Nov 302014
 
Assassin of the Czar
I’ve gotten only part way through Assassin of the Tsar (1989) (Цареубийца, Tsareubiytsa).  The first thing that struck me was how similar the mood and setting were to that of Ward No. 6 (2009) (Палата № 6, Palata No. 6).  I first wondered if that’s because it’s the just the way things were at psychiatric hospitals in remote Russian cities. There were the patients at work tables, the peeling paint and run-down buildings, and the same background noises. The head ward attendant with rolled up sleeves on his white lab coat reminded me of Nikita in Ward No. 6, even though Nikita didn’t wear his lab coat that way. Sleeves rolled up or not, both had the aura of menace to come. But both films were directed by Karen Shakhnazarov,  so that is probably where the similarities came from. 
 
I went on a search for English subtitles, which seemed a possibility given that the film was released in the U.K. in 1991 after having been released in the Soviet Union in 1989. But the U.K. release was done by dubbing the voices into English.  That was disappointing, because I’d prefer subtitles or even voiceover.  And the voice coming out of Oleg Yankovsky’s mouth was not like his voice — not even close. But I watched some of it just the same, and noticed that the sound was remarkably in sync with his lips, and the same was true for the other actors. I was about to embark a frame-by-frame comparison of the two versions, because it was almost as if in the English version, Yankovsky had spoken his lines in English as best he could, and then a native English speaker’s voice had been dubbed in.
It turns out that’s exactly what was done, as can be learned by clicking the “More” button on the YouTube version.  I presume it was done the reverse direction for the role played by Malcolm McDowell, an English actor.  Two different versions of the scenes were shot, one in Russian and one in English.
Some links for things referred to above:

Reticulator