Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Anna Karenina”

(20th-Century Fox Cinema Classics Collection. 1948/2007. 1 Disc. B&W. Not Rated. Produced by Alexander Korda. Directed by Julien Duvivier.) Vivien Leigh, Ralph Richardson, Kieron Moore, Hugh Dempster, Mary Kerridge, Sally Ann Howes. Music by Constant Lambert.

Come and get your Anna Kareninas here!…Your red-hot Annas! There are some 25 movie versions (to date) of Tolstoy’s famous tragedy, dating back to the early silent era (and well-known Annas range from Garbo — who made it twice — to Sophie Marceau to Jacqueline Bisset). Running to some 1,000 pages, the novel is always (sometimes mercilessly) cut for filming purposes (although the BBC did a 10-hour miniseries some 10 years ago). The emphasis then usually lands on the romance between Anna and Count Vronsky, and so it is here. Leigh, recovering from one of her many illnesses just before filming, gamely plows ahead, but despite expert makeup and beautiful costumes by Cecil Beaton, looks peaked and seems depleted of energy here. She isn’t helped by her Vronsky, the bland Moore (an Irish-born actor under contract to Korda), who I just didn’t buy as the man to give up husband, child, and social position for. Now, if it had been Tyrone Power…that I could see. So Richardson, as cuckolded husband Karenin, ends up walking away with the show. Lovely score by the British Lambert, unfortunately a little-known name today. Excellent restored print replaces previous DVD release. Extras include featurettes on Tolstoy, and a still gallery. This U.S. version runs 112 minutes; original British cut is about 20 minutes longer.