Double feature

A movie and an exhibit on the last of the Russian royals

The family of Czar Nicholas II as depicted in the 1971 film "Nicholas and Alexandra." Submitted image

In between organizing Polyester Laughs, a five-film series of 1970s Hollywood comedies that played at the Heights Theater in the spring, and a second series in the works for next year, Chuck Huntley is programming some one-off films for the Central Avenue cinema, located just over the border from Northeast in Columbia Heights.

Up next: “Nicholas and Alexandra,” director Franklin Schaffner’s epic 1971 historical drama about Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and the final days of imperial rule in Russia. Based on a contemporary best-selling book about the fall of the Romanov dynasty and the Russian Revolution by Robert K. Massie — who would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Biography for a book about another Russian, Peter the Great — the film’s provenance hasn’t necessarily kept it in regular rotation in repertory cinemas or on the cable movie channels.

Huntley argues it is worth another look — especially in an original 35mm Technicolor dye-transfer print, the same format of its theatrical release 45 years ago.

“I went to see it when it opened in the ’70s at a wide-screen theater in St. Louis Park that is now gone,” he recalled, adding that the print sent to the Heights is in very good condition. “… If it had been a bad print, I simply wouldn’t have done it.”

Huntley thought to alert The Museum of Russian Art to the screening, and it turned out his timing was excellent.

“Coincidentally, and it was sheer coincidence, they have this Fabergé show that opened this week,” he remarked in early October. (“Unknown Fabergé: New Finds and Rediscoveries” opened on the 8th.) “It fits in perfectly for the movie, because a lot of the items belonged to the czar and czarina or were designed for them.

“So, that was just pure (luck). That worked out very well.”

Before the screening, Huntley has reserved time for a brief presentation by a TMORA representative and a drawing for tickets to the Fabergé exhibition. And he promised it would be brief, so as not to test the patience of an audience just settling in for the 3 hour, 3 minute film — long enough that it has an intermission.

“Unknown Fabergé” at TMORA features more than 80 items produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the Romanov’s favorite jewelry firm. On loan from private collectors and museums in the U.S. and Europe, a number of the objects were originally produced for the firm’s royal patrons, including the Romanovs.

Among them is a bell push designed for the imperial household — a bell push being the button the emperor and empress would press to beckon a servant. It’s basically the bell pull system that many would recognize from the opening credits of “Downton Abbey” updated for the electrical age.

Other bejeweled wonders include a rhinoceros automaton that was a gift from Empress Maria Feodorovna to young Prince Vasili Alexandrovich, her grandson and Nicholas’ nephew.

A toy fit for a Russian prince, this rhinoceros automaton was made by Faberge. Submitted image
A toy fit for a Russian prince, this rhinoceros automaton was made by Faberge. Submitted image

“Nicholas and Alexandra”

When: 1 p.m. Oct. 30

Where: Heights Theater, 3952 Central Ave. NE

Info:, (763) 789-4992


“Unknown Fabergé: New Finds and Rediscoveries”

When: Through Feb. 26

Where: The Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Ave. S.

Info:, 821-9045