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Film / Ilya Muromets

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Ilya Muromets is a fantasy movie based upon the epic poems about a Russian epic hero.

Kievan Rus', led by Prince Vladimir the Great (Andrei Abrikosov), is under siege from the Tugar army, led by Tsar Kalin (Shukur Burkhanov). The giant knight Svyatogor bequeathes his sword to a group of pilgrims, telling them to find a young hero worthy of it; a few days later, they find Ilya Muromets (Boris Andreyev), who is immensely strong but has been paralysed since birth, and so could only watch when the Tugars abducted his crush, Vassilisa (Ninel Myshkova). His Patriotic Fervor makes the pilgrims decide he is worthy of Svyatogor's sword, so they cure him of his paralysis and give him the sword, and he rides out to join the fight against the Tugars. After defeating the gale-blowing demon Nightingale the Robber, he heads for Kiev to present his opponent to Prince Vladimir. The prince makes Ilya a knight in his service, in which capacity he meets fellow heroes Dobrynia Nikitich (Gyorgy Dyomin) and Alyosha Popovich (Sergei Stolyarov). A mission to the frontiers brings him into contact with the Tugars who abducted Vassilisa, and he frees and later marries her.

But the Tugars have a man on the inside in the form of the weaselly boyar Mishatychka (Sergei Martinson), who tells lies to Vladimir about Ilya's loyalty and ambition. Ilya is imprisoned, causing Dobrynia and Alyosha to quit the prince's service, and the pregnant Vassilisa is re-captured by the Tugars. Tsar Kalin decides to raise Ilya's son, Little Falcon, as his own, and when he is grown up, the Tugars march on Kiev. The chastened Prince Vladimir frees Ilya, who is able to delay the Tugars' advance until Dobrynia and Alyosha arrive with reinforcements, and the stage is set for a climactic final battle that sees the Tugars release the three-headed dragon, Zmey Gorynich...

Released in 1956, the movie was a literal epic for the Russian film industry, with tens of thousands of extras and thousands of horses used in some of the battle scenes. Then Roger Corman got his hands on the movie for a release in the early 1960s. While little was generally changed, the "epic" feel of the original is felt to have been lost rather tragically in the conversion. The movie is also known as The Sword and the Dragon in America, while The Epic Hero and the Beast is the UK name. Both are drastically changed versions when compared to the original, of course. A copy of the full version with English subtitles can be seen here (4K quality as of March 2021).

The film was directed by Alexander Ptushko, who also directed Sadko (The Magic Voyage of Sinbad in the USA) and Sampo (The Day the Earth Froze in the USA).

Fun fact: the three-headed dragon in this movie is one of the creatures King Ghidorah was based upon.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

Tropes used in Ilya Muromets:

