My computer needed to rest. I’ve had large files open for a couple of weeks, and with zoom calls most of the day (and night), it decided it needed to take a break and update for a couple of days.
But I’m ready to get back to our #30daysoftravlelthroughcinema!
Thursday’s movie was “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” A classic 1966 film set in a fictional town off the coast of New England during a tumultuous time between Russia and the U.S. The film is based on the novel, “The Off-Islanders” by Nathaniel Benchley, the title references the slang term for summer residents.
A Russian submarine runs aground off the coast of this fictional town because the captain wanted to get a glimpse of America. This is a dangerous time between the two countries and going on land could have lead to a world war. However, nine men sneak onto the island to look for a boat to pull the submarine.
Talent included some of Hollywood’s most amazing actors. Alan Arkin’s Oscar-nominated (Best Actor in a Lead Role), acting debut, was for his performance of the Russian submarine captain. Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show, Oceans Eleven) was writer, Walt Whitacker, who had rented a summer home with his family and was the only one who knew why the Russians had landed. Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest) played Walt’s wife. Brian Keith (The Parent Trap, Family Affair) and comedian Jonathan Winters were the respective law on the island.
By personalizing a dangerous confrontation between Russians and Americans, it reveals, through broad farce, the good and bad in both, the strengths and weaknesses of people under stress and the fundamental fact that, after all, Russians and Americans are basically human beings and, therefore, share basic human qualities. – original article published in The New York Times by Robert Alden, May 26, 1966 ‘The Russians Are Coming’:Broad Farce Arrives at Three Theaters.
You may be wondering why I chose a comical film from the 1960s set in a fictional New England town about a Russian submarine during the Cold War. Traveling the world through cinema is not just about places. It’s about people too. This film bridged the gap between the U.S. and Russia in terms of filmmaking. There’s a story I heard somewhere that when the filmmakers first showed it to representatives of Russia, they started to show disproval when the Russian captain was going to blow up the island. However, when they saw the New England townspeople, as well as the Russians, run to work together to save a little boy that had fallen from a tall building, they expressed happiness.
The filmmakers were brave to make this film and to even read the script. But as The New York Times said in 1966 in their review of the film, “The wild comedy turns grim at the end, grim and suspenseful, and is only saved by a deus ex machina. But forget that. Go to the theater to enjoy this farce. The cold war has owed us all a good laugh for a long, long time.”
Filmmaking unites nations, people, cultures, and it tells stories that can transcend time. “The Russians Are Coming…” may seem like an old comedy that does not really relate to us now; however, the story behind what was going on in our world and how the people of this little New England town reacted says a lot of how we should behave. It does not matter what our governments do or how they respond or react to various nations: what matters is how we, the people of each country, respond or react to each other. At the end of the day, we are all citizens of the world, working together to live our best possible lives.