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Review by The New York Times, March 9, 1937

Tsar to Lenin, a documentary fllm. Edited and compiled by Max Eastman, collected and produced by Herman Axelbank.
By Frank S. Nugent

Max Eastman has edited and compiled the most complete, impartial and intelligent film history of the Russian revolution thus far shown. His “Tsar to Lenin,” .now at the Filmarte, vs an important work, neither hymn of hate nor paean of praise. While his long friendship with Trotsky and his dislike of Stalin have induced him to dwell upon the former and slight the latter, this is only a minor flaw in an otherwise objective survey of the exciting years between 1912 and 1922. The “fellow-workers” visiting the Filmarte prepared to hiss a Trotskyite’s summary of their banner years will find precious little excuse for demonstration, for facts (as Lenin said) are stubborn things, and Mr. Eastman has dealt with facts alone. His picture has much the nature of a jig-saw puzzle. It is built of unrelated scenes, many of them fitted into a pattern quite unlike the one for which they were intended. Some of the shots were made by the Czar's photographer, some by the Czar himself, some by Soviet photographers, some by the German general staff, some by the staff camera men with the French, English and Japanese armies of occupation, some by American war correspondents. Some were meant as Red army propaganda, some were intended to uphold the cause of the Whites. Mr. Eastman has assembled them chronologically, used only those he was assured were authentic. The resulting picture is honest, unbiased, reasonably thorough. The narrative accompaniment is not always so abstract, but it attempts, at least, to seem non-partisan. The picture opens with the prewar years, sketohing vividly the ease and luxury of the Imperial Court, the squalor and poverty of the peasant and working classes. It carries on through the war, with the breakdown of the food and munitions transport system, the famine at the front and the unrest behind the lines. Street scenes in the capital catch the first mutterings of rebellion, watch them swell into a chorus of revolt. Ironically the narrator mentions the Czar's abdication, Grand Duke Nikolai’s hasty refusal to assume power. The people take control, elect their representatives and Russia—almost at once—is ringed about by her enemies. Kerensky, Yudenich, Deniken, Kolchak—they make their bids for power, for popular support; some by arms, some by diplomacy. But the Russian people have laid down their mandate; Lenin directs the battle, Trotsky (says Mr. Eastman) carries it through. The picture ends with Russia united, the enemy driven from its borders, Lenin towering as the heroic figure of the revolution. Happily It is content to sign off without the usual “documentary” postlude of the “Internationale” and an ecstatic glimpse of a tractor brigade. “Tsar to Lenin” has chronicled only the first step of the revolt, but it has done it extremely well. Mr. Eastman is to be congratulated.