Tuesday, 2 February 2016


The Russia House is a spy novel by John le Carré published in 1989. The title refers to the nickname given to the portion of the British Secret Intelligence Service that was devoted to spying on the Soviet Union. A film based on the novel was released in 1990, starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, and directed by Fred Schepisi. 

It was panned by some critics and audiences - some were expecting a James Bond type spy adventure - I think it was connery's first post- bond outing in a spy thriller. Others found the plot too complicated. I remember some people walking out of the cinema after about five minutes.- probably the same sort of people as those i saw leaving "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"  before the opening title sequence had finished!  FFS what were you expecting!

I loved this film from the first time I saw it.  And have lived and breathed it ever since - it  got under my skin. Why?  Mainly because it is set in Russia and was one of the first Western films shot there, and, as I mention elsewhere it beautifully captures Moscow, St Petersburg and the Russian countryside in between;  it is based on a John Le Carre novel - my favourite author; all the cast play their roles convincingly and brilliantly especially Michelle Pfeifer's portrayal of a Russian woman.

But the film is greater than the sum of its parts, I love the dialogue which can be witty at times, I love the jazz influenced sound track, I love the scenery; but most of all I think that the film accurately portrays some idiosyncrasies of Russian attitudes and mannerisms as well as capturing the sense of fear that pervaded encounters between Russians and Westerners in Soviet times.

John Le Carre intended that his novel be a kind of snapshot of the early days of Perestroika when the Soviet Union was becoming a more open and freer society.  The policies of Glasnost and Perestroika were yet more state doctrines, imposed from above.  The general population was understandably apprehensive; there was no guarantee that thing would not go back to how they were, indeed the coup attempt in 1991 is testimony to the desire of some apparatchiks to turn back the clock.  Both the book and the film manages to capture the mood of that period in the dying days of the cold war when the grey men on both sides wished to perpetuate the arms race.

The film may well seem dated in many respects - the collapse of the Eastern bloc, Soviet Union, communist ideologies, made the film seem passé when it was released. But the themes of betrayal, conflicting loyalties, ideology and idealism, the corruption of bureaucracy, and, of course, love, are   enduring themes and continue to be relevant. 

This is my blog which details my quest to identify, list and "bag" all the the locations used in the film.  

The Russia House - Trailer

The Russian House (1990) in Lisbon

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Location List

This is the list I have compiled of the locations used in the film.  Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions you have spotted, or if you can fill in any of the blanks.    In the posts below this list, I describe in more detail each scene and the location used.  

I have found it hard to identify or verify the location of some of the interior shots used in the film.  Some have been shot on location, but I suspect that a number of the scenes might have been filmed at Pinewood Studios (CIA headquarters, SIS headquarters & "The Russia House", Bookfair party for example).  Again, if you have any information on the locations used, please let me know.

Moscow, St Basils cathedral, Red Square
Moscow, Red Square
Moscow, Manezh Square
Moscow,Hotel National, Mokhovaya Street (Book Fare filmed in St Ermin's hotel, London)
Lisbon, Palacio dos Condes Do Vimosio,  Rua Ivens
Moscow, Hotel Room
London, Foreign Office, King Charles Street, Whitehall
London, Barley's flat
Lisbon, Bar, Rua Tabac
Moscow region, Peredelkino (3 Ulitsa Pavlenko?)
Moscow region, Peredelkino, Pasternak's grave 
Lisbon, Largo Das Portas Do Sol
Lisbon, 88 Rua Das Escolas Gerias, Barleys Flat
Moscow, Progress Publishers, Zubovsky Boulevard,Garden Ring
London, Training and Safehouse - Symons Street, Knightbridge
Moscow, Hotel Ukraine
Moscow, Hotel Ukraine (outside)
Moscow, Red Square
Moscow, GUM
Moscow, Hotel National Restaurant
Moscow, Gorky Street (Tverskaya)
Moscow, Gorky Street, nr Sovietski Square
Moscow, Hospital ?
Moscow, inside Kievskaya metro station
Sergiev Posad, monastry
St Petersburg, cinema / restaurant - closed showing of Bout De Souffle (Katya's memories).
St Petersburg, apartment opposite Peter & Paul fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost)- Katya & Dante (Katya's memories).
Train to Leningrad, purportedly the night train to Leningrad, but looks like Yunost train.
St Petersburg, River Neva, Meteor hydrofoil & Winter palace, various scenes from St Peterburg
St Petersburg, Pribaltiskaya Hotel
St Petersburg, Lion Bridge
St Petersburg, Dom Knigi, Nevsky Prospekt
St Petersburg, Summer gardens
St Petersburg, Marsovoye Polye
St Petersburg, Palace Square, Hermitage
St Petersburg, Peter & Paul fortress island
London, Heathrow airport
London, Jazz club?
London, Russia House?
Moscow, Katya's apartment?
Canada, Bowen Island, British Columbia
London, Lambeth Bridge, Albert Embankment
Moscow, Worker and Collective farm women statue outside VDNKh (All-Russia exhibition)
Moscow, boulevard near Lyubyanka Square (Kotelnichnaya Embankment skyscraper in background)
Moscow, embankment south of the Kremlin, then Garden ring road past Vostaniye Square - Stalin skyscraper
Moscow, Kolomenskoye monastry & estate
Moscow, Katya's apartment, ulitsa Verkhnyaya Maslovka, Building 23 (behind Pretroff Palace)
Moscow, outside 1905 Metro station 
Moscow, hospital?
Moscow, Potomac-Blair party: The Reading & Writing Room, 1 Whitehall Place, London
Moscow, Barley and Katya on balcony in Hotel Rossiya
Moscow, Novospasskaya Proezd (Novospasskaya Monastry in background)
Moscow, apartment block on intersection of Novospasskaya Proezd and Krutitsky Pereulok
Moscow cemetery, Vagankovskaya cemetery? 
Lisbon, Barley Flat, Rua Das Escolas Gerias
Lisbon, docks

Monday, 1 April 2013

Title Sequence, Opening Credits & Scenes

St Basil's Cathedral / Red Square

Moscow, Russia

Opening shot of clouds in the sky panning downwards over St Basil's Cathedral.

"Yekaterina Orlova, Katya........ Never screwed one, never flirted with one, never even married one, who is she - the usual fat arsed frump?"
Katya (Michelle  Pfeiffer) walking across Red Square towards Revolution Square (now Manezh Square).  Kermlin Walls and Lenin Mausoleum in background.

Red Square / Manezh Square 

Moscow, Russia

Katya walking down the side of the Historical Museum on Red Square towards Manezh Square (from under her umbrella can be seen  vast expanse of tarmac with traffic  passing in both directions (either side of the Hotel Moskva).  Katya is heading for the Hotel National at the opposite end of the square.

This square was called 60th anniversary of the Revolution Square at the time of filming.   It has since been pedestrianised and now has a underground shopping Mall, topped, above ground, with fountains, sculptures and landscaping (Designs by Tsereteli - appointed by the former Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, favourite sculptor, Tsereteli.  

Hotel National, Mokhovaya Street

Moscow, Russia

Outside the main entrance of the Hotel National,  on the corner of Mokhovaya Street (formerly Prospekt Marksa) and Tverskaya (formerly Gorky Street).

Then inside the foyer and up the stairs to the audio-book fair being held in the hotel.  Katya hands over the notebooks to Nikki Landau - "short-arsed polish cockney sales rep"

I presume the interior shots of the hotel foyer were taken in this hotel - I have not been there and have not been able to find old pictures of the hotel interior to correspond with this scene.  The book fair scenes  - set in the National hotel were actually filmed in St Ermin's Hotel in London