The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming
|The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming|
Promotional film poster
|Directed by||Norman Jewison|
|Produced by||Norman Jewison|
|Written by||Nathaniel Benchley (novel)
William Rose (screenplay)
Eva Marie Saint
|Music by||Johnny Mandel
|Cinematography||Joseph F. Biroc|
|Editing by||Hal Ashby
J. Terry Williams
|Studio||The Mirisch Corporation|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||May 25, 1966|
|Running time||126 min.|
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) is an American comedy film. Based on the Nathaniel Benchley novel The Off-Islanders, the film was directed by Norman Jewison and adapted for the screen by William Rose.
The movie tells the Cold War story of the comedic chaos which ensues when the Soviet submarine Спрут (pronounced "sproot" and meaning "octopus") accidentally runs aground near a small New England island town. The all-star cast includes Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Theodore Bikel, Jonathan Winters, and in his first film, Alan Arkin.
A Russian submarine draws too close to the New England coast when its captain wants to take a good look at America and runs aground on a sandbar near an island off Cape Ann, Gloucester. Rather than radio for help and risk an embarrassing international incident, the captain sends a nine-man landing party headed by his second-in-command Lieutenant Yuri Rozanov (Alan Arkin) to find a motor launch to help free the sub from the bar. The men arrive at the house of Walt Whittaker (Carl Reiner), a vacationing playwright from New York City. Whittaker is eager to get his wife Elspeth (Eva Marie Saint) and two children, obnoxious nine and half-year-old Pete (Sheldon Collins) and three-year-old Annie (Cindy Putnam), off the island now that summer is over.
Failing to convince the Whittakers that his group are Norwegians (all of the Russians are conspicuously dressed in sinister all-black clothing), Rozanov draws a gun and promises no harm if the family provides information about military on the island (none) and police force (small), and gives them keys to their car. Walt and Elspeth provide the answers and the keys, and the Russians depart, leaving behind a young sailor, Alexei Kolchin (John Phillip Law), to guard the Whittakers and, subsequently, their attractive 18-year-old neighbor, Alison Palmer (Andrea Dromm).
The Whittakers' station wagon quickly runs out of gasoline, forcing the Russians to walk. They steal an old sedan from Muriel Everett (Doro Merande), the postmistress; she calls Alice Foss (Tessie O'Shea), the gossipy telephone switchboard operator, and before long, wild rumors throw the entire island into confusion. As level-headed Police Chief Link Mattocks (Brian Keith) and his bumbling assistant Norman Jonas (Jonathan Winters) try to squelch the inept vigilante movement of blustering Fendall Hawkins (Paul Ford), Walt, accompanied by Elspeth, manages to overpower Kolchin because the Russian is reluctant to hurt anyone. During the commotion, Kolchin flees, but when Walt and Elspeth leave to find help, he returns. He reassures a scared Alison and offers her his submachine gun, which she does not accept.
Trying to find the Russians on his own, Walt is re-captured by them. After subduing Mrs. Foss and disabling the island's telephone switchboard, seven of the Russians manage to steal a motorboat and head back to their sub, which is still high and dry. Back at the Whittaker house, Kolchin is by now falling in love with Alison. Walt manages to free himself, and he and Elspeth return to the house and almost shoot Rozanov who arrives there just before they do. With the misunderstandings cleared up, the Whittakers, Rozanov and Kolchin decide to head into town together to clear the air with everyone over just what is going on.
With the rising tide, the submarine frees itself, and the Russian captain (Theodore Bikel) sets out in search of his missing men. He finds Rozanov and Kolchin at the harbor and threatens to open fire on the town unless the other seven are returned to him. Chief Mattocks arrives with the rest of the villagers, the men armed with various weapons from revolvers to war-time "souvenir" rifles. As tension mounts, two small boys go up in the church steeple to see better. As the tension approaches breaking point, one of the boys (Johnny Whitaker) slips and falls, but his belt gets caught on a gutter. Immediately uniting to save the child, islanders and Russians form a human pyramid and Kolchin rescues him.
Peace and harmony is established between the two parties, but unfortunately an over-eager Hawkins has called in the Air Force. In a joint decision, the submarine heads out of the harbor with a convoy of villagers in small boats protecting it. Kolchin says goodbye to Alison, the boat with the seven Russians reaches the group shortly thereafter, and the seven board the submarine, just before two U.S. Air Force F-101B Voodoo jets arrive. They break off after seeing the convoy, and the submarine is free to sail to safe waters.
