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Film / The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming

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The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming is a 1966 American comedy film. A classic zany madcap comedy much like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the movie puts a twist on a Cold War story of the comedic chaos that ensues when the Soviet submarine Спрут (pronounced Spr-oo-t — "Octopus") accidentally runs aground near a small New England island town.

Before long, the Russian crew are in very deep trouble. A humble comedy writer and his family quickly get caught up in the mess and, as you can imagine, Hilarity Ensues.

The film was directed by Norman Jewison, and the cast includes Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin, Eva Marie Saint, Brian Keith, and Jonathan Winters.

The film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: The Russians are more good-natured and well-meaning than in the novel, The Off-Islanders. In that novel, the captain is more self-centered (and plots to murder his political officer so the man can't write a bad report about everything), one of the shore party tries to rape a woman, and they don't help save a child's life in the climax.
  • Age Lift: The teenaged Allison's book counterpart is a middle-aged woman.
  • Alliterative Name: Walt Whittaker
  • Animated Credits Opening
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Averted; the spoken Russian is authentic (and not subtitled, except in the DVD release)
  • The Backwards Я: In the title card in the credits, and in the poster art as indicated above. To explain—the 'backwards R' is not an "R", but actually makes the sound "ya" in Cyrillic. And the backwards N is not an N, but is actually the short "i" sound.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When two Russian crewmen are in Walt Whittaker's garage, there is a bit of dialogue between them:
    Crewman 1: seeing bag of fertilizer "Hey, look! American grain!"
    Crewman 2: smells it "No, that's shit."
    Crewman 1: "Yeuch!" wipes hands off on shirt
  • Bound and Gagged: Telephone switchboard operator Alice Foss, by the Russian crew. Later both Walt and Alice.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Pete Whittaker, with a side of Hot-Blooded Patriotic Fervor (example: him calling his dad a "traitor" (compared directly with Benedict Arnold) for trying to help the heavily armed Russians so they can get out of his house without trouble (and potentially bloodshed) occurring).
  • Brick Joke: Early in the movie, Norman tells Luther to take his horse and inform the residents of the other half of the island of what has happened. The last scene in the movie features Luther riding, shouting, "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!"
  • The Captain: Admittedly, he's a bit of a Jerkass, and somewhat incompetent.
  • Climbing Climax: When the Russians and the townsfolk make a human pyramid to help the boy at the top of the church.
  • Clueless Deputy: Norman Jonas
  • Conflict Killer: The climactic encounter between the Russians and the townsfolk is an incredibly tense Mexican Standoff up until some kid that climbed the town’s clock tower to have a better view slips and dangles from a ledge, making both sides band together to rescue him.
  • Death from Above: Subverted. The American fighter planes come swooping in, but disengage when they see that the submarine has a civilian escort consisting of the locals in their boats.
  • Defiant to the End: Played for Laughs with Pete.
  • Eccentric Townsfolk: The residents of Gloucester Island are a bunch of loons, especially Fendall Hawkins, an old vet who musters the townspeople into a militia and makes the situation much worse.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Everything unfolds over the course of a single morning and afternoon.
  • Familiar Soundtrack, Foreign Lyrics: The sailors hike down the road accompanied by "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" in Russian.
  • The Film of the Book: Loosely adapted from the 1961 novel The Off-Islanders by Nathaniel Benchley† .
  • Funny Foreigner: The whole Russian crew.
  • Gentle Giant: The Russian version of "Uncle Harry", Gromolsky.
  • Hello Again, Officer: Walt keeps running into the same Russian officer...
    "Always I'm saying goodbye to you, and always I'm meeting you again."
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Russians that go about in disguise.
  • Historical In-Joke: Hawkins' line "If they want a war, let it begin here" is a quote supposedly uttered (accounts differ) by American militia captain John Parker, right before the shooting at Lexington green, April 19, 1775.
  • Hollywood New England:
    "Cahm on Norm, they're oappen' ahp th' bahr!"
  • Hypocritical Humor: During a brawl between the police and the civilian militia, Deputy Norman says "For God's sake, why is it we can't learn to live together?" A man says "You're right, Norman"... and Norman punches him in the jaw.
  • Large Ham: Paul Ford, of course.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Walt Whittaker is a comedy writer.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Leading to the Russians addressing Walt Whittaker as "Whittaker Walt".
  • No Communities Were Harmed: "Gloucester Island" is a pretty clear stand-in for Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard.
  • Only Sane Man: Walt Whittaker
    • Rozanov is this for the Russian crew.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The original theatrical release had no subtitles for the Russian dialogue, leaving audiences to infer what's being said based on context. Most home video releases add them, but some versions (including the one on Amazon Prime) still leave them out.
  • Red Scare: And how.
  • Running Gag:
    • See above on "Brick Joke". The movie continuously cuts to Luther's struggles with the horse while the rest of the plot is happening.
    • Pete's Patriotic Fervor and him constantly insulting people because of it.
  • A Simple Plan: Rozanov had one, but it hasn't gone right once!
  • Title Drop: See Brick Joke above.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Again, Walt Whittaker.
  • World Gone Mad: It could have been worse. Much worse. Still, everyone on the island is crazy!
  • You No Take Candle: "Emergency, everybody to get from street!"