Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Lord Luton's Right Load of Cossacks

Taras Bulba , based on the novel by Nikolai Gogol, is hailed as one of the greatest Russian stories of all time. Bulba is an old Cossack with two sons, he sends them off to be educated in Kiev and through the length of the story we see the destiny of the two sons change. One falls in love with a Polish girl and betrays his father and fellow Cossacks and while the other grows up to be a good Cossack. Now you know the basics lets chat about the films. Yep, plural. First is the 1962 version starring Yul Bryner as Bulba and ....wait for it.....Tony Curtis as the 'bad son'. As you can imagine there is lots of action and the whole thing rattles along at a fair old pace with the usual sped up horse scenes but you end up feeling sorry for old Bulba. A bit of a Hollywood epic with a difference, not on the massive scale that you sometimes expect from Hollywood but they certainly capture the feel of the wild but proud Cossacks.

The second version is a Russian made epic from 2009. They seem to be pumping out these sort of things now (see 1612 for example). As you would expect this version seems far more historically accurate and the battle scenes are far more gory and realistic but unfortunately what it gains in realism it loses in pace and fun. Where the original had legs and the ability carry the audience along the Russian version gets bogged down in preaching and speeches. Those evil Poles! etc etc. If your looking for a rip roaring adventure go for the 1962 version. If you want a historically accurate version with cheap synth soundtrack......

Before we abandon Cossacks altogether I'm going to come over all Sister Wendy and show you a painting that I love.
The reason I'm so taken by this picture is not so much the image itself but the story behind it. Basically the Cossacks were being such a pain in the arse that the Ottoman Sultan, Turkish Sultan Mehmed IV, wrote to them,

"As the Sultan; son of Muhammad; brother of the Sun and Moon; grandson and viceroy of God; ruler of the kingdoms of Macedonia, Babylon, Jerusalem, Upper and Lower Egypt; emperor of emperors; sovereign of sovereigns; extraordinary knight, never defeated; steadfast guardian of the tomb of Jesus Christ; trustee chosen by God himself; the hope and comfort of Muslims; confounder and great defender of Christians—I command you, the Zaporozhian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks."

The painting shows a group of cossacks writing the reply and having a great deal of fun composing the following

Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan (4?)!

Thou art a Turkish imp, the damned Devil's brother and friend, and a secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight art thou that cannot slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil shits, and your army eats. Thou son of a bitch wilt not ever make subjects of Christian sons; we have no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck thy mother. Thou art the Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, Armenian pig, Podolian villain, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, a fool before our God, a grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw thine own mother!

So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. Thou wilt not even be herding Christian pigs. Now we shall conclude, for we don't know the date and don't have a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year in the book, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!

Hands up who thought trolling started with the Internet!

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