Jack Frost (1964 film)
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One-sheet for Jack Frost
|Directed by||Aleksandr Rou|
|Written by||Nikolai Erdman
|Music by||Nikolai Budashkin|
|Distributed by||Gorky Film Studios (Soviet Union), Embassy Pictures (USA) Shout! Factory (2010,DVD)|
|Running time||84 min|
Jack Frost (Russian: Морозко, Morózko) is a traditional Russian fairy tale which served as the basis for a Soviet production (Gorky Film Studio) that was originally released in 1964. A version with a new soundtrack was released in 1966 in the U.S. It was directed by Aleksandr Rou, and starred Eduard Izotov as Ivan, Natalya Sedykh as Nastenka, and Oleksandr Khvylia as Father Frost. The script was written by Nikolai Erdman. The soundtrack was composed by Nikolai Budashkin, who was inspired by the works of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
The lovely, humble Nastenka is despised by her stepmother who favors her own mean-spirited and ugly daughter, Marfushka, and her meek father is powerless to stop her. After forcing Nastenka to knit socks before the rooster crows (with Nastenka ultimately imploring the sun to go down again so she can have more time), Nastenka's stepmother gives Nastenka the tasks of feeding the chickens, watering the cattle, splitting wood, and sweeping the yard. We are then introduced to Ivan, who, finishing his chores, heads out into the woods after receiving some final words of guidance from his mother, such as not forgetting his mother, not harming the weak, and honoring those who are old. To all these pieces of advice Ivan off-handedly replies "Don't worry" repeatedly.
The story then cuts to a group of bandits in the middle of a version of "she loves me, she loves me not" replaced with the phrases "we will rob them, we will not rob them/we will eat them, we won't eat them/we will beat them, we will be beaten." While traveling in the woods, Ivan is accosted by these bandits. He quickly distracts them and tosses their wooden clubs so high in the air that he claims they won't fall down again until winter. Later, Ivan meets the elderly Father Mushroom (Mikhail Yanshin), who playfully challenges Ivan to try and catch him, offering a prize if he does. Being able to turn invisible, Father Mushroom soon wins, and offers a contrite Ivan the prize anyway - a fine bow and quiver of arrows. However, when asked to bow before him in gratitude, Ivan boastfully declares "The bear may bow before you, but not Ivan" and leaves. Father Mushroom remarks that the bear will indeed bow before him, but it would be Ivan's back that would bend.
Later, Ivan comes across Nastenka in the woods, ordered to pour water on a stump to make flowers grow in it. Taken by her beauty, he immediately asks her to marry him, citing his fine health and many accomplishments. She demurs, noting that he is too much of a braggart. Eager to prove his worth, he attempts to shoot a mother bear with her cubs. Father Mushroom is watching nearby, and as the panicked Nastenka puts her water bucket on his head, he changes Ivan's head into a bear. Horrified at the change, Ivan accuses Nastenka of being a witch and runs off, leaving her to sorrowfully weep alone by the stump, her tears causing flowers to grow from it.
Wandering the land, Ivan comes across Father Mushroom again, who scolds Ivan over his selfish nature, and how he never acted selflessly for anyone else. Thinking that all he must do to change back is a good deed, Ivan immediately seeks out people, demanding to know how he can help them; having a bear's head only terrifies them, however, and they all flee from him. He finally comes across an old woman carrying sticks to her home and offers to carry her, despite the distance being over many mountains. Arriving at her home, the woman thanks Ivan, noting how handsome he must be; though Ivan notes he is still a bear and thinks she is mocking him, she explains that she is blind - which is why she didn't run from him. Returning to the woods where he and Nastenka first met, Ivan comes across the old woman's walking stick and takes pity on her, vowing to return it. Nearby, Father Mushroom is pleased at his selflessness and restores Ivan to human form. The stick then vanishes.
