The Cossacks (1928)





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Based on a Leo Tolstoy novel, The Cossacks centers around Lukashka (John Gilbert), a young Russian man who has no interest in fighting, unlike the other Cossacks around him. Because of his cheery, peaceful ways, he is ridiculed by the others of his village, even though he is the son of Ivan the Ataman (Ernest Torrence), who is the toughest man there. Finally, even Lukashka's ladylove, Maryana (Renee Adoree), believes him a coward. The people of the village dress him up in an apron and throw grapes at him, and this causes him to snap. Lukashka becomes a fierce fighter, killing any Turks that come his way. Meanwhile, the Czar's messenger, Prince Olenin (Neil Neely) comes to town and decides to take Maryana for his own. But when he makes his way back to the capital with the girl, Lukashka kidnaps her. As for the Prince, he is killed by a pack of Turks. Although the set design and photography for this film were well-done, other aspects miss. George Hill directed most of the picture but Clarence Brown was brought in at the finish to clean it up -- Brown claims the film was a mess by the time he was assigned to work on it. Many of the subtitles are poorly written and are not fair descriptions of the action. One example that is especially -- and unintentionally -- hilarious: Gilbert's character is introduced with "He does not like the smell of blood. He is a chewer of sunflower seeds." Needless to say, Gilbert was unhappy with The Cossacks. While it received, for the most part, positive reviews, hindsight shows that it subtly marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the M-G-M silent star.
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Written By:
In Theaters:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures


Ernest Torrence
as Ivan the Ataman
John Gilbert
as Lukashka
Neil Neely
as Prince Olenin
Renée Adorée
as Maryana
Mary Alden
as Lukashka's Mother
Paul Hurst
as Zarka
Dale Fuller
as Ulitka
Yorke Sherwood
as Uncle Eroshka
Nils Asther
as Prince Olenin Stieshneff
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Critic Reviews for The Cossacks

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Audience Reviews for The Cossacks

Moderately entertaining major silent Based on a Tolstoy novel, this late, big-budget silent starring matinee idol John Gilbert has worn fairly well, though the problems that plagued production, resulting in numerous rewrites, re-shooting, and director changes, are apparent in the way the final product seems rather strained. John Gilbert plays a Cossack youth who is scorned by his family, fellows, and sweet-heart for rejecting the manly arts of fighting, until, stung by his father's reproaches, he turns warrior and wins the girl. The film is especially notable for the meticulous detail of the Czarist Russian setting, and for some spectacular equestrian stunts, performed according to the box's cover by genuine Cossack horsemen. Consider it four stars if you are especially interested in Gilbert, Cossacks, silents, or stunt riding; three stars for the average viewer. The Warner Archive Collection DVD has a good orchestral score composed especially for this release; the audio is very good, and the video a very good transfer of a print that seems generally good, though splotchy in places.

Jon Corelis
Jon Corelis

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