“Death of Stalin” A Comically Arsenic Satire


In the closing credits of “The Death of Stalin,” his successor Malenkov, played by Jeffrey Tambor fades from the screen, another casualty in the battle for power after Stalin’s death.

death-of-stalin-posters-tamborStalin henchman Beria was a brutal schemer and Malenkov his useful idiot. Beria, played by blustering and blistering British stage veteran Simon Russell Peale, ends up executed in “Murder on the Orient Express” fashion and a cunning Kruschev, played by a perpetually exasperated Steve Buscemi, emerged to become leader of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964.

“Stalin,” by “Veep” creator Armando Ianucci is a comically arsenic recreation of this episode.

It offers “Airplane!”-deadpan physical comedy, as Politburo members bicker while  carrying a dead-as-a-parrot Stalin from library to bedroom; or as a Moscow radio producer scrambles to re-stage a concert Stalin has just heard that was unrecorded.

“No one will be killed,” he says uncertainly as he reassembles the audience and orchestra.

Too there is “Sopranos” caliber ruthlessness, especially by pedophile and torturer Beria.

The combination suggests a Monty Python remake of “The Godfather.”

It is timely as well. They were basically gangsters, some less hardcore than others, and Putin and his fair and free elections are made in their image. And the way that Tambor, who has a significant role but is tainted by a sexual harassment scandal, was eliminated from the film’s promotional materials (see above image) is Soviet revisionism at its best.

It is all filtered through a selfish and sycophantic political prism familiar from “Veep” which like “Stalin” is merely an exaggeration of the truth.

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