- Alan Arkin : Lt. Yuri Rozanov
- Carl Reiner : Walt Whittaker (aka "Whittaker Walt")
- Eva Marie Saint : Elspeth Whittaker
- Brian Keith : Police Chief Link Mattocks
- Jonathan Winters : Officer Norman Jonas
- Paul Ford : Fendall Hawkins
- Theodore Bikel : The Russian Captain
- Tessie O'Shea : Alice Foss (telephone operator)
- John Phillip Law : Alexei Kolchin
- Ben Blue : Luther Grilk
- Don Keefer : Irving Christiansen
- Andrea Dromm : Alison Palmer
- Sheldon Collins : Pete Whittaker (as Sheldon Golomb)
- Guy Raymond : Lester Tilly
- Cliff Norton : Charlie Hinkson
- Michael J. Pollard : Stanley, the airplane mechanic
- Richard Schaal : Oscar Maxwell
- Milos Milos : Lysenko
- Cindy Putnam : Annie Wihittaker
Although set on the fictional "Gloucester Island" off the coast of Massachusetts, the movie was filmed on the coast of Northern California, mainly in Mendocino. The harbor scenes were filmed in Noyo Harbor, a small town south of Fort Bragg. Because of the filming location on the West Coast, the dawn scene at the beginning of the film was actually filmed at dusk through a pink filter.
The submarine used was a fabrication. The United States Navy refused to loan one for the production and barred the studio from bringing a real Russian submarine, forcing the studio to create their own. It was segmented into four parts, each having its own motor to power it.
The planes were actual F-101 Voodoo Jets from the 84th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, located at the nearby Hamilton Air Force Base. They were the only Air Force planes that were based near the location of the supposed island.
According to Norman Jewison, the film – released at the height of the Cold War – had considerable impact in both Washington and Moscow. It was one of the few films to portray the Russians in a positive light. Senator Ernest Gruening mentioned the film in a speech in Congress, and a copy of it was screened in the Kremlin. According to Jewison, when screened at the Soviet film writers' union, Sergei Bondarchuk was moved to tears.
Pablo Ferro created the main title sequence, using the American flag's red, white and blue colors and the Soviet hammer and sickle as transitional elements, zooming into each to create a montage, which ultimately worked to establish the tone of the film. The music in the sequence alternates between the American "Yankee Doodle" march and a Russian marching song called "Polyushko Pole" (Полюшко Поле, usually "Meadowlands" in English).
Much of the dialog was spoken by the Russian characters, and at the time this movie was made few American actors were proficient in a Russian accent. Musician and character actor Leon Belasco, who was born in Russia, spoke fluent Russian and specialized in foreign accents during his 60-year career, was the dialog director. John Phillip Law's consistently, magnificently incorrect pronunciation of difficult English phonemes, most notably in his slow, careful, hopeless struggle to master Alison Palmer's name (ah-LYEE-sown PAHL-myerr), was remarkably authentic by the standards of the day.
The film was a hit in its day, and helped introduce two famous stars, Alan Arkin (who played Rozanov) and Johnny Whitaker (who did a cameo as the boy who is rescued from the church steeple). Arkin, a Russian speaker, did so well as Rozanov that he would be sought for both American characters and a few ethnic ones. After he appeared in the film, Whitaker was sent for by TV producers to audition for the TV show Family Affair, which also starred Brian Keith. Another star in the film, Theodore Bikel, was able to pronounce Russian so well despite not actually being able to speak it that he won the role of the sub captain.
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Alan Arkin)
- Writers Guild of America, East – Best Written American Comedy (William Rose)
- Academy Award for Best Picture
- Academy Award for Best Actor (Alan Arkin)
- Academy Award for Film Editing (Hal Ashby & J. Terry Williams)
- Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay (William Rose)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay (William Rose)
- Directors Guild of America – Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Norman Jewison)
See also 
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 186
- "The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming!, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- Hal Erickson, "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966)", New York Times, accessed January 1, 2009
- "Overview for The Russians are Coming, the Russians are coming, Turner Classic Movies, accessed January 1, 2009
- "The Russians Are Coming to Hollywood", (DVD featurette), 2002.
- The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming at the Internet Movie Database
- The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming at AllRovi