The Wild East: The Best of Soviet Action Films
"Unlike the Red Westerns of the American Wild West, Soviet Easterns usually took place on the eastern steppes of the USSR, especially during the Russian Revolution or following the Civil War. Examples of these include The Thirteen (1937), The Burning Miles (1957), The Bodyguard (1979), At Home among Strangers (1971), The Seventh Bullet (1972) and the notoriously famous Soviet film White Sun of the Desert (1969).
Many of the Easterns use similar methods as the American Western to dramatize the Civil War in Central Asia in the 1920s and 30s, in which the Red Army fought against Islamic Turkic Basmachi rebels. By substituting “red” for “blue” and Turks for Mexicans, many of the same backdrops and stereotypes are laid out for the sweeping eye popping drama to unfold. The mountains of Kopetdagcan be seen as an equivalent to Monument Valley and Sir Darya river as the Rio Grande. Add the gun slinging ethos, horse-riding pioneers of a sort (though often ideological in this case), the bounty hunter traversing difficult terrain with outlaw in tow, railroading and taming the wild frontier, and you have a generic mirror image of the American genre.
While many of these films are obviously influenced by Westerns, Soviet action films can be seen with a different construction. Though some of them have political and ideological messages, they still can be watched as action movies and are fantastic examples of amusing entertainment.
In 1969 Serge Leone FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY were screened at Moscow international film festival and believed to influence Soviet filmmakers setting the trend. Some of those film examples are presented in this program.
- Alla Verlotsky
THE WILD EAST: The Best of Soviet Action Films is a presentation of Seagull Films in collaboration with Mosfim Studio and MarDjani Foundation. Curated by Alla Verlotsky and Sergey Lavrentyev. Special thanks are due to Richard Pena and Karen Shakhnazarov.