Alexander “Shurik” Timofeev is a Russian inventor. He is building a time machine in his apartment. The other tenants complain to the building superintendent, Ivan Vasilievich Bunsha, that Shurik keeps burning out the fuses for the whole building. His latest test creates an explosion that knocks him unconscious.
Shurik’s wife, Zinaida comes home and tells him she is leaving him for another man. She is an actress and she has fallen in love with her director. Shurik is so occupied with his invention that the idea of his wife leaving does not impress him. When Vasilievich shows up at the apartment upset about the explosion Shurik is ready to try out his time machine. He wants Vasilievich to witness the historic occasion.
In the meantime his next door neighbor’s apartment is being robbed by a thief names George Miloslavsky. When the time machine is activated the wall between Shurik’s apartment and his neighbor’s disappears for a short time. George is still in the apartment and witnesses the event. Amazed at seeing the wall evaporate, and being a thief, George sees all kinds of possibilities with the invention. Vasilievich is suspicious of George, but Shurik is excited and wants to show him what his machine can really do.
Shurik activates the time machine again and the wall not only disappears it turns into a portal to another time. By accident Vasilievich and George end up in the fourteenth century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. As luck would have it Ivan the Terrible gets transported to modern day Russian and 1973. While Ivan is trying to deal with modern life, Vasilievich and George are trying to evade Ivan’s guards. Vasilievich is a long distant relative of Ivan the Terrible and there is a marked resemblance between the two Vasilievich men.
Vasilievich is reluctantly convinced by George to try to pose as the Tsar in order to not get killed. Ivan seems to be able to adjust to modern life a lot better than Vasilievich does to the fourteenth century. Ivan the Terrible and Ivan Vasilievich are both played by Yury Yakovlev. I suspect his portrayal of the ruthless tsar is a lot nicer than the real thing was.
Since the time machine incurred some damage during the switch Shurik is forced to try to find the transistors needed to fix the machine to get Ivan back to the fifteen hundreds and bring Vasilievich and George back to the present.
“Ivan Vasilievich Changes Professions” AKA “Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future” was released in 1973 and was directed by Leonid Gaidai. This rather obscure little film is a Soviet production. It’s probably more obscure in the US than in Russia. It is basically a comedy/science fiction film. It is based on a play called “Ivan Vasilievich” by Mikhall Bulgakov. The play was written in 1935 but not published until 1965. When the movie was done it was updated to reflect the 1970’s.
It’s an unusual little film. There is a lot of slapstick involved. Sort of a “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” 1975 meets “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” 1993 Russian style, but cleaner. There are no dirty jokes or swearing here.
Leonid Gaidai was not only a director but a writer as well. Leonid wrote the screenplay for the movie along with Vladlen Bakhnov. Leonid also wrote the screenplay and directed a movie called “Twelve Chairs” 1971. It is based on a Russian story by Ilf and Petrov. The movie had been done a year earlier by Mel Brooks and called “The Twelve Chairs” 1970.
**SPOILER: The movie starts in black and white. It changes to color after Shurik is hit on the head. It changes back to black and white at the end. The change is to show the difference between the real world and the dream world.**