  • Action Girl: Ilya's wife managed to take down a few Tugars with a bow before she's finally captured at the beginning of the film. While she doesn't do much more of the sort the rest of the film, there's some good reasons.note 
  • Ambadassador: Dobrynya is introduced returning from negotiations in Constantinople, while Ilya later spends a few days wasting the enemy time with pointless talks until the reserves arrive.
  • Anatomically Impossible Sex: Possibly dub induced, but Ilya tells his wife to bear him a child while he's away on his long, long epic journey. In the original, he specifically asks her to bear him a son.
  • And the Adventure Continues: After the Tugars are defeated, Ilya gives Little Falcon Svyatogor's sword and rides off in search of more adventure.
  • Artistic License – Biology: A horse's tail isn't just hair, it has nerves and bones and does NOT grow back! But then, perhaps that's why the nobleman was so upset at the sentence...
  • Big Bad: Kalin Khan, the lord of the Tugar horde and the main antagonist of the film.
  • Breath Weapon: Zmey Gorynich breaths fire. Sources vary on whether the propnote  had flamethrowers installed in its heads, or there were actual soldiers sitting there.
  • Casting Gag: Alyosha Popovich is portrayed by Sergei Stolyanov, who also appeared as the title character of Sadko, a 1952 film by Ptushko himself.
  • Captive Push: When the travellers sing their magic song, we see a column of captives, Ilya's wife at the front, being pushed forward. Corman's version puts the shot at the intro instead.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Chekhov's Ballista, in this case. Early in the film, Razumey the carpenter is able to persuade Prince Vladimir not to imprison him for felling trees without royal permission by explaining that he intends to design a ballista to defend Kiev. It gets a few quite important shots (literally) at the final battle. Corman, for some reason, removed the first part completely.
  • Corpse Land: After Ilya is released, there is a full minute's worth of a panorama showing the aftermath of Alyosha and Dobrynya's warriors holding a border position against the Tugars' flanking maneuver.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Without the first scene where Ilya's wife is taken, we get an extremely creepy scene of Ilya forcing himself on a young woman.
  • Dub-Induced Plotline Change: The dub script moves some scenes around and drops others entirely, leading to a number of plot holes. For example, Ilya Muromets opens with the pilgrims talking to Svyatogor, followed by Vassilisa being abducted while Ilya watches helplessly, and then Mishatychka offering the Tugars his services as a double agent. The Sword and the Dragon opens with Vilya (as she is re-named) already a captive as Mishatychka (who is unnamed in the dub) offers to turn traitor, and then the pilgrims talk to Invincor (as he is re-named). When Ilya rescues Vilya later in the film, it is the first time they have met in the dub script, so his passion for her seems to come out of nowhere.
  • Dub Name Change: From the original title to The Sword and the Dragon (or The Epic Hero and the Beast for those in the UK). Many of the character names are also changed to sound less Russian (except, oddly, for Ilya Muromets himself); Vassilisa becomes Vilya, Prince Vladimir is Prince Vanda, Dobrynia and Alyosha are Durbar and Alexei, Svyatogor becomes Invincor, and so on.
  • Easily Condemned: Ilya has proven himself a great warrior and man of honor, to the point that he was adopted as Prince Vladimir's blood brother, yet when he's accused of abandoning the kingdom the Prince instantly believes the accusation and orders that Ilya be exiled from the kingdom forever. This in spite of the fact that Mishatychka, the nobleman making the accusation, has already been exposed as a liar with a grudge against Ilya (he previously claimed to have killed Nightingale the Robber, only for Ilya to produce the demon alive as his captive), plus he has absolutely no proof of Ilya's betrayal and nobody to back up his claim (although his fellow corrupt nobles join in his lie since they're also eager to get rid of Ilya). Of course, Ilya losing his cool and threatening the Prince when he found out didn't exactly help his case.
  • Extremely Protective Child: Little Falcon strikes Kalin when the latter threatens his mother, inspiring Kalin to adopt him as his own.
  • Fanservice: Well, you can try to argue that the An Son Hi's minute long dance at 1:09 was intended as something else...
  • Friend to All Living Things: Ilya's wife.
  • Heritage Face Turn: Ilya is dueling with a young enemy warrior, and suddenly notices the boy is wearing a ring he gave his wife, making him realize he is fighting his own son. The boy is skeptical, but once he looks at the ring, he remembers his mother and says at once he wants to fight on Ilya's side.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Hitting a flying dragon in the wing, from the side, with a ballista arrow, when the shot is timed by cutting a cord with an axe? Bard the Bowman sucks.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    "It's not a cloth! It's a magic table cloth!"
  • Mascot's Name Goes Unchanged: The Sword and the Dragon has a lot of the names changed. Ilya himself is the only exception.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Mishatychka, the traitorous noble who convinces the Prince to exile Ilya. His introduction sees him claiming that he defeated an entire enemy army by himself (in the original film, he's first seen defeated by that army and buying his life at the cost of swearing allegiance to Kalin - seen by Vassilisa and later told to Ilya), and a powerful wind demon as well. This serves to set up Ilya's introduction to the Prince, as Ilya is able to prove the lying noble wrong due to being the one who actually defeated the wind demon.
  • Million Mook March: According to some sources, world record for extras. And even so, they needed a lot of mirrors.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: A possible interpreration of Kalin deciding not to attack Kiev for now after the "message" is interpreted as the city throwing its gates open before him.
  • Orcus on His Throne: The Tugars apparently spent several years just hanging out in their camp while Ilya was in prison, since he gets let out the first time they become a threat again.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: It's a Slavic-style three-headed dragon.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: Basically what happens to Svyatogor. The Earth can carry him no longer due to his strength.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Falcon grows to adulthood (mightiest among the Tugar warriors even) while his father is in prison. In the bylinas, he was imprisoned for three years, but the movie changed it to ten, with people remarking about the fast aging. Ilya, meanwhile, gets a good amount of gray in his hair.
  • Raised by Orcs: Little Falcon, naturally.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Vladimir orders to greet Kalin's envoy with food and drink. When the envoy kicks both away, even the traitor is shocked.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The Tugars flee once the dragon is killed.
  • Shoot the Messenger: Ilya goads a Tugar envoy into attacking him just to justify killing the (now unarmed) man.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The original sources usually have Ilya's son, after learning of his heritage, being offended at being a bastard, so he first kills his mother (once she confirms Ilya's words), then attempts to kill Ilya and is killed in turn. The movie has all three alive and together at the end.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: A bit of talking when fighting the dragon, though not that bad.
  • Tastes Like Disdain: Kalin's envoy comes to Kiev and is offered food and drink as signs of Sacred Hospitality. When he kicks away the plate, even The Mole is shown to be shocked at the behavior, while Dobrynia and Alyosha call the envoy a jackass to his face. Prince Vladimir, as per his job, expresses the same thought somewhat more diplomatically.
  • Too Important to Walk:
    • Kalin's huge envoy is carried on a platform by a couple dozen men.
    • Kalin is shown to have a throne set upon human backs. Another group of Tugars is carrying a golden disk upon which his Fanservice dancer performs.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Ilya's multi-stage plan in the finale plays with this. It's not at all clear how the random schemes are supposed to stop the Tugar attack... but then it turns out his real plan was "waste their time with complete nonsense while our reinforcements get into position".
  • Voice of the Legion: That's how Svyatogor speaks at the beginning of the movie.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Ilya is really good at making stuff up on the fly...
  • Yellow Peril: The film's main antagonists are the Tugars, a composite of the Tatars (who are of Turkic ethnicity) and the Mongol Golden Horde.