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Caterina di Russia

Catherine of Russia
Catherine de Russie / Katharina von Russland

Italy/France 1963
produced by
Fortunato Misiano, Nino Misiano (executive) for Romana Film, Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie (SNC)
directed by Umberto Lenzi
starring Hildegard Knef, Sergio Fantoni, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Raul Grassilli, Ángela Cavo, Enzo Fiermonte, Leonardo Botta, Gianni Solaro, Ennio Balbo, Tina Lattanzi, Tullio Altamura, Milly Vitale, Romano Ghini, Vera Besusso, Luigi D'Acri, Bernard Faber, Janez Vrhovec
written by Guido Malatesta, Umberto Lenzi, music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Russia, 1762: Princess Catherine (Hildegard Knef) is married to Grand Duke Peter III of Russia (Raul Grassilli) - but their marriage is an unhappy one, so much so in fact that she has an almost public affair with her chamberlain (Leonardo Botta) ... and Peter actually couldn't care less if it wasn't for his male pride which makes him send the chamberlain to Sweden as a diplomat. This only drives Catherine into the arms of her next lover, Count Poniatowski (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) of Poland, until she finds out that he solely had an affair with her for his own political agenda ...

Eventually, the old Czarina (Tina Lattanzi) dies, and Peter is to be crowned the new Czar, and since he wants to make his new girlfriend (Vera Besusso) Czarina, he wants to get rid of Catherine. Finding herself cornered, Catherine remembers a Cossack General, Orloff (Sergio Fantoni), who was in fact the only man who ever dared to disagree with Peter - and was sent to Siberia for it. So she has Orloff freed, and backed by various political forces at the Czar's court, she has Orloff lead his Cossacks against Peter's army - and ultimately, the Cossacks win the battle and overthrow Peter - and from now on it is for Catherine to rule Russia, with Orloff at her side ...

 

Probably not a film for history buffs: Catherine of Russia is a very free retelling of actual historical events, with facts altered ever so often to fit the period piece-formula Italian (and European) audiences were (or were at least thought to be) hungry for, with action, romance, intrigue and of course undying love all in their proper place.

Having said that, seen as a formulaic Italian period piece, Catherine of Russia is actually pretty good, sets, props and costumes fit the epic in scale, Umberto Lenzi's direction, while not exactly inventive, is very fluent and keeps things going at a steady pace, plus Hildegard Knef makes a good, charismatic Catherine and Raul Grassilli is great as Peter III, who goes from borderline mad to totally bonkers in the course of the movie. Just don't confuse the whole film with a history lesson !

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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directed by
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written by
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