Ivan the Terrible, Part I ★★★½

The bombast and nationalistic glory of Eisenstein's silent films are fused here with some covert rebelliousness and a bit of dry humor, with the director rapidly running through the Tsar's coronation, marriage, illness, resurrection, abdication and popular triumph. Almost every shot is inherently exciting; few black & white films capture actors' eyes with such perverse intensity. Nikolay Cherkasov gives essentially the same performance as in Alexander Nevsky, but that's not really a criticism since it's clearly what both roles require; state control and oversight over film production in the USSR is made obvious by the unabashedly majestic, over-the-top tone of everything we're shown. There are obviously emotional limits to the impact a movie like this can have, but it certainly is never anything less than remarkably entertaining.