Meanwhile, the evil stepmother is trying to marry off Marfushka. After dressing her up in fine clothes, covering her in makeup and attaching a false braid on to Marfushka's head, she forces Nastenka to wear a rag over her head and puts mud on her face to make her ugly. A wealthy suitor comes and asks Marfushka, who has never done a day's work in her life, to prepare a meal for him. While chasing geese into a pond, Marfushka nearly drowns until she is rescued by Nastenka. In the process, Marfushka's braid and makeup wash away and Nastenka's beauty is revealed. The suitor and his mother choose Nastenka for a bride instead. The mother can't have this, so she orders her husband to go drop Nastenka off in the woods. On the way, the father decides he's had enough of his wife's bullying and vows to bring Nastenka back home. Believing her stepmother will be even crueler to him for doing so, Nastenka jumps off the back of his sleigh. There, she comes across Father Frost (aka Jack Frost) bringing winter to the woods. Touched by her kindness and unselfishness, he rescues her from freezing to death and brings her to his home.
Ivan is searching for Nastenka, now that he's fully human again. He comes across the witch Baba Yaga, whom he pleads for aid to find Nastenka. She flatly refuses to help, and after a short battle of wills with her moving house (which the old woman loses), she animates a group of trees to kill Ivan. After nearly being cooked alive, Ivan tricks her and threatens to bake the witch in her own oven until she tells him how to find Nastenka. After he leaves, the angry witch sends her black cat to cause Nastenka's death before Ivan can reach her. The enchanted sled sent by the witch to show Ivan the way to Nastenka leaves him trapped in a snowbank. While Father Frost is running some errands, the cat tricks Nastenka into accidentally touching his staff, which freezes her forever. Nastenka's father and her dog sense that she is in trouble. The stepmother and Marfushka prevent him from leaving, but the dog escapes and rescues Ivan from freezing in the snow. They both arrive at Father Frost's home to find her frozen. Ivan pleads for forgiveness for his behavior towards her. The power of love trumps the staff's power, and she is restored. To celebrate, Father Frost gives Nastenka and Ivan a large dowry of jewels and a horse-driven sleigh for their impending nuptials.
They return to the village, where Nastenka's greedy stepsister eyes their fortune and demands the same. Unfortunately for her, when she tries to duplicate Nastenka's adventure in the snowbound forest, Father Frost is so horrified by her rudeness that he sends her back on a pig-driven sleigh, with a box full of crows as a dowry. The stepmother is humiliated in front of the entire village and her husband after bragging that she would return with countless treasure, while the father is able to stand up for himself and regain his place as head of the household. On their way to Ivan's home, he and Nastenka are accosted by the bandits he'd encountered before, this time with help from the witch. After being overpowered, they are saved when the clubs from earlier fall conveniently on the bandits' heads, and they trap the witch in her own giant mortar. Nastenka and Ivan have a sumptuous wedding, and live happily ever after.
- Alexander Khvylya as Jack Frost
- Natalya Sedykh as Nástenka
- Eduard Izotov as Iván
- Inna Churikova as Marfúshka
- Pavel Pavlenko as Nastenka's father
- Vera Altayskaya as Nastenka's stepmother
- Georgy Millyar as Baba Yaga
- Mikhail Yanshin as Father Mushroom (voiced by Galina Borisova)
- Anatoly Kubatsky as bandit chief
- Valentin Bryleev as suitor
- Tatyana Pelttser as suitor's mother
- Tatyana Barysheva as matchmaker
- Varvara Popova as old blind woman
- Zinaida Vorkul as Ivan's mother
DVD release and other influences
The original Russian version was released on DVD in 2000 by Ruscico under the cover title Father Frost. It has nine different subtitle options including English, as well as Russian, English and French audio tracks and special features. It was previously released on VHS by United Home Video under the title Magical Wonderland.
In 1997, Jack Frost was the featured film on the movie-mocking television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 as experiment (episode) #813; it was released on DVD July 13, 2010 as part of the series' Volume XVIII DVD set.
Dobrynya Nikitich and Zmey Gorynych, a 2006 Russian animated film, parodies Jack Frost (especially the scenes with Baba Yaga and the trees). The Tartars take the part of the bandits in the original film.
The movie has been shown on Czechoslovak, Czech and Slovak TV channels (under name Mrazík or Mrázik) annually since 1965, usually around New Year's Day. Baba Yaga was dubbed in the Czech Republic by František Filipovský.
- Morozko at the Internet Movie Database
- MST3K Episode Guide: Jack Frost
- Review of Ruscico DVD (in Russian, with helpful images)