Tag Archives: Russia

Classy Theme Music: Reilly, Ace of Spies

ReillyAceofSpiesThe 1983 miniseries Reilly Ace of Spies dramatizes the life of Sidney Reilly who helped inspire Ian Fleming’s fictional spy James Bond. Based on the 1967 book of the same name by Robin Bruce Lockhart, the miniseries starred Sam Neil as Sydney Reilly. It is a masterful performance and likely increased his fame as a result. The problem with the miniseries is that if you read the book, too much creative license was employed in dramatizing the stories. Sometimes that can be good but it changes the tenor of the stories and changes things in ways that do not make sense.

It is however a very entertaining series if you just see it as creative fiction. Sam Neill plays Reilly well. One of the problems is that Reilly is a dark character. He could be charming, clever, and could acquire intelligence quite well when needed. He was also unscrupulous, ruthless, a serial bigamist and womanizer, and a murderer. But his pluses and the ability to speak Russian fluently (along with several other languages)made him a logical choice to be sent to Russia in 1917. And it is those events in Russia that have historical significance.

The theme chosen to open each episode comes from the romance movement of The Gadfly by Dmitri Shostakovich. Personally it seems a bit melancholy for me but considering its setting is well chosen. Reilly’s world is shown through the various photographs that flash before us as the tune plays.  The tune sticks with you long after the show ends. This YouTube rendition of the opening uses it owns photos of the period to mimic the opening of the show (which is copyrighted material)along with the music. The last photograph is of Reilly.

I highly recommend reading the original book and then Andrew Cook’s Ace of Spies:The True Story of Sydney Reilly(2004). For in depth look at what British spies did in Russia (including Reilly), Giles Milton’s Russian Roulette: : How British Spies Thwarted Lenin’s Plot for Global Revolution(2013) is excellent.


Russia May Soon Ban Movies That “Demonize” Their Country But Luckily Titanic and Original Star Wars Okay

Photo:Julmin (retouched by Surendil)
Photo:Julmin(retouched by Surendil)

Yesterday I wrote about how North Korea rigidly controls access to foreign media by banning them completely. Of course it has resulted in a large black market for western movies. Russia, which has slipped back into Czarist autocracy,now wants to ban foreign films that demonizes Russia or shows it in a bad light. The ministry has taken over all film funding causing problems with joint productions with foreign partners. The notion of limiting foreign movies shown in Russia has been around for a while but now, thanks to anti-Western sentiment, it probably will become law.

Supposedly only new movies being distributed would be subject to these new controls, older movies especially those on an approved list would have no problem. Star Wars (the original and none of the sequels or prequels)is okay. James Cameron’s Titanic makes the cut as well. Not surprisingly the pro-Beijing The Last Emperor also makes the cut. Others from Hollywood include: Apocalypse Now,Citizen Kane, Cabaret, Bambi, Gone With The Wind, and Scarface. The Japanese film The Seven Samurai also makes the cut along with other movies from Europe and Hungary amongst others.

The purpose, of course, is to bully the major film companies into portraying Russia if nothing else in a positive light. They probably will like movies that show how bad things were under the Czars or how Bonaparte and Hitler were driven from Russian soil. They will likely not care for pro-Western anti-communist movies that paint them in not so favorable a light. Or ones that depict Stalin as a mass murderer instead of saving Russia from the Nazi barbarism. Or ones that show them taking over many Eastern European nations after World War II and putting in place friendly (read communist) governments.

If history is an example, the Hollywood moguls will play ball. They did so for Nazi Germany during the 1930’s and today do the same for Communist China (which is why you rarely see movies critical of that regime since they will not allow them to be shown there). But perhaps things have changed because of what is going on in the Ukraine. At least for now Titanic is allowed but of course that can change, if like the old days, when the minister has to blow his nose and has a change of heart.

Postscript:
I came across an interesting story in The St. Petersburg Times where a group of wealthy Orthodox are hoping to get Hollywood to produce movies featuring Russia. The one being promoted is the life of 14th-century Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur, also known as Tamerlane the Great. More interesting is what Andrei Poklonsky states:”Long before the discovery of America, we had a great civilization. At the end of the 14th century this was under threat. Tamerlane’s invincible army of 200,000 soldiers was set to plough through our lands of only 35,000 fighters. There was seemingly no chance for us, but after the whole country prayed for deliverance, the Mother of God told Tamerlane in a dream to retreat. Faith saved our country.” Apparently some in Hollywood are interested. And supports exactly what the Russian Culture Ministry wants to promote. (Source:Orthodox Philanthropists Planning to Finance Russian-Themed Blockbusters in Hollywood,29 Aug 2014, St Petersburg Times)

Sources:
1. Russian Officials Push for a Ban on Films That ‘Demonize’ Their Country(27 Aug 2014,Yahoo! Movies -originally from The Hollywood Reporter)
2.Russia Officially Recognizes ‘Star Wars’ as Film Classic (28 Aug 2014, Moscow Times)


Cold Champagne–From The Baltic Sea

A press release bouncing around the Internet announces that divers have located 20 bottles of 1780’s champagne that were destined for Russian nobility. The brought up a bottle and drank from it; no word was mentioned how it tasted. Considering that it was 200 feet down in the cold Baltic, there is a good chance the champagne might still be okay to drink (albeit a very expensive one to be sure).

Each bottle, speculates the press release, could fetch $68,000 each. Finding such relics has occurred before with mixed results. There is a Titanic angle though.

Wineflyers International, an Australian company, let it be known they had sourced and sold six bottles of wine from the Titanic to “a high profile customer in Asia”, in 2002.

It seems unlikely it came from the wreck unless it was brought up and sold before RMS Titanic filed its salvage claim. More likely it came from a stock of wine destined for Titanic but not aboard when it sank.

Either way 230 old champagne kept chilled in the Baltic Sea would make for one heck of a party for someone with money to spend. Just do not spoil it with bad caviar and lackluster toast. Get Eric Ripert to cook a good accompaniment and keep Paula Deen far away. 🙂

Source: PRLog.Org, Most Expensive Champagne From The Ocean Floor, 24 Jul 2010