Moscow on the Hudson (1984) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Moscow on the Hudson (1984) is my personal favorite Robin Williams film. IMDB members say only 6.1/10, but the older you are,  the more likely you are to like it, with "under 18s" at 4.5, and "over 45s" at 6.8.

It is a simple idea -- a Russian Circus musician (Williams) defects during a US tour in Bloomingdales. The film is about how he becomes an American. One of the themes of the film is the entire "melting pot" experience. He hides under the skirt of an Italian store clerk (Maria Conchita Alonso) who later becomes his girlfriend, gets hooked up with a Cuban lawyer, moves in with a black family, and so on. 

Williams was the second choice for the role. They wanted Dustin Hoffman, but selected Williams when Hoffman wasn't interested. Later, when Hoffman changed his mind, he was told it was too late. To prepare for the film, which starts in Russia (actually Munich, as the former Soviet Union would never have allowed this to be filmed there), Williams learned Russian in three months, and learned to play sax in his spare time. Director/Writer Paul Mazursky comments in the feature length commentary track that Williams, at first, was trying to be funny all of the time, but soon learned that this was a straight part that had humorous moments, and adapted to give one of his best performances. 


Maria Conchita Alonso has a lengthy topless scene in the bath with Williams, in which he is constantly tweaking her nipples. 

We also see pretty much everything in a dark scene with Williams' Russian girlfriend, played by stage actress Olga Talyn. I am pretty sure I see pubic hair in some of the images.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.78:1, and a fullscreen version

  • good transfer

Scoopy's notes:

Williams did a good job, and the film very effectively managed a blend of pathos, humor, bitterness, and reconciliation. The amazing thing about this movie is that it is quite funny and quite moving, and yet it has intense sociological analysis buried deep beneath the laughter and tears. It has a POV, and it lets the characters develop realistically, in a cycle of: I love America. I hate America. I love America. I'm not sure.

Vladimir:   I know life was not so good for black people here with slavery and ...

Lionel (joking away a tense moment): Well, at least under slavery, everybody had a job.

Vladimir:  ummm - just like Russia.

The Critics Vote

  • Critical consensus: wow - nearly four stars! Maltin 3.5/4, Ebert 4/4. Both Tuna and I would also give it at least three stars if we used that kind of rating.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Six articles on file

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.1. Obviously, people don't like it as much as the two of us and our panel of critics.
  • With their dollars ... it wasn't a smash, hit, but it took in $25 million domestic in 1984, so it was a solid performer.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B or better. (Scoop agrees. "I don't much care for Robin's sappy movies or director Paul Mazursky, but I really enjoyed the wit and subtle social realism of this film. It is rare to find a comedy which is quite funny and actually has something to say. Based on that, our definition calls for a B.")

Return to the Movie House home page