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Operatsiya Y i drugiye priklyucheniya Shurika
(Operation Y and Other Adventures of Shurik, 1965)

Leonid Gaidai

Russia (Soviet Union)

92 min, color, Russian

Review © 2003 Branislav L. Slantchev

As the title says, this is a collection of three short films, each about an adventure involving the indomitable bespectacled student Shurik (Aleksandr Demyanenko) who would go on to earn more glory as the intrepid bespectacled student Shurik foiling the evil designs of the rather incompetent trio of criminals that makes its appearance in the third film of this collection.

The first is Naparnik (Partner) and tells how Shurik, a student part-time construction worker gets into a bus brawl with a bully named Fedya (Aleksei Smirnov) when the latter refuses to offer his seat to a pregnant young lady. Fedya is sentenced to 15 days of community work and just happens to get posted to the same construction place where Shurik works. Of course, he tries to exact his revenge but little does he know how inventive (and plain lucky) Shurik can be. Some excellent acting on both sides, and some particularly funny moments (e.g. Fedya chasing Shurik who has just stolen his clothes around the construction site... ah, words should not be used to describe this. See the pictures below).

The second adventure is Navazhdenie (Suggestion) --- the word really implies something like extrasensory suggestion or telepathy --- is about Shurik freaking out on the day of an important exam. Everyone is either cramming, or finding creative ways to cheat, or, in Shurik's case, simply finding someone who has actually attended lectures and taken notes. He finally stumbles across the beautiful Lida (Naralya Seleznyova) but never notices either her or where he actually is or happens to be going. She is deeply engrossed in studying from the notes herself and when her girl friend falls asleep, she never notices that Shurik is following her around reading along with her. After the exam, a common friend introduces them to each other, and they, completely unaware of having spent the entire afternoon studying together go to Lida's apartment where Shurik experiences deja-vu and Lida manages to do test his supposed telepathy with a fairly unconventional suggestion.

The third adventure introduces the famous bumbling trio of the Dimwit (Yuri Nikulin), the Chicken (Georgi Vitsin), and the Old Hand (Yevgeni Morgunov). The three are hired by a corrupt depot director (Vladimir Vladislavsky) who is facing an financial inspection. Of course, in good socialist tradition, most of the goods that are supposedly stored in his depot have already been stolen, so he needs someone to rig a break-in and to make it appear as if the goods have all disappeared in that burglary. This plan gives the title to this epoisode: Operatsiya Y (Operation Y). The nightwatch on the night of the action is just an old lady whom they plan to chloroform. Unfortunately (for them), on that fateful night Shurik trades places with the old lady and finds himself in the midst of some hot and incredibly funny action.

As with all other of Gaidai's comedies, this one is not to be missed. Some really great humor, both of the slapstick and the verbal variety. Demyanenko's performance as Shurik put him on a comedic trajectory that really managed to typecast him for a very long time, leading many directors to neglect his rather versatile talents. The attraction of the nerdy student who always manages to foil the bad guys, get the girl, and study, while at the same time being mostly clueless (although quite inventive) and depending on luck, has been consistently strong.

Unlike the rather preachy American films like Revenge of the Nerds, this is no sermon about how "cool" it is to be nerdy. It is not. Shurik is just the way he is because... well, he's just that type of guy. There is really no "uncoolness" to overcome, just his own absent-mindedness among other things.

Don't miss Vitsin's performance in the third film, especially as he staggers in search for the can while still heavily sedated. I also enjoyed Nikulin's acting, but then who doesn't?

The Russian DVD is pretty good. The picture has been digitally remastered and there's a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The dialog is pretty audible and there are optional Russian subtitles. There are animated star bio/filmographies as well as trailers for several other films. This is the way to own this excellent 1965 Mosfilm release.

January 15, 2003