ANASTASIA: THE MYSTERY OF ANNA features a tour-de-force performance by Amy Irving in the lead role, plus an excellent, star-studded supporting cast.
The miniseries is based on Peter Kurth's lengthy "Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson", still the most authoritive book on the woman who tried to claim the title of the murdered Duchess Anastasia.
We follow the young woman, Anna Anderson, as she tries to kill herself by falling into a Berlin canal, then through the various madhouses as she slowly but surely reveals her true identity as Empress Anastasia, daughter of the Czar, thought killed along with the rest of the imperial family.
Anna's plight to claim the title of Empress is marred by the efforts of the surviving Romanoffs, who all have their own motives in trying to keep the vast Romanoff fortune for themselves. Anna's best hope of gaining acceptance is visting the Dowager Empress (Olivia de Havilland). Anna also gains a valuable ally in Prince Erich (Jan Niklas) whom she later falls in love with.
This adaptation swaps a lot of the truth in favour of fairytale romance. There was no sweeping love story between Anna and Erich, and the film covers up a lot of the activities Anna got involved in which did nothing to help her plight (such as running around naked on the top of a New York hotel). Ultimately, despite the fact that Duchess Anastasia's death could never be fully-determined, Anna was proven to be a fraud when DNA samples of Romanoff ancestors were compared with tissue samples of Anderson.
However, this miniseries is highly-entertaining, especially the performance of Amy Irving, who invests a lot of feisty attitude and drama to the proceedings. Olivia de Havilland is likewise very memorable as the wry and whimsical Dowager Empress.
The amazing supporting cast includes Rex Harrison, Claire Bloom, Omar Sharif, Elke Sommer, Edward Fox, Susan Lucci, and Nicolas Surovy.
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Byron Kolln (Byron_Kolln)
Byron has been actively involved in theatre since the age of 12. He has had a great variety of roles (both on-stage and off). In addition he has hosted the long-running "Show Business" programme … more
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The story of the woman who insisted she was Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last czar of Russia, is complicated. This 1986 telefilm makes it even more so because it's one of those "fact-based" dramas. Its most annoying invention is Anastasia's romance with a prince who never actually existed. Fiction aside, the first two-thirds of the 210-minute movie are dramatic and captivating. The Romanov family is imprisoned and executed, yet Anastasia reappears years later in Berlin in 1923; Amy Irving becomes the iron-willed yet fragile Anna who battles to be recognized by the remaining Romanovs. Gently paced and beautifully shot and staged, the film only starts to lose steam when Anna comes to New York to make her case in the American press. It takes a bunch of Americans, including Susan Lucci as a stateside Romanov relative, to make the tale seem common. Back in London, Olivia de Havilland is a treasure as the dowager empress who won't recognize Anastasia, although there is much evidence in her favor. The film is a great introduction to the mystery, despite its fiction-augmented recounting of history. After watching the movie, get the book it was largely based on,Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Andersonby Peter Kurth, for a gripping read that just might make you believe in this princess.--Valerie J. Nelson