Nicholas and Alexandra as poor souls who just wanted their children to succeed. They were inept rulers who got a lot of people killed thanks to their poor decision-making. They weren't heroes, and they certainly weren't martyrs. Did their families deserve to die? Of course not, but I think it needs to be said that in the less than peaceful transfer of power from Romanov to Lenin, there were no heroes. Only villains and idiots. I think this movie missed the mark on that.