Only Old Men Are Going to Battle

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Only Old Men Are Going Into Battle
Only Old Men Are Going to Battle.jpg
Directed byLeonid Bykov
Produced byNikolay Zlochevsky
Ilya Fidman
Screenplay byLeonid Bykov
Yevgeni Onopriyenko
Aleksandr Satsky
StarringLeonid Bykov
Music byViktor Shevchenko
CinematographyVladimir Voytenko
Edited byM. Zorovoy
Release date
Running time
92 min
CountrySoviet Union

Only Old Men Are Going to Battle (Russian: В бой идут одни «старики», romanizedV boy idut odni 'stariki', one of the meanings of the Russian idiom "old man" is "most experienced person") is an iconic 1973 Soviet war drama black-and-white film produced in the Ukrainian SSR about World War II fighter pilots, written and directed by Leonid Bykov, who also played the lead role as the squadron commander.

Screenplay by Leonid Bykov, Yevgeni Onopriyenko and Aleksandr Satsky.

Original music by Viktor Shevchenko, cinematography by Vladimir Voytenko. Runtime 92 min. Production by Dovzhenko Film Studios.[1]


The film combines two storylines: the main war drama plot is runs in parallel with vivid artistic performance - the fighter squadron doubles as an amateur musical group during rest time, led by its enthusiastic commander turned conductor.

The title comes from two scenes in the film, where the squadron is facing very hard dogfights with German fighter planes, so only "old men" are sent up, while those fresh from flying school have to wait on the ground together with the mechanics. Soon, of course, the newcomers have replaced most of those veterans and have become old men themselves, taking to the skies while a new group of newcomers wait on the ground with the mechanics.


Cast of ''Only Old Men Are Going Into Battle'' 35 years later (2008): Nemchenko, Fedorinsky, Pashchenko, and Sagdullaev
Концерт актеров фильма В бой идут одни «старики».jpg

Script and production[edit]

Leonid Bykov's childhood dream of becoming a pilot inspired his making of the film.

The story is based on the memoirs of the Soviet fighter ace Vitaly Popkov who fought with a real-life singing squadron boasting own amateur choir. The squadron even toured the Soviet rear with concerts and received fighter planes built with money donated by Soviet star musicians.

Most of the elder cast and production members fought the war themselves. Actor Aleksei Smirnov (Makarych) was a decorated war hero, an artillery sergeant; also a battlefield amateur musician as well.


The film won most of the Soviet bloc film prizes at the time, including the first prize in the 7th All-Union Film Festival in Baku in 1974.


In 2009 a colorized version was released for TV and DVD, which resulted in a legal battle in Ukrainian courts between the copyright owners, Leonid Bykov's daughter and Ukrainian Dovzhenko Film Studios, and the company behind the colorization, as the copyright owners claim that the colorization has been done against the wishes of Bykov, who intentionally chose to do the film in black and white, in order to match newly shot scenes with the newsreel material in the film. In May 2011, the District Court of Kiev ruled that the colorization was a breach of copyright and that the colorized version can't be shown or rented in Ukraine.[2] The director re-worked the film's script to suit being shot in black and white after being denied color film stock on the grounds that color film was reserved for films about socialist realism.[3]


  1. ^ "Леонид Фёдорович Быков". Archived from the original on 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  2. ^ A.C.D. 2011-05-23: Суд запретил цветную версию «В бой идут одни «старики» (The court bans colorized version of "Only Old Men Are Going to Battle") In Ukrainian only. Retrieved 2011-10-01
  3. ^ Первый канал РФ

External links[edit]