Ivan the Terrible (Russian Иван Грозный, Ivan Groznyy) was Sergei Eisenstein's second (and last) sound film, a Spiritual Successor to Alexander Nevsky. Made under direct supervision of Joseph the Terrible, who idolized Ivan IV and personally intervened in the movie's production.The first film of the projected trilogy was released in 1944, to critical applause; the director was awarded the Stalin Prize (Soviet Nobel Prize-cum-Oscar). The reasons for critical success were pretty obvious: the movie presented Ivan the Terrible, a controversial and polarizing figure at the very least, as a national hero who bravely fought external and internal enemies in his quest to unite Russian lands.The second part, shot back-to-back with the first one, was completed in 1946 (with some sequences filmed in color) but released only in 1958, five years after Stalin's death. The reasons were also very clear: It dealt with the dark side of the tsar's personality, and depicted his Oprichnina terror campaign as Necessarily Evil - but evil nonetheless. After having been shown the completed Part II in a private screening, Stalin flew into a rage, calling it a "horror of a film" and threatening to "take care" of its creators. The movie was shelved, the director fired, and production of the third part cancelled. The third film exists only as a script, a series of sketches, and several filmed scenes first shown to the general public in 1988.Despite the fact that the movie hasn't aged well, it is regarded as a classic of Soviet/Russian and world cinema.
This film provides examples of:
Adaptation Distillation: Malyuta, Ivan's Side Kick, chief of Oprichnina is a Peasant who wants to execute arisitocrats. That trope easily fits the Movie format. History!Malyuta was a low-rank aristo who resented high rank aristoes, explaining the Side Kick's character arc would have taken too long.
Even Evil Has Standards: Efrosinia, of all people, has one of these moments in Part 2, when the Bishop[?] tells her he plans to let Philip be condemned, so they'll have a saintly martyr for their crusade against Ivan: "White is the cowl but black the soul!"
He Who Fights Monsters: While fighting against insidious, immoral, and corrupt boyars, the tsar slowly descends into brutality, paranoia and outright madness.
Historical Hero Upgrade: The film glosses over most of Ivan's failures and vices, presenting him as a heroic personality (at least, in Part I). However, Part II makes Ivan look like a sociopath, and even Part I has a seething critique lurking riiiight under the surface.
HollywoodMosfilm History: The movie takes many, many liberties with history. For instance, most of Ivan the Terrible's opponents are conflated into Eufrosinia Staritskaya and her son. In reality, Ivan the Terrible had seven wives; only one is shown in the film. Many events from his life are omitted or rearranged in sequence, etc. All this was done to present him as an unambiguously positive figure, a direct predecessor of the film's sponsor.
Kick the Dog: Kurbsky's needless cruelty towards the Tatars foreshadows his betrayal of the tsar.
Lost in Translation: Ivan's sobriquet, "Groznyi", really means more "Fearsome" than "Terrible"—but the modern English connotation of the word makes it sounds like, say, Pope John XII (AKA "Pope John the Bad").