The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966)


A Soviet submarine gets stranded near a New England island after the ship gets too close to the shore, causing confusion and panic among the local residents, who mistakenly believe that the Russians are planing to invade the United States.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Muriel said the Russians have landed, whatever that means, Chief. And she said they were attacking her personally!”

The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming was a tremendous financial and critical success when it first debuted in movie theaters in 1966. Released at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the movie perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the post Cuban Missile Crisis era. Unfortunately, this once topical and audacious political comedy seems awfully quaint today.

Director Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night) and writer William Rose (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) shamelessly exploits the anxiety many Americans experienced due to their fears of a nuclear war between the USA and USSR. However, five decades later, the movie’s premise wears thin really quick.

Glasnost phobia is a thing of the past, so, invariably, The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming feels like the soggy leftovers of a long-gone era. Modern viewers are bound to scratch their heads trying to understand what all that fuss was about. I didn’t laugh once, and I was annoyed by the constant bickering and yelling.

Based on the novel The Off Islanders by author Nathaniel Benchley (father of Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws), The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming does have a wonderful cast that tries hard (maybe a little too hard). 

This was actor Alan Arkin’s first starring role, and the success of the movie made him a star. Although I tend to like him better in serious films like Wait Until Dark (1967) and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968), Arkin he is indeed very funny as Lieutenant Rozanov. He received an Oscar nomination for his fine performance.

Arkin heads a cast that includes Carl Reiner (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid), Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest), Brian Keith (The Parent Trap), Jonathan Winters (The Loved One), and Paul Ford (The Music Man), Theodore Bikel (The Defiant Ones), and John Phillip Law (Barbarella) — they’re all fine in their respective roles.

Most of all, I liked Joseph Biroc’s (Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte and The Towering Inferno) beautiful cinematography. The film was shot in Mendecino, California (standing in for the East Coast). The atmosphere of a coastal town is beautiful captured, with the natural environment presented with lush and vibrant colors.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Although the film received numerous awards and made tons of money, critics and moviegoers now often bypass the film when they talk about the best films of the 1960s. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) are now wildly regarded by modern audiences as some of the best films from the era, while The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming is regularly referred to as just a frantic, dated farce. You be the judge. Color, 126 minutes, Not Rated.

8 responses to “The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966)

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun…and what a cast! The sixties is actually a decade that I have not seen many films from (though I saw In The Heat of the Night several months ago and really liked it). Will definitely have to check this one out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the sixties — a very interesting decade. It’s an era of transition. Baby Boomers started pushing aside the Old Guard (aka “Greatest Generation”). It happened to music, cinema, fashion, etc. Hope you enjoy the film! I’m looking forward to your review! 🙂


  2. I saw an interview with Norman Jewison and he had some enlightening comments about this film (he’s as entertaining as any performer in an interview). The cast alone makes it worthwhile — yes, it is dated (and I suppose politically that’s a good thing!), but it’s still well worth watching.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I saw this for the first time on the big screen at TCMFF, and what a treat! (Why on earth is it continually overlooked when “best” films of the 1960s are mentioned?) Sure, it’s a bit dated, but it’s a funny film with wonderful characters. I can’t believe it took me so long to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

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