“ Central Miscasting Dooms This Ho-Hum Version of A Great Epic .
“ Did any of the people who went to see the movie get dragged before the committee for watching a play with majority Russian characters?
“ For example: brilliant battle scenes, (some) powerful performances and rousing music by Nino Rota.
“ Take for instance the riveting scenes such as Pierre's attempt to assassinate Napoleon and the long march through the snow in the dead of winter in which dozens of people die or the constant shooting of weakened soldiers.
“ As with most literary adaptations, it is fundamentally pointless to speculate on the extent to which King Vidor's memorable movie either departs from or reproduces the themes and style of Tolstoy's source- text.
“ All in all, this is clearly a movie of its time in cinematography, sets, the clearly drawn lines of the script - but it is entertaining and does about as well as possible in dramatizing in 3 1/2 hours a book of over 1000 pages.
“ Prince Andrei was a trapped character in the book beautifully drawn out, done whereas as the outset he is set up almost as the 'hero' at first only for Tolstoy to tear him up and down.
“ This isn't a subtle movie, but as others have note, it's a terrifically entertaining distillation of Tolstoy's novel in the 1950's epic tradition.
“ Let's get the bad things out of the way--at 3 1/2 hours it's far too long (the last half hour really drags); characters and stories are not handled well at all--people come and go very quickly; there's some funny post-dubbing (notice how Audrey Hepburn's voice echoes--when she's outside!
“ Overall, it's worth watching because the positives outweigh the negatives.
“ It was long and boring and one needed the drug of sleep to endure the stagey direction and acting.
“ ONLY Audrey Hepburn captures a good deal of Natasha's spirit, but the slow awful decline of the Rostovs is not dealt with, or Natasha's own mortification at being tricked by Anatole Kuragin.
“ Coupled with genuine Technicolor (before it became teamed with Eastman Color) photography, VistaVision was capable of stunning images.
“ If you haven't read the novel, I highly recommend it.
“ First, he was, by his own acknowledgment, far too long in the tooth for the role, which he says he merely took for the money.
“ And it could have been reduced in size to half, and have been far more entertaining.
“ The whole thing also goes on way too long.
“ As a film it is very dated in style, even for 1956, though Vidor tries to depict some Tolstoy detailed locations, he does it mostly in a very wooden dry and uninteresting way.
“ War and Peace, the novel, has many great things, but also many excrescences: it goes on way too long, padded out with tediously detailed philosophies and theories of war; it also studiously refuses loose ends.
“ However, its very slow, giving too much emphasis and spending too much time on certain scenes without need, and it lacks emotions and strength, being unable to thrill or grab our attention.
“ Definitely worth watching if time and attention permit.
“ Did any of these actors get dragged before McCarthy?
“This Hollywood version fails on several levels, starting with central miscasting: Henry Fonda, so brilliant as quintessential Americans Tom Joad and Abraham Lincoln, simply looks confused as the often oafish would-be philosopher Pierre, and while Audrey Hepburn is doubtless stunning in various gowns, the role of Natasha is an elusive one, and old-school director King Vidor doesn't do much to alter her Sabrina-like mannerisms: she is striking to look at and does her best.
“ Similarly, Hank Fonda as Pierre is an absurd no-go here when Peter Ustinov, a real Russian by decent, would have made far better big boned, slow and non-violent Pierre who, for much of the novel, is too timid to even consider having a love affair with Natasha.
“ Exaggerated colour and carefully contrived composition offer us a second, more subtle and personal story, to the main, surface narrative.
“ The film plods to a slow death without her.
“ His scenes in battle are quite engaging, as his transformation from a kind of idealist naivete changes to experience.
“ The battlefield scenes are massive, neat-and-tidy, and seldom more than predictable--the Russian version directed by Sergei Bondarchuk boggles the mind with it's truly spectacular vistas and warlike chaos, challenges the viewer, and plunging the viewer into the heat of battle.
“ He projects with sincerity the confusion of an honest man caught up in an angry twist of history...
“And yet, despite the lengthy running time, this is a movie which feels surprisingly hollow and empty in places.
“There are pluses here, of course, not least Henry Fonda and Mel Ferrer, two dependable and entertaining characters - even if they are miscast!
“ And yet, thanks to some compelling imagery and strong narrative it moves faster than many a 90-minuter.
“ But what really is missing is the sense of tragic implications each character carries with them, how life's unexpected changes rolls over every single character, over some harder than others.
“ Plus, he's one of the most boring actors to grace a screen and when he tries to even THINK on screen, it's excruciatingly awful.
“ It's an intriguing suggestion, and of course Sir Alec was always good.
“ The Prince soon becomes a Colonel in the war against the French as Napoleon's army advances, leading to the one spectacular, engrossing sequence wherein Henry Fonda (in dress clothes and spectacles), on a jaunt through the countryside, inadvertently finds himself in the middle of battle.
“ Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" is a sprawling, interesting and exceptionally soporific novel to read; both Ayn Rand and I called reading Tolstoy the most boring task we ever had to endure in school.
“ But the labor of love that is this Italian-made production (Di Lorentiis was behind the production) is well worth watching it in its entirety.
“ And the casting decisions were odd, especially choosing Henry Fonda to play Pierre Bezukhov, who, after Natasha, is one of the most compelling characters in the novel.
“ Every scene and picture is full of beauty, the photography is a marvel all through, which makes this film one of the most pictorially enjoyable ever made.
“ It's a beautiful movie but the scenes and visuals are so slow you'd better bring a large cappuccino.