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Moscow Strikes Back

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Moscow Strikes Back
Moscow Strikes Back 11-25 cheering Red Army parade, bayonets fixed.jpg
11:25 Red Army soldiers cheer Stalin in Red Square
Directed byIlya Kopalin
Leonid Varlamov [ru]
Produced byCentral Studio of Newsreels
StarringGenerals Zhukov, Rokossovsky, ordinary soldiers
CinematographyIvan Belyakov and others
Music byV. Smirnov
Release date
February 23, 1942 (1942-02-23)
Running time
55 minutes
(English version)
LanguageRussian (subtitles)

Moscow Strikes Back (Russian: Разгром немецких войск под Москвой, Razgrom Nemetskikh Voysk Pod Moskvoy, "Rout of the German troops near Moscow") is a Soviet war documentary about the Battle of Moscow made during the battle in October 1941 – January 1942, directed by Ilya Kopalin and Leonid Varlamov [ru]. It won a 1942 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


09:41 Russian women making artillery shells
09:41 Russian women making artillery shells

The film begins in Moscow, with civilians preparing defences in their streets. Men in civilian clothes with rifles prepare for battle. Women machine shell cases and prepare hand grenades. An apparently huge Stalin makes a battle speech in Red Square to thousands of cheering Red Army soldiers on parade with greatcoats, ushankas and fixed bayonets.

14:24 Anti-aircraft guns fire at night
14:24 Anti-aircraft guns fire at night

Men, trucks, tanks and artillery advance into battle. Anti-aircraft guns fire into the night sky, which is crisscrossed by searchlight beams. A crashed German bomber is seen in close-up. Russian fighters and bombers are readied and armed.

20:15 A crewman jumps aboard his snow-camouflaged tank
20:15 A crewman jumps aboard his snow-camouflaged tank

Artillery guns of many types fire many times. Tank crewmen scramble to their tanks and jump aboard. Tanks race across snow-covered plains towards the enemy. Snow camouflaged troops parachute behind enemy lines. They collect skis parachuted to them and go into battle, lying down under fire before attacking again. Tanks rush from a forest across the snow, infantrymen riding on their rear decks or skiing into battle in large numbers. A tank is hit and explodes as the attack goes on. Russian infantry in greatcoats storm a village and clear the houses of surrendering German soldiers. Towns and cities are liberated. The Russian soldiers are greeted by smiling civilians. An old woman kisses several soldiers.

German atrocities are shown. The elegantly preserved houses of the playwright Anton Chekhov and the novelist Leo Tolstoy are seen badly damaged, the museum exhibits destroyed. The bodies of murdered civilians are shown. Quantities of destroyed German armour and transport are scattered across the landscape. Captured artillery is to be used against the Germans. The bodies of dead Germans are seen frozen in the snow. Maps show the extent of the Russian advance. The front line has retreated far from Moscow.

Making the film

Разгром немецких войск под Москвой[1] (1:09:06 Russian Edit)
24:56 Tanks and ski infantry attack
24:56 Tanks and ski infantry attack
title frame: Разгром немецких войск под Москвой
title frame: Разгром немецких войск под Москвой
27:40 German soldiers surrender
27:40 German soldiers surrender
46:08 dead German soldier, snow on back
46:08 dead German soldier, snow on back

The film's director Ilya Kopalin recalled of the film shoot in the winter of 1941–1942 that:

It's been severe, but happy days. Severe, because we made a movie in a front-line city. Basement studio has turned into the apartment where we lived like in casern. At night, we discussed with the cameramen the job for the next day, and in the morning the machine took away the cameramen to the front to back in the evening with the footage. The shooting was very heavy. There were thirty-degree frosts. The mechanism of the movie camera froze and clogged with snow, numbed hands refused to act. There were times when in the car, which returned from the front, lay the body of our dead comrade and broken equipment. But the knowledge that the enemy pulls back from Moscow, that collapses the myth of the invincibility of the Nazi armies, gave us strength.

