Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia

Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia (Russian: Невероятные приключения итальянцев в России, translit. Neveroyatnye Priklyucheniya Italyantsev v Rossii) or A Crazy, Crazy, Crazy Race in Russia (Italian: Una matta, matta, matta corsa in Russia) is a 1974 Soviet-Italian comedy film directed by Eldar Ryazanov and Franco Prosperi. The plot is about a group of Italian treasure hunters who set on a journey to find long-forgotten treasure in Leningrad.

Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia
Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia.jpg
Directed byEldar Ryazanov
Franco Prosperi
Written byEmil Braginsky
Franco Castellano
Giuseppe Moccia
Eldar Ryazanov
Produced byDino De Laurentiis
Luigi De Laurentiis
StarringAndrei Mironov
Ninetto Davoli
Antonia Santilli
Alighiero Noschese
Tano Cimarosa
Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev
Olga Aroseva
CinematographyMikhail Bitz
Gábor Pogány
Edited byA. Stepanov
Music byCarlo Rustichelli
Distributed byMosfilm
Release date
31 January 1974
Running time
100 minutes
CountriesSoviet Union
LanguagesRussian, Italian
Budget49,200,000 Rbls

Plot summaryEdit

In a hospital in Rome, a poor 92-year-old white émigré lies on her deathbed. She reveals to her granddaughter Olga there is a treasure worth 9 billion Italian lire buried "underneath a lion" in Leningrad. However, the story is overheard by the woman's attending physician, two male nurses named Antonio and Giuseppe, a mafioso named Rosario, and a patient with a broken leg. All six of the characters fly to Leningrad to hunt for the treasure.

The mafioso steals the doctor's passport who is forced to make round trips from Russia to Italy since neither country will accept him. Antonio and Giuseppe are soon joined by Andrei, an undercover captain of the Soviet militsiya who poses as a tour guide for Antonio, who purports to grant Antonio free tours on the basis that he is "the millionth Italian visitor". Olga doesn't plan to share her treasure with anyone and runs away, but agrees to join forces with Andrei, while Rosario the mafioso continues his attempts to eliminate the competition. They start digging up lion statues all over Leningrad, which is a city well known for its many lion monuments.[1]

They eventually find the treasure hidden underneath a lion cage at a zoo, but the lion starts chasing them through Leningrad. After making a successful escape they are confronted by the police who confiscate the treasure, which belongs to the state under the Soviet law. Nonetheless, they are awarded 25% of the value of the treasure as a reward for finding it. The now-wealthy adventurers part their ways and return to Italy, but Olga decides to stay with Andrei in the end.




Eldar Ryazanov dreamed of working with Italian filmmakers and in 1970 wrote a pitch for a comedy Spaghetti Russian-style with Emil Braginsky, but Goskino officials didn't like it as they found the Italian characters too stereotypical. Same year Sergei Bondarchuk finished Waterloo co-produced by Mosfilm and Dino De Laurentiis who ended owning Mosfilm a lot of money and suggested to return it by producing a light cheap comedy. This is when Ryazanov and Braginsky were contacted.[2]

They were joined by Franco Castellano and Giuseppe Moccia to finish the script. As Ryazonov wrote, he originally planned something in the vein of Cops and Robbers and his own Beware of the Car, with Alberto Sordi as a small Italian fraud and Innokenty Smoktunovsky as a Russian policeman attached, but Italian co-authors saw this idea as old-fashioned and sentimental and asked for a fast-paced commercial comedy.[3] In two months Braginsky and Ryazonov finished a new screenplay, only this time Dino De Laurentiis didn't like it and asked them to rewrite everything except for the scenes with a living lion. The final script was inspired by the comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World which Ryazanov watched the same night at the hotel.[2]


