The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Based on the novel by Nathaniel Benchley
There are many good, amusing moments in the comedy The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, counterintuitively, if we consider the scare included in the title, the film has won the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Actor – categories for which it was nominated for the Oscars and also Best Writing.
During the period when the Americans and the Russians where confronting each other through proxy and the cold war, unlike today, when they may be shooting at each other over Syria and chemical weapons- which are all right with Putin-, a submarine is stuck near Gloucester Island in Massachusetts.
The captain seems to be the archetypical soviet apparatchik, placed there not for “what he knows, but whom he knows”, the stupid mistake of getting so close to shore and therefore risking the shipwreck of his vessel appears so silly as to be dismissed as incredible, but this sort of thing happened in communism, where many “leaders” where placed in their position because they showed an attachment to the “values „of the system and not any special skills.
In fact, if there are wrong things with this feature, one of the major flaws would be to depict the Coming Russians as so likeable, humane, decent, loveable, amusing, endearing and so many more positive traits that one would believe that these are actually Tibetans from the close entourage of the Dalai Lama that are represented here and not hardened Soviets, the forefathers of the guys who vote overwhelmingly- 80% or more!- for a dictator who invades Ukraine, kills ex-spies and whoever might near them, helps a monster like Assad and so much more without losing any sleep.
When the submarine is trapped, a team of nine men is sent to shore to get help and get the vessel into the ocean again, Lieutenant Rozanov aka Alan Arkin- winner of the Golden Globe and Oscar nominated for this performance- leading the unit and trying to get a boat to propel his comrades out of trouble.
The Russians arrive at the house of the Whittaker family, where the young son- who is probably about seven- observes the activities of seven strange men who sneak around their home, situated some distance from the other houses, and tells his father and mother who at first ignore him and then they thinks he is probably playing some game.
All until three foreigners knock at their door and ask directions, because they need a boat, for they are Norwegians- however, they say it wrong and with a heavy accent- and they are trying to sail away, after they have had an incident and other such invented details from a fake story.
Walt Whittaker, the paterfamilias, finally understands that his son was right when he was trying to warn him, but it is too late now, as the strangers take out a machine gun, take them inside and instruct the family to cooperate so that they are not forced to use violent methods, give them the keys to their car- Walt is trying to say there is not enough gas, but the –always incompetent?- Soviets pay no attention and they will be stranded- again- this time on the road.
The next stop of the team of “invaders” is at the house of a local elderly woman, Alice Foss, who barely has enough time to pick up the phone and sound the alert “The Russians have landed and they have attacked me” which would first sound so incredulous as to be dismissed, but would then spread around the island as wild fire
The phone operator- they placed calls through these essential workers in those days- calls the sheriff with the message from the panicked old lady, but the official thinks of the other false alarm from the same claimant and is not too worried about it, even if he soon has to mobilize his workforce, small as it is.
Meanwhile, Alice Foss is immobilized by the invading Soviet Force, for some reason suspended on the wall and her husband comes to the kitchen, where he does not see, but calls her until a friend enters the room and then the spouse asks: “what are you doing there Alice”…the woman had been trying to signal him for quite some time now.
Slowly, the news of the invasion reaches the town and a group of cowboys, led by a would be civilian vigilante, leader of the Resistance against the occupying enemy army, Fendall Hawkins, clashes with the more reasonable and skeptical Police Chief Link Mattocks- the two are even ready to fight each other, the chief taking and breaking the sword of the imagined commander of the Island Civilian Army.
Walt Whittaker fights with the soldier left to guard the family, Alexei Kolchin, takes his machine gun and takes the bicycle into town to alert the other people, while a drunk is made to take his horse and ride it to give the news of the Russian attack to the…Whittaker family- almost throughout the motion picture, the inebriated character tries to convince his mare to take the trip and only succeeds at the end.
The Russians take over the Post Office and then tie Walt Whittaker and the female operator together, making them struggle when their captors are gone, trying to release themselves and hop in the process through the offices, the stairs and finally on the pavement.
There is a lot of confusion on the island, some of it funny, part of it just silly, with various groups trying to defend the airport, where not foreigner has been seen, the Russians finally able to move their submarine, but then confronted by the local Police chief, who announces the Soviet captain that they are under…arrest.
The latter points out his cannon- a rather small piece of artillery, but in keeping with the diminutive vessel, which appears somewhat small to have made all the trip to America- at the local population and a standoff ensues, culminating in a supreme moment of tension, when a child slips from a high church tower and hangs at altitude, in danger of dying…