Peter the Great - The Testament

This is a four-part Russian TV series about the last two years in the life of the most important Russian tsar, Peter the Great, or Big Pete as I like to call him. Actually, I like to call him Peter the Great by Russian Standards, a qualification which annoys the hell out of my Russian relatives. Based on a semi-historical novel by the venerable Daniil Granin, this series centers around Peter's relationship with Maria Cantemir, a beautiful and well educated young Moldavian princess who became Peter's last mistress and possibly his greatest love, if you believe the screenplay. According to the novel and this series, Cantemir become pregnant with Peter's child, whereupon Empress Catherine conspired with Cantemir's physician to abort the pregnancy before Peter could name the child as his heir.

(NOTE: The English Wikipedia page linked above offers minimal info about Cantemir. If you want some detail about her, switch to the Russian version of her Wikipedia page, then translate it into English.)

The story presented here is essentially a collection of all the most lurid tidbits of gossip from the Russian court in that era. I believe it is a fair analogy to say that this story bears the same relationship to history as the famous BBC series "I, Claudius," in that the basic outline of the story does not contradict what we know to be true, but the screenplay embellishes the facts and fills in the details in the juiciest possible way. Just as with the Suetonius version of ancient Rome presented by "I, Claudius," we aren't even very sure that what we "know to be true" about Peter's era is actually true, because it was not any wiser for a contemporary to print something unfavorable about Peter the Great than it was to do so about Caligula. Most historians and journalists prefer the fashion statement they can make with their heads attached to their bodies. So it was in tsarist Russia, as it was in imperial Rome, that many events were never recorded by an objective contemporary observer. This TV series recounts, for example, the heroic tale of how Peter the Great died from an illness he incurred by his nearly superhuman effort to save some common sailors from icy water. Although that story is widely believed, many historians feel that it was entirely concocted. Similarly, very little is really known about Maria Cantemir's relationship with the Tsar, which was conducted away from prying eyes because he was married to another woman at the time. It is possible that the empress ordered Peter's mistress to be poisoned, but it is also possible that did not happen at all. Some historians claim that the child was born, but died in early infancy, unremarkably, as so many children did in those days. (Peter and Catherine had eleven children over a 19-year period, of which only two made it to adulthood, and only one of those two lived past her 21st birthday. That one became empress of Russia some 16 years after her father died, and ruled for more than twenty years.)

Anyway, I guess that a Russian version of "I, Claudius" is not such a bad idea. As presented here, the machinations of the courtiers are entertaining and often funny, Peter's mistress looks great with her clothes off and on, and some of the revenge plots shown here would not be out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie. You may well enjoy this if you value sensationalized mass entertainment over scrupulous historical accuracy.

In Russian, with optional English sub-titles, no features.


Elizabeta Boyarskaya looks and sounds fantastic as Maria Cantemir. (She has a great speaking voice, ala Kathleen Turner.)

Irina Rozanova. Frankly, you can skip this one. She played the elderly empress. 'Nuff said.

Some random woman got whipped while she was topless. It is a running theme in the film, you might even say a running joke, that people are constantly being punished and executed in the public square for some crimes against God or Russia or both. As they execute a seemingly endless parade of local governors and mayors, the ceremonial executioners are perpetually reading aloud from long lists of crimes both grand and petty. I don't know enough about the Russian sense of humor to know whether this interminable droning of details, specifying events of wildly contrasting gravity (like "chewing gum on line and stealing from the Tsar"), was supposed to be funny, but these scenes closely resemble the Tuco execution scenes in The Good the Bad and the Ugly, and I found this to be an amusing backdrop to the story.




  • * Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

  • * White asterisk: expanded format.

  • * Blue asterisk: not mine.

  • No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.



"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena"

e2, 1080 HD

Marisa Ramirez film clips. See below.

Lucy Lawless and Jaime Murray film clips. See below.





X is a Sydney-based thriller set over one night in and around Kings Cross, following two prostitutes who are drawn together. Holly Rowe (Viva Bianca) is on her last night of prostitution before going to France for new opportunities. Shay (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence) is a 17 year-old girl who is on the street trying to make money just to get by. By chance, Holly finds Shay and asks her to join in on a job where the client wants a blonde and a brunette. She accepts and they go to a hotel where they pleasure a low rent drug dealer until a man calls wanting to do a deal with the dealer. As the girls hide, they witness the dealer being murdered and the killer notices that someone else was in the room. He tracks down Holly via her service, then he goes about finding Shay. Oh, and the killer just happens to be a bent cop who will do just about anything to get what he wants.

While the trailer pegged the film as Gaspar Noe-like, X isn't really like that. It's a taut thriller that reminds me more of a classier version of the director's 1999 thriller Redball. This film is much better made than that film, a more memorable thriller with the two leads that drive the film much more than the agro antics of Redball. Well worth a look.

New collages:

Viva Blanca

Hanna Mangan Lawrence


Film Clips

(followed by samples or thumbnails when available)

Liv Tyler in The Ledge (2011), this time in 1080p

Amandine Truffy in Une vie francaise (2010) in 1080p

various women in Henri 4 (2010)

Olga Tumajkina in Poisons, or the World History of Poisoning (2001)



Pirelli: 2012 calendar preview - Kate Moss

Pirelli: 2012 calendar preview - Lara Stone

Pirelli: 2012 calendar preview - Kate Moss, Lara Stone, others

Pirelli: 2012 calendar preview - Moss again and others (Milla, but she kept her clothes on)

Lilita Czarina in The Echo Game (2009)

Hester van Hooven in The Echo Game

Perrey Reeves: Entourage accidental nudity