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Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk's epic version of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (Voyna i Mir) was the most expensive European film ever made for many years. It certainly had one of the longest gestation periods, with Bondarchuk spending seven years filming the project (the actors noticeably age from scene to scene). In relating Tolstoy's complex tale of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Bondarchuk helmed some of the most graphic battle scenes ever seen, one of which runs nearly 45 minutes. So many horses were killed in these sequences that the film was loudly boycotted in some American cities by the ASPCA. While Bondarchuk is slavish to the source material, he does make a few Hollywood-like concessions to popular appeal; his leading lady Lyudmila Savelyeva looks exactly like Audrey Hepburn, the star of King Vidor's 1956 filmization of the Tolstoy novel.

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KU1339D War & Peace DVD (1968/Russian/373 min.) $39.98 $35.99