A Soviet Animation of Stephen King’s Short Story “Battleground” (1986)

Stephen King has that rare, and spec­tac­u­lar­ly prof­itable, skill to suck you into his world and com­pel you to flip to the next page. And when you’re hooked, his words have the uncan­ny abil­i­ty to sim­ply unfold like a movie in your head. So it isn’t sur­pris­ing that his books have been wide­ly adapt­ed to the sil­ver screen. Some are flat out mas­ter­pieces. Oth­ers are most decid­ed­ly not. This appre­ci­a­tion by film­mak­ers of King’s sto­ry­telling chops isn’t just con­tained to this side of the Iron Cur­tain. In 1986, Sovi­et ani­ma­tor Mikhail Titov — whose pre­vi­ous work includes How the Cos­sacks Played Foot­ball (1970) — turned King’s short sto­ry “Bat­tle­ground (1972) into an ani­mat­ed movie, titled sim­ply Сражение or Bat­tle.

The short is about a noirish hired gun who dress­es in a trench coat and a fedo­ra and bears more than a pass­ing resem­blance to Vladimir Putin. He is con­tract­ed to kill a toy mak­er. When he returns home, he dis­cov­ers that there’s a box on his doorstep and makes the com­plete­ly unwise deci­sion of tak­ing it inside. Soon, toy sol­diers start to tum­ble out of the box. They have live ammo, rock­et launch­ers, tiny lit­tle heli­copters at their dis­pos­al and they are on a sin­gle-mind­ed mis­sion to kill him. The killer soon finds him­self pinned down in bath­room, wait­ing for the next attack.

The film is a lot of fun. Titov relies heav­i­ly on roto­scop­ing – an ani­ma­tion tech­nique you prob­a­bly remem­ber from A‑ha’s music video Take On Me. The killer’s form and move­ments feel real­is­tic as the rest of the movie’s height­ened, brood­ing world bends and bulges as if ren­dered through a fish­eye lens. And like A‑ha, the film’s synth and sax­o­phone sound­track might sound painful­ly 80s to some. You can watch Bat­tle with sub­ti­tles above or with­out sub­ti­tles below. The dia­logue is min­i­mal through­out.

Bat­tle will be added to our list of Free Ani­ma­tions, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sovi­et Ani­ma­tions of Ray Brad­bury Sto­ries: ‘Here There Be Tygers’ & ‘There Will Comes Soft Rain’

Enjoy 15+ Hours of the Weird and Won­der­ful World of Post Sovi­et Russ­ian Ani­ma­tion

Watch Dzi­ga Vertov’s Unset­tling Sovi­et Toys: The First Sovi­et Ani­mat­ed Movie Ever (1924)

Niko­lai Gogol’s Clas­sic Sto­ry, “The Nose,” Ani­mat­ed With the Aston­ish­ing Pin­screen Tech­nique (1963)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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