A detective novel, the Wainer brothers' The Age of Charity, written in 1975, became basis for this 5-part 1979 miniseries. In a case of Adaptation Displacement, the popularity of the film has eclipsed that of the book.Both tell the story of a young and idealistic army officer Vladimir Sharapov, who retires from the Soviet Army after WWII ends and is assigned for duty to Moscow Criminal Police (МУР in Russian). There he comes under the command of Gleb Zheglov, an experienced, brilliant, and no-nonsense police officer, who becomes a Big Brother Mentor to Sharapov. They investigate several murder cases connected to the activities of the infamous Black Cat gang (loosely based on a real gang or group of gangs operating in post-WWII Moscow).The film was directed by Stanislav Govorukhin and soon hit the most-beloved-films Top-10 in Soviet Union. An urban legend claims that there were no crimes committed during the time the series was first shown - all the criminals were at home, watching the television. Nowadays, it is still popular and considered to be a TV classic. The TV format is five hour long series (common for TV series in Soviet Union).
This series provides examples of:
Affably Evil: Val'ka the Smoked is quite friendly towards Zheglov.
Anti-Hero: Gleb Zheglov is a Type III, with elements of Type IV: his goals are genuinely noble, but he is quite trigger-happy and readily plants evidence.
In the book the main events are (almost) the same, but the nuances are quite different. At the end Sharapov realizes that Zheglov is Type V: he simply likes to kill, noble goals notwithstanding. There's a possibility that Sharapov was mistaken, of course.
Bittersweet Ending (the book ends tragically, but TV bosses told Govorukhin that the audience cannot stand two tragic deaths in a row, so Govorukhin had to choose between Varya and Levchenko. Govorukhin had chosen Varya to survive).
By-the-Book Cop: Vladimir Sharapov, which is what first brings him into conflict with Zheglov.
Calling Card: the Black Cat gang leave a cat drawing or an actual cat at the scene of the crime.
The Charmer: Zheglov uses guile to get what he needs from witnesses, criminals and coworkers. However, he also has the ability to switch from friendly to ruthless in a very short time.
Crime Reconstruction: subverted. Sharapov convinces the bad guys that Fox can be rescued while he reconstructs a crime "on location". This is in fact a part of a desperate Batman Gambit on his part.
Executive Meddling: The film was to be titled The Age of Charity, but comrade Lapin, the minister of TV and Radio, said that the title must be changed, because "Charity is a priest-ish word". Thus film was titled The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed and Lapin's phrase was given to Gleb Zheglov and became a meme.
Also, Sharapov's girlfriend was granted a reprieve (she was supposed to die, but aforementioned Lapin thought it would be too much for the viewers who would have to see the deaths of both Levchenko and Varya and go to work the next day).
Good Cop/Bad Cop: the suspect points out that he's familiar with the trope from literature, as well as the psychological reasons this works in real life even if the suspect is familiar with it. As expected, it does work, after a fashion - possibly because the Good Cop does like the suspect and the Bad Cop does loathe him.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The main theme of the film. Sharapov represents Idealism, Zheglov pepresents Cynicism. The highest point of antagonism is a scene with petty thief Kirpich (the Brick) framed by Zheglov for the sake of information about Fox. While juxtaposed, neither of the attitudes is shown to be better than the other.
Smug Snake: "The Brick" in the scene with evidence planting gloats at the fact that he refused to lift the wallet (that Zheglov just put into his pocket) he just tried to steal form a woman on the tram:
(lisping) — You haff no methothh againtht Kothtya Thaprykin!
Street Urchin: Zheglov was this, as revealed when he offhandedly drops a few lines on his backstory.
Suicide by Cop: A variation. Levchenko, a member of the Black Cat gang, doesn't actively want to die—but he really doesn't want to go back to prison, and is ready to risk almost certain death by cops' bullets to avoid it.
Train Escape: Interestingly, the guys being chased don't know it, and only use the Train Escape as a habitual precaution.
Wag the Director: In a good way. Vladimir Vysotsky reportedly specifically campaigned to get the role of Zheglov, feeling that no one could do it better, and had a lot of input on the film's direction. He set and designed a lot of details and scenes (the lisping pickpocket Kostya Sapryking being, probably, his most enduring invention) and in the end got so heavily involved in the movie that Govorukhin explicitly left him in charge during his frequent absences, so he even ended up directing several episodes in the movie.
Write What You Know: Both authors had a lot of relevant experience before turning to the mystery genre — Georgy Wainer was a crime reporter, while his brother Arkady was a MUR detective, so they often used Real Life cases as a basis for their plots, including this time.