Kidnapping, Caucasian Style

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Kidnapping, Caucasian Style
Kidnapping, Caucasian Style.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Leonid Gaidai
Produced by Mosfilm
Written by Yakov Kostyukovsky
Moris Slobodskoy
Leonid Gaidai
Starring Aleksandr Demyanenko
Natalya Varley
Yuri Nikulin
Yevgeny Morgunov
Georgy Vitsin
Vladimir Etush
Frunzik Mkrtchyan
Music by Aleksandr Zatsepin
Cinematography Konstantin Brovin
Distributed by Mosfilm
Release date(s)
  • April 1, 1967 (1967-04-01)
Running time 77 min
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian

Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (Russian: Кавказская пленница)[n 1] is a 1967 Soviet comedy film dealing with a humorous plot revolving around bride kidnapping, an old tradition that used to exist in certain regions of the Northern Caucasus.

The original title derives from the Alexander Pushkin poem, "The Prisoner of the Caucasus",[1] and Leo Tolstoy's short story, "The Prisoner of the Caucasus".[2] The film was directed by Leonid Gaidai. It is the last film featuring the trio of the "Coward" (Georgy Vitsin), the "Fool" (Yuri Nikulin), and the "Pro" (Yevgeny Morgunov), a group of bumbling antiheroes similar in some ways to the Three Stooges. The film premiered in Moscow on April 1, 1967.

Background[edit]

As a result of the popularity of the earlier film, Operation Y, Yakov Kostyukovsky and Moris Slobodsky requested Mosfilm to support a new film about the character of Shurik. The screenplay for the new film was initially titled "Shurik in the mountains" and was divided into two parts. The first part, "Prisoner of the Caucasus", was about the student Nina who comes to visit her relatives in the Caucasus and is kidnapped by a local director named Okhokhov. The second part, "Snow Man and Others", was about a scientific expedition seeking the Abominable Snow Man in a mountainous region, with the Coward, the Fool, and the Pro pretending to be the Snow Man in order to hide from local law enforcement. In the end, Shurik and Nina were supposed to expose the trio. As the process went forward, it was decided to focus on just the first part of the screenplay.

Yuri Nikulin and Evgeny Morgunov initially refused to be part of the film as they felt the screenplay was too unrealistic. In the end, Gaidai convinced both actors to reprise their roles by agreeing to make some adjustments to the screenplay. It also took a long time to cast the role of Nina, with more than 500 screen tests completed before Natalya Varley was selected for the role. Because she worked as a circus tight rope walker prior to acting, she had an easier time with the stunt work and physicality required in the role. On the other hand, her relative lack of acting experience made the dialogue scenes more challenging for her.

In the case of the character of Saakhov, there were disagreements between Gaidai and the actor playing Saakhov, Vladimir Etush. While Etush thought Saakhov should be played as an accomplished, intelligent man who takes himself seriously, Gaidai wanted more of an over-the-top performance.

During production, the screenplay was also altered by Soviet censors. For instance, a phrase yelled by the Coward was originally written as: "Long live the Soviet justice system, the most humanitarian justice system in the world!" was changed to "Long live our justice system, the most humanitarian justice system in the world!" as the original was viewed as too obviously mocking the Soviet justice system. In addition, a scene was removed in which the Coward scratches an "F" into a fence, the Pro scratches a "U", and, after a militsiya office appears at the scene, the Fool quickly scratches "NNY FILM"[clarification needed].

After release, it became the biggest Soviet hit of 1967 and became known as one of the greatest Russian comedies of all time.

Plot[edit]

A kind, yet naïve, ethnography student named Shurik (Demyanenko), known from earlier films as a student at the Polytechnic Institute, goes to the Caucasus to learn ancient customs and traditions practiced by the locals, including local "myths, legends, and toasts". At the start of the film, Shurik is making his way along a mountain road in the Caucasus on a donkey. He comes upon a truck driver named Edik whose truck refuses to start. The donkey gets stubborn and neither man is able to get his respective mode of transportation going.

Suddenly, a young woman named Nina (Natalya Varley) comes walking down the road. The donkey immediately begins to move after her and the truck starts working again. Nina is "a beauty, a member of the Komsomol, and an athlete" - she is a student of a pedagogical institute. Her uncle, tovarisch Dzhabrailov (Frunzik Mkrtchyan), works as a chauffeur for tovarisch Saakhov (Vladimir Etush), who is the director of the regional agricultural cooperative and the wealthiest and most powerful man in town. Saakhov likes Nina and invites her to take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new marriage hall. Shurik shows up to the ribbon-cutting completely drunk because the locals refuse to tell him local toasts unless he drinks each time. He ends up becoming disorderly and carted off by the militsiya.

The trio arrive in a red Adler Trumpf Junior similar to the one pictured.[3]

Meanwhile, Saakhov decides to marry Nina and strikes a deal with Dzhabrail to purchase the bride in return for 20 heads of sheep and 1 imported Finnish Rosenlew refrigerator. Rather than asking for Nina's agreement, which her uncle realizes would be impossible to get, they decide to kidnap her instead. The trio of the Coward, the Fool, and the Pro are hired to do the job, but find it difficult to get Nina alone because she has started to spend a lot of time with Shurik. At this point, Saakhov has the idea to unwittingly get Shurik in on it by telling him that the kidnapping of the bride is a local custom. Dzhabrail meets with Shurik in a restaurant and tell him this story, lying him that Nina has already agreed to marry Saakhov and that she wants to be kidnapped in order to comply with tradition. Shurik is devastated because he is in love with Nina, but thinking that this is what she wants, he agrees to help.

