Milestone Films

Early Russian Cinema, Volume 1 and 2: Beginnings / Folklore and Legend


Early Russian Cinema Volume One: Beginnings


Sten’ka Razin has the distinction of being the first Russian dramatic production — a tribute to the determination of its producer, Aleksandr Drankov. When his first seventeen actualities failed to win serious attention in early 1908, he answered the widespread call for Russian-made films with Sten’ka Razin. This account of the popular brigand leader who dallied with a captured Persian princess was adapted from a traditional ballad “From the Island to the Deep Stream” and Drankov commissioned original music to accompany his film from no less than Ippolitov-lvanov, then head of the Moscow Conservatoire. Energetic promotion ensured the film’s commercial success and launched Drankov’s career as a producer.

Princess Tarakanova marked the arrival of the film d’art formula in Russia. By this time, the original Film d’Art company had become a subsidiary of Pathé, but its first success, The Assassination of the Duc de Guise (1908), remained a prestige model for films aimed at “cultured” audiences with their lavish attention to costume, decor and theatrical acting. This first Russian example was based on a play about the martyred Princess and boasted a cast of well-known actors.

Romance with a Double Bass: “If we are not mistaken, this is the first cinema interpretation of Chekhov’s works. And one must give them their due — they have treated it with all the respect owed to the name of Anton Pavlovich. This excellently acted film is further distinguished by the striking purity and richness of the photography and the beauty of the locations in which the action takes place.’’ (Sinefono, 1911, no.2)

Early Russian Cinema Volume Two: FOLKLORE AND LEGEND

1908 saw the belated start of Russian film production. Up to this point, imported films from France, America, Britain, and the other main European producers had satisfied a rapidly expanding exhibition market. But there was also growing demand for truly Russian pictures — one which the entrepreneurial Drankov first tapped with his Sten’ka Razin, launched with a fanfare in October 1908. The producer who was to become his only real rival over the next ten years did not manage to release his first film until two months later and then it proved a commercial failure — “thus the dream of releasing Russia’s first picture on an everyday theme,” Khanzhonkov recalled in 1937, “failed to materialize.” Today, however, this simple gypsy tale has a plein air freshness and authenticity (it used real gypsies) which Sten’ka Razin lacks.

But this ex-cavalry officer was undaunted. Recruiting the determined Goncharov as his director, Khanzhonkov backed a group of three historical scenarios, of which Russian Wedding was one. Accounts of the filming reveal how little experience was available, but Goncharov’s attention to setting and costume — and his assistant Chardynin’s help with the actors — resulted in films that had immediate appeal, not least for nationalistic reasons.

Rusalka, based on Pushkin’s play about a prince and a mermaid, followed in Goncharov’s resolutely ornate style, with Fester once again creating a decor based on the popular narrative painting of the time. The film’s trick effects and surreal underwater set are less typical of Russian production and may reflect the popularity of Pathé’s trick films at this time.

By 1911, when the unreleased Brigand Brothers was started, Goncharov’s pantomime style seemed dated. Yet with the future star Mozzhukhin already showing his quality, and superb locations around the Moscow River, he managed one of the most expressive of all early classic adaptations — in this case Pushkin’s epic poem.

This DVD is also available for Institutional Purchase, which includes public performance rights and a 3-year streaming license. Please click on the “Format” button and select “DVD Institutional Rate.”

 An Explanation of Home, Classroom, and Public Performance Rights

Individuals and non-profit institutions purchasing at the DVD, DVD-R, or Blu-ray rate — or streaming at published rental and sales prices — are authorized to use the film only for private home screening and legitimate classroom showing (a regularly scheduled class with an instructor present), per the United States Copyright Law. You can learn more about the distinction between classroom and public performance screenings here.


US and Canadian nonprofit educational institutions that wish to show a film publicly outside of a scheduled class need to purchase DVDs, DVD-Rs, and Blu-rays at the institutional rate — which grants 3-year in-house streaming rights and an on-site public performance license. This in-house streaming license is for a term of three years from the date of purchase and grants the purchasing institution the right to stream over a single secure server with a password-protected connection. Streaming access must be strictly limited to currently enrolled students, faculty, and staff. Streaming rights extensions can be negotiated with Milestone after the initial three-year term has lapsed. Milestone retains the right to terminate this agreement at any time. No broadcast, Internet or other rights are granted or implied.These rights are for on-site use only per the license agreement. For more information on 

Similarly, US and Canadian nonprofit educational institutions that wish to show a film publicly outside of a scheduled class via Milestone’s streaming site must contact Milestone to arrange a separate public performance license. For more information, please email 

US and Canadian nonprofit educational institutions that wish to screen a DVD, DVD-R, or Blu-ray they already own in an open showing must purchase a public performance license. For more information, please email 

The purchase of DVDs, DVD-Rs, and Blu-rays at the institutional rate by anyone outside of a North American non-profit educational institution does not grant rights for public performance or streaming.

Any continuous or loop screenings as part of a museum exhibition must also be licensed separately. Inquiries must be negotiated directly with Milestone by emailing

Information for Exhibitors Screening DCPs and Film Prints

All bookings must be made by phone or email correspondence with Amy Heller (201.767.3117 or to negotiate terms and insure a screening copy is available. An order is only finalized when Milestone sends a written confirmation.

DCPs are shipped insured for their cost via Federal Express or UPS and must be returned the same way or by an equivalent method. Shipping and handling charges for outgoing DCPs appear on your invoice. The immediate return or transshipment (as directed) of all DCPs is your responsibility.

DCPs should be returned to:

Milestone Film & Video
38 George Street
Harrington Park, New Jersey 07640-0128
United States 

35mm and 16mm prints are shipped insured for their cost via Federal Express or UPS and must be returned the same way or by an equivalent method. Please do not ship prints back via US Mail. Exhibitor pays to ship both ways. Shipping and handling charges for outgoing prints appear on your invoice. The immediate return of all prints is your responsibility.

Prints should be returned insured for $1,000 to:

Iron Mountain
Attn: Milestone Account
235 Main Street
Little Falls, NJ 07424

For public screenings, advertising materials can be requested by contacting

Milestone is the exclusive licensor for all the titles in this catalog, all of which are available here in their complete versions.


Or you might like...

Recently viewed