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Mystery of the Last Tsar Movie Review

nicholas family anastasia kurth

This watchable but sketchy film arrives on the heels of two superior documentaries, Last of the Tsars and The Last Days of the Last Tsar; it incorporates footage from Days that reconstructs the slaughter of the Romanov family at Ekaterinburg. The screenwriter is Peter Kurth, author of the well-written but now debunked Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson. Kurth got caught up in the long-running fantasy that the child of a Polish factory worker was actually the youngest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra. (His book, which may now be filed under the F for Fiction section of your neighborhood library, was the basis for NBC's 1986 fairy tale, Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna starring Amy Irving as the would-be Grand Duchess and Olivia De Havilland as Marie, Claire Bloom as Alexandra, Omar Sharif as Nicholas, Rex Harrison as Cyril, and Christian Bale as Alexei.) It's a legend that refuses to die, even after the Romanov family's remains have been found. However, since The Mystery of the Last Tsar identifies itself as a documentary, one might wish that facts AND speculations were not given equal (and confusing) weight. But then, even the surviving Romanovs cannot agree about who the “real” successor to Nicholas II is or is not. The most engaging moments are supplied by family members who bicker about what “roles” they should play in contemporary Russia and who are most “qualified” to play those roles. Playwright Edvard Radzinsky describes the death scene as if he were hyping a lavish theatrical production. Historian Robert Massie and forensic pathologist Dr. William H. Maples offer more reflective and sober commentary, but there's no getting around the fact that this is a bit of a re-hash, designed for casual viewers with only the mildest interest in the subject matter. On a more compelling note, an animated version of Anastasia was released in 1997, with accompanying doll and other assorted tie-in merchandise especially for little would-be grand duchesses everywhere.

1997 77m/C Maggie Britton; D: Victoria Lewis; W: Peter Kurth; C: Michael Anderson, Chris Li; M: Caleb Sampson, John Kusiak.

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