Nicholas and Alexandra Blu-ray Review
Nicholas and Alexandra is an
ambitious, sprawling, and well-meaning motion picture
about the remaining members of the Romanov family dynasty in Russia.
characters are in the thrust surrounding revolution and changes to
government. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and produced by Sam
is an expansive and determined motion-picture from 1971.
Tsar leader Nicholas (Michael Jayston) and his wife
Alexandra (Janet Suzman) hardly pay any attention to these dramatic
the times of their country, and they are both far more concerned with
for their sick son, who was born with an illness that caused exorbitant
for their family. Along with their several daughters they live a family
that seems to some extents ordinary. However, they fail to recognize
country's needs and they live out lives of great wealth and royalty.
revolts that occurred from Russia's starving and suffering people,
Russians died in a great tragedy, and the course of the story has
complex in significant ways; affecting all of Russia along with the
isn't a perfectly structured film that excels on every
level of filmmaking. I found there to be a lot of good effort involved
production anyway. This isn't really
average as a film. Not by any means is this merely "average" on
merits. But does it excel to the heights it hopes to achieve? That
stands as a far more intriguing question regarding the success found
within Nicholas and Alexandra.
direction of the film by Franklin J. Schaffner (Planet of
the Apes, Patton) is actually quite good in some
respects. The film has many
interesting moments visually and it sometimes has performances that are
quite interesting and worthwhile. These are definite marks of good
and should by all means be positive qualities acknowledge about the
the film doesn't hit a perfect stride at any point
during the entire story. This is both Schaffner's fault as director and
fault of the screenwriter James Goldman, who adapted Nicholas
and Alexandra from the
novel written by Robert K. Massie but forgot to make
characters that people in the audience could feel invested in more.
of the characters feel well developed. This is
particularly problematic for the script as everything is dealing with
events and people and none of them seems particularly well portrayed.
also dampened even further by weak pacing. Sometimes the film feels as
unbelievably flat and uninvolving as one can imagine. At other times,
quite good and is interesting to behold. It's all over the map.
also plays around with having entire sequences
filmed and acted out as believable and fairly "ordinary" scenes in
characters talk and interact with one another, before he lunges forward
more dream-like mystique that seems intended to add a certain flavor to
film. These moments seem like attempts to make it more experimental and
artistic. Yet it doesn't all work out that well. It just seems odd to
many sequences were handled like this and it doesn't really do the film
favors in its stylistic approach.
is one element that really dampened the film's overall
quality and it was inherent in both script and direction: this is a
is undermined somewhat by its own obvious ambitions. This rarely
happens to a
film (though sometimes it does), and here is a good example of that.
Sam Spiegel (Lawrence of Arabia, On the
Waterfront) wanted this to be a
massive success and wanted big name actors and big, well, everything.
the film is constantly an undermined production because of
these elements. It just doesn't match
the ambition found displayed everywhere else. For every artistic moment
brilliance from the direction, acting, a costume, or make-up moment of
there's another element working unfavorably for the film's success. The
production seems to be overblown and has unfortunately failed to grasp
sense of unity through all artistic areas.
odd to see a film where everyone involved seems to be
determined to make a masterpiece - an ambitious effort that wants to
every level. That may be the biggest problem of them all. Most of the
that I would describe as masterpiece material are masterpieces because
filmmakers succeeded in telling a great story exceedingly well. Not
something about the story they were telling seemed appropriate for the
being a masterpiece by some suggestion of name or ambition inherent.
that's exactly what sometimes seems to be the point of this
as a production. It feels designed to win big, overwhelming, and
amounts of Academy Awards. It doesn't
feel as if it designed to tell the audiences a story crafted with
filmmaking. It feels like something made for awards potential, and I
ever feel that way about sweepingly epic productions.
appreciate the artistic merits of Nicholas
and Alexandra as a
It is genuinely good in many regards and it is worth the recognition
costumes and production designs and all of that other fine jazz that
with the quality of the sets and other backdrop elements. It's really
bad that the film doesn't work out as perfectly as the filmmakers
envisioned. Nicholas and Alexandra is
sometimes just an over-the-top dramatic period piece but
it's a worthwhile trip into an interesting passage in Russia's history
and Alexandra at
last arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p High
Definition transfer which preserves the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of the
theatrical exhibition, as intended by director Franklin J. Schaffner
director of photography Freddie Young. Fans of the film will
themselves feeling pleased with the presentation quality.
is a well preserved
presentation. The film has never looked better than it does on this
Definition release. The transfer retains a reasonable amount of film
good depth throughout the entire course, and color reproduction is
strong. The transfer doesn't have the sorts of annoyances sometimes
classic films: specks of dirt or damage and other big problematic
aren't found here. The overall image is crisp and smooth. There is some
softness, but it's something that seems to be the result of the source
material. I have little doubt that longtime fans will find this release
contain a worthy presentation in regards to the film's transfer.
1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is not even
remotely close to being as good as the film's video quality
presentation and it's
nothing that really ever impresses. Unlike the rather stunning HD
audio lacks a sense of real "punch" and flavor and feels rather dated.
the result of an underwhelming audio source that was surely used for
sounded slightly muffled to
me. The dialogue is understandable enough to follow but it is rather
the volume levels I use were actually disagreeable with this
presentation and had
to be raised significantly. This isn't just because of it being a mono
either. It's certainly not that aspect. I just reviewed Easter
Parade (which had a magnificent sounding 1.0 lossless audio
track) and the comparison in quality seems rather drastic. The audio
with an average lossless presentation with only some minor added depth,
clarity, and jubilance when it comes to the score. Nicholas
and Alexandra sounds altogether dated. Don't expect a
great presentation in the audio department on this release.
main supplement is an Isolated
Score Track containing the music of composer Richard Rodney Bennett.
receives a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 presentation. This was
acclaimed score at the time of the film's release, and it earned the
Academy Award nomination. Fans of the score will enjoy this supplement.
is also a printed essay
written by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo. She writes extensive notes
film's behind the scenes production aspects and it makes for an
quite worthwhile read for anyone interested in the film and its
are included in1080p High Definition, but they are clearly dated and
are not as
stellar as some may hope to discover. Still, the effort to include
vintage featurettes in HD at all is something worth appreciating.
min.) focuses on the actresses who portrayed the young Tsar's
takes a look behind-the-scenes at the use of makeup on the film with
transforming the actors into their respective roles.
Royal Touch (6
is about the Academy Award winning costumes used on the film.
and Alexandra offers
a bag of
decidedly mixed results. On the one hand, you have an entirely lush and
impressive scope in design with expansive sets, costumes, makeup, and
technical success at every corner of the film and elaborate efforts.
the film's really lacking characters that are easy to connect to.
historical backdrop being significant there isn't as much time spent
develop characters to make audiences care about them and the film
of that element. This is a historically interesting motion-picture a
will be able to recognize as an ambitious and worthy effort but it
its own established sense of potential.
Nicholas and Alexandra should be
pleased with the Blu-ray presentation even despite some disappointment
the audio. For that audience, this release is a worthy purchase. The
video presentation and amount of extra supplemental material included
notable. As for everyone else, it's
worth seeking out for
history buffs hoping to see some extra artistic flair and creativity
audience members should probably rent the film first and decide about a
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.