The Dark Herald Recommends: The Death of Stalin a Comedy of Terrors

The Dark Herald Recommends: The Death of Stalin a Comedy of Terrors

NOTE: In the mood for a dark laugh? I know I am and I’ve got you covered. REPOST:

The Left never lies about what it really wants.

Oh sure, they lie about everything else but when they state their ultimate objectives, those are promises cut in stone, no matter how insane they sound.

The staff of the National Cuckshed and the Bulwank try to make unfunny jokes about them but the problem is, the Left ain’t joking.

Thirty years ago, they weren’t joking when they said they wanted women in combat, unisex restrooms, gay marriage, and post-birth abortion. That wish list is nearly complete.

They mean every word of the Green New Deal. They will outlaw nuclear energy, wood-burning fireplaces, the internal combustion engine and then genocide the entire domestic bovine species in the name of stopping cow farts. These aren’t passing fancies. These are now their objectives.

Now they are floating taking our children away from us, Re-Education camps (well I had fun when I was in college but still, I don’t want to back).  And if that doesn’t work just kill us outright.

Their motte and bailey will expand to encompass all of these things if we don’t fight them tooth and nail.

The Left never jokes about what they want. Take a look at the history of the Soviet Union and you’ll see where they will lead us if they get their chance.

And for a quick look at the world that the Left would create allow me to recommend to you:

The Death of Stalin: A Comedy of Terrors.

The film opens in 1953 on the last night of the most evil man in history. Historical illiterates will try to hand that laurel to Hitler, but old Adolph was a piker compared to Stalin. He slaughtered (possibly) forty million of his citizens and made them love him for it.

The surprising thing about this movie is just how much of the history they got right. The characters are being painted with broad strokes, but they are accurate caricatures. Stalin is having one of his drunken dinner parties with his inner circle, the Politburo. Malenkov, so obviously harmless that he was the only one Stalin could trust as his heir apparent. The buffoonish Kruschev is making jokes. Molotov is laughing along with everyone else, not knowing that his name is on Tonight’s List. That list had been quietly curated by the second scariest man in the room, Beria.

At one in the morning, the drunken party is about to break up when Stalin decides he wants to watch a John Ford Western. They all stay for the cowboy movie.

In the meantime, the NKVD is pounding on doors all over Moscow, as the names on the list are pulled from their family’s terrified arms and thrown on the bus.

How do you make a comedy about this stuff?

Well, if you are Armando Iannucci the answer is brilliantly…and blackly. This is possibly the darkest comedy I’ve ever seen. I suppose because the subject matter is so dark.

The opening act shows a slice of daily life in Moscow under Stalin’s regime. Everyone is terrified in a world where “no one is safe because no one is guilty.” Stalin has an entire empire in the grip of Stockholm Syndrome. This demonstrated at NKVD headquarters, while Beria is walking and talking with a subordinate, the muffled loyal cries of “long live Stalin,” are repeatedly heard and then followed by a single pistol shot. This happens constantly and with very effective comedic timing.

An entire concert has to be restaged with an audience pretty much literally dragged off the street because Stalin wants a recording of tonight’s broadcast and unfortunately it went out live.

An old man is seen telling his wife, “I love you, tell them anything. Tell them what they want to hear. I love you!” When he hears the pounding on his door in the middle of the night. Although in his case, they just needed a conductor for the aforementioned concert. So, all good.

You really get the atmosphere. A l’air du temps that smelled of constant dread, overlain with incessant praise for the man that has created this nightmare. The horror is mixed with humor throughout.  

Then the great beast collapses and his minions gather to divide the spoils. This was compressed for time. It took Stalin a few days to kick the bucket but here he croaks the next day. As I said earlier, broad strokes.

Beria, the head of the NKVD looks to be the odds-on favorite to succeed Stalin. Technically it’s Malenkov but no one thinks it’s a long-term thing.

Kruschev is at the bottom of the list of potential successors but he has a falling out with Beria which makes him the worst life insurance risk on the Politburo. Everyone is terrified of Beria. However, he doesn’t have the kind of hold over them that Stalin did. A coup is Kruschev’s only hope for survival.