It was Ryazanov's original intention to make a stunt-based comedy completely avoiding compositing, thus only practical effects were used.[3] The episode with a plane landing on a M1 highway among passing cars which parodied a scene from The Sicilian Clan was the hardest to make. It had to be shot at the Ulyanovsk Baratayevka Airport disguised as a highway since no road surface was hard enough for such task. The stunt was performed by a pilot and a deputy chief of the Ulyanovsk Institute of Civil Aviation Ivan Tarashan.[2][3]

Another episode with a filling station blowing up and various station and car parts flying in the air parodied Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point and was also shot without chroma key or miniature effects, although the station itself was a mere replica empty from inside.[3]

Most of the stunts during the car chasing scenes were performed by the acclaimed Italian racer and stuntman Sergio Mioni.[4] Actors Andrei Mironov and Ninetto Davoli did a number of risky tricks by themselves, including the scene with a moveable bridge where Davoli made a long jump with a suitcase in his hand while Mironov had to hang for awhile holding tight into one part of the bridge to pose for a close-up.[2]

Lion KingEdit

For a real lion Ryazanov called Lev Berberov, a Baku engineer famous for raising several wild animals in his flat including a lion named King. Berberov insisted that more scenes and tricks with King should be added to the script. Yet it turned out the lion was hardly capable of even simplest tasks and didn't pay attention to anyone. Ryazanov described it as "untrained, ignorant and dull as it seemed" and the whole experience — as exhausting; during the first scene King scratched Ninetto Davoli which left all actors terrified.[3][5] Mikhail Kozlov, a leading research fellow of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, also wasn't complementary about the lion: "During the close-ups the lush mane disguised paws bowed by rickets, curved back, flabby muscles, but in motion all those problems showed up."[6]

Some sources wrongly state that during the filming King ran away and was shot by a police officer.[7] In fact by that time all scenes with the lion had been completed and the Berberov family moved to Moscow where King was temporarily kept in a gym of a secondary school № 74 near Mosfilm.[3][8] At one point it jumped through a window and attacked a student who had climbed over a school fence to get his dog ("to tease the lion" as the Berberovs would claim). His girlfriend started screaming, someone called the police, and Alexander Gurov — then a simple lieutenant — quickly arrived and shot King dead. As Gurov later recalled, the Berberovs didn't care for the student covered in blood, instead they started insulting him and later used their friendship with Sergey Obraztsov to reach the Minister of Internal Affairs Nikolai Shchelokov who also shouted at him until he heard the full story.[8] The family soon got a new lion, King II, who grew up and in 1980 killed their own son.[5][9]


In the Soviet Union the movie was seen by 49.2 million people, becoming one of the leaders of the 1974 Soviet box office.[10]


  1. ^ «Lions guard the city» route at the Visit Petersburg official city guide
  2. ^ a b c d Olga Afanasyeva (2016). Eldar Ryazanov. Irony of Fate, Or... // Adventures of Italians in Russia and Russians in Italy. — Moscow: Aegitas. 240 pages ISBN 978-5-906789-26-6
  3. ^ a b c d e f Eldar Ryazanov (2010). Sad Face of Comedy, Or... — Moscow: PROZAiK, p. 75, 149—171 ISBN 978-5-91631-061-0
  4. ^ Sergio Mioni at IMDb
  5. ^ a b ed. by Steve Hutchings (2008). Russia and its Other(s) on Film: Screening Intercultural Dialogue. — Hounmills: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 60 ISBN 978-0-230-51736-3
  6. ^ Mikhail Kozlov. Lion article from the Petersburg Addresses magazine № 36/50, 2010 (in Russian)
  7. ^ Regulations Concerning the Private Possession of Big Cats: Russian Federation at Library of Congress
  8. ^ a b Dmitry Krasyuk. Soviet movie star that broke its owner's neck article from Diletant, 13 April 2018 (in Russian)
  9. ^ Article by United Press International, 27 November 1980
  10. ^ Sergey Kudryavtsev (1998). Our Cinema. — Moscow: Dubl-D, p. 414 ISBN 5-699-17831-7

External linksEdit