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Kultur presents
The Journey of the Fifth Horse (1966)

"Think, dear Christ, have you made me anything more than Lawyer Levinov's fifth horse? If I had never lived, it would have made no difference to anyone. My entire existence has been superfluous. That is the central fact of my being."
- Nikolai Alexeyevich Chulkaturin (Michael Tolan)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 22, 2002

Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Charlotte Rae, Michael Tolan, Susan Anspach
Other Stars: William Bassett, Catherine Gaffigan, Lee Wallace
Director: Larry Arrick, Earl Dawson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (thematic material, dueling)
Run Time: 01h:56m:46s
Release Date: April 16, 2002
UPC: 032031261297
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Dustin Hoffman, though best known as a film actor today, actually made his name on the stage. Broadway Theatre Archive here presents Hoffman's Obie Award-winning portrayal of Zoditch in Ronald Ribman's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's Diary of a Superfluous Man.

Dmitri Zoditch (Hoffman) is a snivelling reader for a publisher. His fantasies of courting the daughter (Susan Anspach) of the deceased owner of the firm are put in their place when he is required to read a journal brought in by servant Terentievna (Charlotte Rae, a later sitcom staple). This journal of a dying minor noble by the name of Nikolai Alexeyevich Chulkaturin and its existential angst provides a bitter counterpoint to Zoditch's own dismal life. As he reads, persons from his own life begin to take the roles of people in Chulkaturin's journal, despite his defiant determination that he himself is different than the diarykeeper.

Hoffman is already a major acting talent here, convincingly proud, humbled, defiant, romantic and angry in turn. Laughing at Chulkaturin, he provides a fine picture of a man who cannot see that he is looking into a mirror at another completely irrelevant soul, beneath the notice of anyone. This thoroughly 19th-century Russian literary conceit fit well into 1960s thought, in the notion that it was better to be hated than to be ignored, expressed in riots on college campuses by students tired of being disregarded by the political regime. Tolan is somewhat less successful in portraying the more self-aware, though equally superfluous, Chulkaturin. Rather more stiff, he's not quite sympathetic. At the same time, it's not entirely clear that he's meant to be, since that would constitute a notice that is really more than the story would call for. Despite his deeply heartfelt love for Liza Ozhogin (Anspach again), his disappointment develops an importance in his own mind that transcends self-pity and evolves into an invisible Weltschmerz.

Susan Anspach, who would, a few years later, be notable in Five Easy Pieces, demonstrates an intriguing two-sided view of womanhood. Both warm and cold at once, she is affectionate but cannot even contemplate the notion of loving the pathetic Chulkaturin. But there's more to her performance than mere obliviousness; she also gives her dual role a tinge of wanton cruelty that fleshes it out (though not to the credit of the character). The futile dance of love is paralleled in Zoditch's clumsy courtship of his landlady, who focuses only on grinding her meat.

The camera is fairly active for a televised theatrical play. The camera also allows for a more thorough blending of reality and fantasy as Zoditch's imaginings of both his own plans and Chulkaturin's journal take over his actual existence. Overall, a highly effective adaptation of Turgenev, recommended for anyone who enjoys classic Russian literature.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The program appears to be shot on videotape. There are frequent video dropouts, details are obscured in softness and black levels are extremely poor. Video artifacting is often present in the form of distorted bars in the picture. Alas, the source material is probably not much better, so this will have to do. However, it's a good deal better than some of the programs in this series.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: There is minor hiss and a low electronic hum throughout much of the running time. However, the dialogue is quite clear throughout. The brief music at act changes is slightly distorted, but tolerable considering the source material.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 7 cues and remote access
0 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras. Chaptering is limited to one stop per act and for the credits, which results in quite lengthy chapters. This makes hunting for a specific sequence quite difficult.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A thoughtful and brutal translation of Turgenev to the stage, brought to life in a star-making performance by Dustin Hoffman. Not bad for a 35-year-old videotape, but don't expect pristine quality or any extras either.


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