If any of that was a spoiler then read a damn history book.

The genre of this film is “The Fool Triumphant”. The seemingly harmless man faces a much great adversary.

“The “Fool” is an important character in myth and legend and has been forever. On the outside, he’s just the Village Idiot, but further examination reveals him to be the wisest among us. Being such an underdog gives the Fool the advantage of anonymity, and also makes everyone underestimate his ability, allowing him or her the chance to ultimately shine. —Blake Snyder. Save the Cat.”

The story arc is Khrushchev starting as the Kremlin Clown. He is seen as offering friendly and life-saving advice to Malenkov, “have your wife write down everything you say when you get home. That way (when you have sobered up in the morning) you know what you are dealing with. That’s Khrushchev’s, Golden Rule.” No one took him seriously because you couldn’t take him seriously. He was just Stalin’s buffoon, the clown that made him laugh at his parties. However, by the end of the story, the rest of the Politburo is clearly starting to step aside to let him take the lead. As Stalin’s daughter Svetlana put it, “I never thought it would be you, Nicky.”

On to the performances. Honestly, Steve Buschemi would have been my last choice to play Kruschev but there is no getting around it, the man absolutely nailed it. This is probably the performance of his career.

Simon Russel Beale was unquestionably reptilian as the sadistically psychopathic and sexually predatory Beria. Everything he said dripped menace. Probably his best line was when he was suddenly nose to nose with the doctor and said, “don’t worry, I’m not going to kiss you.”

Michael Palin was a decent choice for Molotov. Not that he delivered a great performance but because he always brings a Pythonesque air to anything he touches. And that worked here in this very dark comedy.

However, the absolute show-stealer was Jason Isaacs as Zhukov. He devoured the scenery in huge gulps. The Northern Accent sold it.

The end of the story, you already know.

In case you are wondering why you never heard of this film? It had opened to critical acclaim in Europe (yes, I know but I think they were serious that time). It was released in the US but was completely swamped by Black Panther. It was probably going to do okay on the home video market but then Jeffrey Tambor (Malenkov) got caught up in #MeToo and was unpersoned. The distribution was quietly dialed down and the producers couldn’t even get a Dropped-On-Netflix deal.

Ah well, once again life imitates art.

The bigger question here; is this a slice of history that will be repeated?

Regardless, The Dark Herald Recommends With Utmost Enthusiasm.

ENDNOTE: As of this writing it’s available on Netflix.

Share this post

Comments (8)

  • furor kek tonicus Reply

    wow. they didn’t make any pretense of a Russian accent for any of the characters, eh?

    it’s weird watching a Brit and an American pretending to be Russian.

    January 20, 2021 at 3:09 pm
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      It works in context. Zhukov was known for his gruff peasant accent. Jason Isaacs use of a Yorkie accent sells it.

      January 20, 2021 at 5:01 pm
  • Bonesaw Reply

    Ill have to rewatch it. When i first saw it it felt like a bunch of angry Jews squawking.

    January 21, 2021 at 10:25 am
  • John E. Boyle Reply

    Agree with both your analysis of the Left and your review of this film; the humor was black as pitch and the performances were on point.

    “I’ll take the tall blonde.”

    January 21, 2021 at 6:41 pm
  • Doug Reply

    Caught this after seeing the review on “history buffs” youtube channel. He had just as many glowing things to say about it, how close in so many ways it was to the real thing as well. Bought it and very much enjoyed the movie. Highly recommend as well. Yeah broad strokes but it was VERY close to the real thing in a lot of places. Like when Molotov’s wife comes home from Beria and they change their tune about her in literally 2 sentences after denouncing her in the previous breath.

    January 22, 2021 at 7:02 pm
  • Desert Fox Reply

    I don’t understand how “Death of Stalin” was buried at the box office. It’s a BRILLIANT film on the genius level of “Dr. Strangelove”, “The Great Dictator”, “Duck Soup”, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”, “Blazing Saddles”, etc. How did such a brilliant film disappear? It doesn’t make sense.

    February 9, 2021 at 3:23 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *