In this jet black comedy about the end of Stalin, scripted by Charles Wood from stories by the well-placed Kremlin-watcher Yuri Krotkov, the dictator (Blakely) is a ghastly paranoid prankster, while Beria (Suchet), his lecherous police chief, rolls with the jokes and abuses himself like a terrified jester when his master seems about to dispense with his services. This quicksilver double act is a tour de force (the two Georgians are represented as distrustful Ulstermen), and the film runs confidently up and down the comic scale, from the absurdity of Mao Tse-tung's visit for Stalin's 70th birthday (unable to communicate, the two dictators stuff themselves on hard-boiled eggs), to the macabre finale when the Politburo gathers outside Stalin's door hoping against hope he may be dead (opening his eyes to see his marionettes jigging for joy, the tyrant spits out the one word 'Idiot!' - a judgment on himself perhaps - before Beria sinks to his knees and throttles him). The film ends with a line from Yevtushenko: the poet will never feel safe until Stalin's heirs cease to occupy the Kremlin.
Cast and crew