Urban Cinefile
"If you play the cello, you can always practice at home. But if you are an actor, you have to practice in front of people"  -Al Pacino
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday June 25, 2018 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



After jointly pushing the Turks back from the Steppes in the early 16th century, the Poles break their agreement and force the Cossacks into the hills. Cossack Colonel Taras Bulba (Yul Brynner), raises his son, Andrei Bulba (Tony Curtis) to learn the ways of the Poles so he can one day defeat them in battle. However, Andrei falls in love with Natalie (Christine Kaufmann) the daughter of a Polish Nobleman, triggering danger and conflict of loyalties for all.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Needless to say, Ukrainian film lovers worship this movie, a celebration of Cossack culture and macho, the latter personified by Yul Brynner as Taras Bulba. The Poles and Cossacks had an uneasy alliance which lasted only while they were in battle against a common enemy. The Poles looked down on the Cossacks as unruly and unsophisticated - but the best fighters in the world. When the fighting ends and the Turks have been routed (thanks to Taras Bulba), the relationship ends badly and the Cossacks head off to the hills to regroup and plan their revenge. And Taras to raise his newborn son, Andrei.

Within minutes the baby is Tony Curtis, drinking and partying like a true Cossack: and they sure know how to party. A lot. But he's soon sent to school in Poland to get to know and understand them - all the better to fight them when the time comes. It's not quite as audacious as you might think to have Tony Curtis play a 16th century Cossack (born Bernard Schwarz, he was the son of Hungarian migrants) and is best known for light comic roles; but like many great comic actors, when he turns his mind to it, his dramatic work has heaps of oomph. Together with the combination of Yul Brynner and director J. Lee Thompson's conviction, it all works well, with a little licence for the film's era (1962).

Brynner is wonderful as he always was, and Tony Curtis gets by with the sheer volume of his boyish, blue eyed, roguish charm, while Christine Kaufmann is most appealing as the pretty cause of all the trouble, banished when her brother intervenes in her romance with Andrei but finds himself on the wrong end of the fight. (She had an affair with Curtis during the shoot, much to his wife's (Janet Leigh) chagrin.) It's the Romeo and Juliet effect, as the young lovers from two sides of bitter enemies can't hope to unite their clans, but to further divide them.

The other big star of the film is the great Franz Waxman's fabulous score. By turns majestic, colourful, playful and traditionally-inspired, able to switch characteristics in a single bar, it's quite a tour de force. It drives the film and adds enormously to its entertainment value. Waxman is surely a co-director of this film.

The lush, epic nature of the production delivers plenty of eye candy the frolic of romance gives respite from the brutal fighting in several exciting battle scenes - especially near the end. The spectacle is made possible by the co-operation of the Argentine army ....

When the Poles want the Cossacks to help them fight in a Holy War against the infidels in the Middle East, Taras Bulba unites the Cossacks against the Poles at the climactic battle and siege of Dubno - to where Natalia has been banished. Andrei has a tragic, no-win choice ...

Published November 27, 2008

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 1962)

CAST: Tony Curtis, Yul Brynner, Christine Kaufmann, Sam Wanamaker, Brad Dexter, Guy Rolfe, Perry Lopez, George Macready, Ilka Windish, Vladimir Sokoloff, Vladimir Irman,

PRODUCER: Harold Hecht

DIRECTOR: J. Lee Thompson

SCRIPT: Waldo Slat, Karl Turnberg (novel by Nikolai Gogol)


EDITOR: Folam Blankstead, , Gene Milford, William Reynolds, Eda Warren

MUSIC: Franz Waxman


RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: [English, Spanish subtitles]


DVD RELEASE: October 20, 2008

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2018