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Stalin Review

Image for Stalin
★★★★★

A three-hour miniseries with an unusually starched Robert Duvall as the peasant first seen being rejected by the army for having a cloven foot, who subsequently rises to power in post-revolutionary Russia and spends the rest of his life purging friends, driving loved ones to suicide, humiliating aides and making stupid policy decisions.

Made on ex-Soviet locations by Ivan Passer, this offers Great Actors in False Beards: Maximilian Schell as a noble Lenin; Daniel Massey as an understandably worried Trotsky; and Roshan Seth, in a creepy turn, scores as secret police chief Beria.

All the expected stuff: people struggling through crowds of refugees at railway stations; top officials blitzed on vodka cavorting through the Kremlin; tear-stained patriotic speeches ringing hollow; and Eisenstein stock footage of palaces being stormed do much to inspire confidence.