We knew that the film should be created as soon as possible, that the people should as soon as possible to see on the screen the offspring of the first victories of the army. And shoted material immediately move to the lab on the editing table. We cut both day and night in the cold editing rooms without going to the shelter even when air-raid ... At the end of December 1941 cutting of the movie was over. In the great cold hall began dubbing studio. There was the most responsible exciting entry: "Fifth Symphony" by Tchaikovsky. Bright Russian melody, outcry, wailing chords. And on the screen were burned towns, gallows, corpses, and all the way of retreat of fascists revealed signs of violence and barbarism. We listened to music, watched the screen and cried. Cried the musicians, who played with difficulty by frozen hands.

English version

The English version's cues were written by Albert Maltz and Elliot Paul, and the vocal narration was by Edward G. Robinson. It was distributed by Artkino Pictures and Republic Pictures.[2] The film was first shown in the New York on 15 August 1942[3] at the Globe Theatre. The New York Times credits it as: "Russian documentary produced by the Central Studios, Moscow, USSR; English commentary by Albert Maltz, narrated by Edward G. Robinson; editing and montage by Slavko Vorkapich; musical score arranged by Dimitri Tiomkin; released here through Artkino Pictures, Inc. At the Globe Theatre."[4] Footage was included in Frank Capra's The Battle of Russia.[5][6][7]


Plaster War-time Oscar plaque, State Central Museum of Cinema, Moscow (ru)[8]
Plaster War-time Oscar plaque, State Central Museum of Cinema, Moscow (ru)[8]

In 1942, the New York Times began its review with the words:

"Out of the great Winter counter-offensive that began on Dec. 6 of last year on the approaches to Moscow, Russian front-line cameramen have brought a film that will live in the archives of our time. Moscow Strikes Back, now at the Globe, is not a film to be described in ordinary reviewer's terms, for these events were not staged before a camera and artistically arranged; they were recorded amidst a struggle that knew no quarter. Yet, here is a film to knot the fist and seize the heart with anger, a film that stings like a slap in the face of complacence, a scourge and lash against the delusion that there may still be an easy way out. Here is a film to lift the spirit with the courage of a people who have gone all-out."[4]

The Times reviewer describes the film in detail, admitting that words are inadequate, and adds that "The savagery of that retreat is a spectacle to stun the mind." He finds "infinitely more terrible" the sight of the atrocities, "the naked and slaughtered children stretched out in ghastly rows, the youths dangling limply in the cold from gallows that were rickety, but strong enough."[4] The review concludes that "To say that Moscow Strikes Back is a great film is to fall into inappropriate cliché." Slavko Vorkapich's editing is described as brilliant; Albert Maltz's writing as terse, Robinson's voice-over as moving, "but that does not tell the story of what the heroic cameramen have done", filming "amid the fury of battle".[4]


In the USSR, the film was awarded the Stalin Prize. In America, it was one of four winners at the 15th Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature.[2] It also won the National Board of Review award for best documentary in 1942 and New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best War Fact Film.

See also


  1. ^ (in Russian) Defeat German troops near Moscow (1942) on YouTube
  2. ^ a b "Moscow Strikes back". Artkino Pictures. 1942. available for free download at the Internet Archive
  3. ^ ru:Разгром немецких войск под Москвой
  4. ^ a b c d "Movie Review: 'Moscow Strikes Back,' Front-Line Camera Men's Story of Russian Attack, Is Seen at the Globe". The New York Times. 1942-08-17. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  5. ^ "The Battle of Russia (1943) Project 6004; Information film #5". Catalog. American Film Institute. Retrieved 22 May 2021. Footage from some Russian films was used, including Alexander Nevsky, Moscow Strikes Back, Soviet Frontiers on the Danube, Diary of a Nazi, Russians at War, Girl from Leningrad and One Day in Soviet Russia. Footage from RKO's The Navy Comes Through was also used. According to Capra's autobiography, he was nearly placed under military arrest for going to the Soviet Embassy to arrange for footage, an episode that ended in a reprimand.
  6. ^ Small, Melvin (1974-05-01). "How We Learned to Love the Russians: American Media and the Soviet Union During World War II". The Historian. 36 (3): 455–478. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1974.tb01535.x.
  7. ^ ""MOSCOW STRIKES BACK"  Not Suitable for General Exhibition". The Age. Melbourne. May 15, 1943. p. 6. Retrieved 22 May 2021 – via Google News Archive.
  8. ^ Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones.
    "Oscar Statuette: Manufacturing, Shipping and Repairs". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2007.

External links

This page was last edited on 21 July 2021, at 16:33
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