CBC Mini Series - Canada Russia '72
On April 9th and 10th, 2006, CBC aired the world premier of Canada Russia '72, a film by TW Peacocke, Barrie Dunn and Malcolm MacRury. It is very much a film, though cleverly shot in documentary style snap shots which allowed for the great behind-the-scenes look at Canada's iconic sporting and cultural moment. It is the off-ice stories that make this film a success.
All in all, this is a great film that far exceeded my expectations. When I first heard about this project a good year before its release I had two fears. Firstly I feared there was no way any replication could possibly capture the intensity, the drama, the patriotism that is so greatly ingrained in all of us. Secondly, I feared it would another "Miracle" on ice Hollywood type production - nice, tidy hero worshipping..
Fortunately, I was completely wrong on both counts
Unlike typical Hollywood films, these Canadian filmmakers looked to tell the true story, even though that story was full of ugly moments which cast our heroes in a bad light. Somehow this trait of Canadian film really worked here. Anything less, anything too "Hollywood", and this film would have failed miserably.
More importantly, and I'm not quite sure how, but the writers, directors and actors of this film, in Henderson-like form, managed to pull off the impossible. We all know the story. We all know the protagonists. We all know the outcome. Many lived it. The rest of us, myself included, live with it. Yet somehow this film had me greatly anticipating every coming moment.
Part of this miracle is the magic of the series itself. The rest is due to great writing and research. The attention detail was absolutely incredible. It's almost as if the writers and researchers read my website or something. Or better yet, they exhausted every book, every newspaper archive, every documentary, every first hand account of the players, the coaches, the media of the time, and just about anybody who had something to contribute.
For a hardcore Summit Series enthusiast like me, that's what I enjoyed most. I completely marked out at all the tiny details and the hockey scenes.
There's the 70s era wardrobes, hair and glasses (how were they ever fashionable I'll forever be too young to understand). There was great soundtrack, full of Canadian 70s classics that contributed to yesterday's atmosphere.
Somehow they made New Brunswick look like cold, gray Moscow. They found a ridiculous glowing globe to serve as the Luzhniki goal light, an odd car with an authentic Tackh (taxi) sign, the rink board advertising. I loved how the Russians spoke Russian with subtitles (and for that matter the French players spoke French) as opposed to the English-with-a-phony-accent routine.
Then there's the hockey scenes. God bless them. They tried so hard to recreate every play exactly as it happened, and cleverly included some actual footage. Somehow it came across like a slow motion replay, but the effort by all was greatly appreciated. One of the best aspects was the inclusion of the actual commentary of Foster Hewitt and Brian Conacher. Whoever made that decision should get an award.
I think the details that impressed me the most are the stuff that may have flown over the average person's head. There was so many references to the tiniest of quirks that made the series but I never would have guessed would have made the movie. Stuff like Dick Beddoes promising to eat his column in a bowl of borscht should Canada not win, or Harold Ballard's million dollar headline about Kharlamov, Henderson's vacation, Espo's hockey school, Bergman's jokes, Cashman's tongue or the mythical Chinese restaurant prank. I think that one floored me the most. These guys left nothing unturned.
The film really impressed me early when they were showing the alternate jerseys. Right away I knew I would be learning. Were those legitimate options at the time, or a little Hollywood recreation?
On to the actors.
Lastly, I understand the reasons for it, but I was disappointed in the
historical inaccuracies that painted the Russians in a bad light. My website and mailing list have a strong Russian following, and I can
tell you they were extremely upset at the portrayal of Russian players in "Miracle." Kharlamov shooting the puck into the stands at the
players established the Canadian players, particularly Clarke, dislike for him in an
unnecessary way. Of course the Russians were stereotyped as emotionless robots at the time, so I really appreciated the humanizing
of the Russian by showing the celebration in the dressing room after game one. I felt the scene where the Russian players first arrive at
the Forum or where they hop on foot in Moscow was robot-like, as was the use of black and white
filming in the dressing room. I know this movie is about Canada's perspective and this only helps to re-establish the Soviet stereotype,
but a little more humanizing of the Russian contingent would have been
And the Canadian fan who was
taken by the Soviet militia and had his head shaved, heels tattooed and
sadistically humiliated - I know that's what all westerners feared Soviet
police would do to you, but as far as I know this never really happened to
a Canadian fan. Detained perhaps, but even that I don't know of, but I've
never heard about this actually happening.
Will there be a DVD release?
An inside source has told me a DVD release with extras is planned, but no release date is known. He does suggest in time for Christmas 2006 is a good possibility.
Have you talked to any of the cast?
I have, most notably Judah Katz who stars as Alan Eagleson. Here's some excerpts of our email conversations:
Have you talked to the creators?
I have, his name is Barrie Dunn of Trailer Park Boys fame. Here's some excerpts of our email conversations:
Here are a collection of newspaper and online reviews about the movie:
Summit Series drama inspired by success of 2004 Disney Movie 'Miracle'