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Balalaika

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Craig Butler
Balalaika's title, combined with the knowledge that it is an operetta, is enough to let astute viewers know that they are in for a ridiculous romance set in a foreign land (or lands) that is going to depend upon much more heavily upon its score, cast or physical production (or a combination of the three) than upon its screenplay. Indeed, this turns out to be the case, for Balalaika's story is a soppy, derivative and quite artificial one, and the screenplay concocted around it has done nothing to alleviate these conditions. Because of this initial handicap, Balalaika has to struggle to provide real entertainment. Fortunately, the film does have a number of assets to compensate, including star Nelson Eddy. Granted, Eddy does the film few favors in his dialogue scenes, as drama was never his real forte. But his heavenly baritone more than makes up for his histrionic shortcomings, and he is marvelous when singing here. Indeed, his "Silent Night" is stunningly beautiful and also benefits from a very strong presentation in one of director Reinhold Schunzel's nicest and most effective sequences. Co-star Ilona Massey provides glamour and considerably more dramatic skill and more than holds her own in the musical sequences. The sets and costumes are lavish and opulent, and Frank Morgan's rendition of "Land of Dreams" is genuine moving. None of this makes Balalaika a great film, but it does raise the entertainment value significantly. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi
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