Nina has gone camping and spends a night in a sleeping bag. Shurik tells her an emotional good-bye and, misunderstanding him, she shrugs and also says good-bye. Shurik then zips her up in her sleeping bag and signals to the Coward, the Fool, and the Pro, who run over to grab the helpless Nina and transport her to Saakhov's dacha. Soon after, Shurik learns that the kidnapping was real and the story about it begin a custom was a lie. Shurik immediately runs to the militsiya, but Saakhov (who Shurik does not realize is involved) is waiting for him outside. Saakhov explains to Shurik that if he says anything, the militsiya will arrest him as a co-conspirator and suggests they go straight to the local prosecutor instead. Shurik agrees, but Saakhov tricks him by leading him to a house where there is a party going on and getting him to drink, then calling doctors from the local psychiatric clinic and having Shurik committed.

Meanwhile, at Saakhov's dacha, the trio of kidnappers lock Nina in a room and try to cheer her up by bringing food and singing songs. Nina pretends to be interested, but then when the kidnappers are distracted, she tries to run away. She is stopped by her uncle and forced to return to her room, where she is locked up. Saakhov arrives with a bottle of wine and goes in to speak with Nina, but runs out moments later covered from head to toe in the wine. Deciding to give Nina some time to "think about it", Dzhabrail and Saakhov drive away from the dacha, leaving the trio of kidnappers in charge of Nina.

At the hospital, Shurik finally realizes that Saakhov is the one behind the kidnapping. Shurik is able to escape from the psychiatric ward and happens to run into Edik, the truck driver he had met at the beginning of the film. Together, they drive toward Saakhov's dacha. When they arrive, they have changed into doctors' uniforms and convince the Coward, the Fool, and the Pro that they are doing emergency vaccinations against a dangerous plague that is affecting the area. Under this guise, they inject the trio with sedatives. While Edik is doing the injections, Shurik goes up to Nina's room. Still thinking that he was in on the kidnapping, she hits him over the head with a fruit plate, runs out of the room, jumps out of a first floor window, and steals one of the trucks.

A car chase ensues in which the kidnappers chase Nina and Shurik and Edik chase the kidnappers. The kidnappers catch up with Nina, commandeer her vehicle, and tie her up, but at that moment the sedative begins to take effect and they all fall asleep. Shurik catches up with the truck right before it veers off the road and stops it. He begins to untie Nina, but she attacks him, still thinking that he is in on it with the kidnappers. To reveal his feelings for her, Shurik kisses Nina before he finishes untying her.

The action moves to Saakhov's apartment at night. He is alone. Suddenly, Nina, Shurik, and Edik appear holding weapons and dressed in masks, calling themselves the enforcers of the "law of the mountains". Saakhov does not recognize them and, scared to death, jumps out of the window. Edik shoots him with his rifle, which turns out to be loaded with nothing more than salt. He hits him in the rump and, when Saakhov is brought up on charges in court the next day, he is unable to sit. The film ends with Shurik walking Nina to a bus and then following after her on his donkey.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Kidnapping, Caucasian Style followed the success of Gaidai's previous film, Operation Y and Shurik's Other Adventures, which featured some of the same characters (Shurik, and the trio of the Fool, the Coward, and the Pro).[4] According to one of the writers, Yakov Kostyukovsky, Gaidai had decided that the trio had reached the height of their popularity and did not want to feature them again. Kostyukovsky and co-writer Slobodsky convinced Gaidai to film Kidnapping, Caucasian Style.[4]

Censorship[edit]

The censors of Goskino had decided to prevent the film's release but Leonid Brezhnev, who was sworn in as the Soviet president less than a year before, saw the film and expressed his fondness for Gaidai's work. Due to Brezhnev's appreciation, the censors reconsidered their initial decision and the movie was officially released.[4]

Reception[edit]

The film topped the Soviet box office in 1967 with 76.54 million viewers.[5]

Soundtracks[edit]

"Pesenka o medvedyah" ("Song about bears")

The song was recorded by Aida Vedishcheva (Vais), with Varley lip-synching during the performance of the song in the film. Varley accompanies her performance with a brief display of the "twist", conveying — in concert with the fast-paced melody — the light-hearted and optimistic theme of the song.

"Yesli b' ya byl sultan" ("If I were a sultan")

The song was performed by Nikulin, with Vitsyn and Morgunov featured in the chorus. It is a comical song about the polygamy practiced in Middle Eastern cultures, with Varley dancing in a style partly reminiscent of the Old Tbilisi dance theme during its performance.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ The full name of the film is Кавказская пленница, или Новые приключения Шурика, Kavkazskaya plennitsa, ili Novie priklucheniya Shurika, literally translating to A Female Prisoner of the Caucasus or Shurik's New Adventures.
Sources

External links[edit]