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Letter Never Sent (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1959)

Tatyana Samojlova , Yevgeni Urbansky , Mikhail Kalatozov  |  NR |  Blu-ray
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Blu-ray 1-Disc Version $18.99  
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Product Details

  • Actors: Tatyana Samojlova, Yevgeni Urbansky, Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Vasili Livanov, Galina Kozhakina
  • Directors: Mikhail Kalatozov
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Russian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: March 20, 2012
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006ML50S8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,981 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Letter Never Sent (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition

New English subtitle translation

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova

Editorial Reviews

The great Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov (The Cranes Are Flying), known for his virtuosic, emotionally gripping films, perhaps never directed one more visually astonishing than Letter Never Sent. This absorbing tale of exploration and survival concerns four members of a geological expedition who are stranded in the bleak and unforgiving Siberian wilderness while on a mission to find diamonds. Luxuriating in wide-angle beauty and featuring one daring shot after another (the brilliant cinematography is by Kalatozov’s frequent collaborator Sergei Urusevsky), Letter Never Sent is a fascinating piece of cinematic history and a universal adventure of the highest order.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
94 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Escaping Nature's Fury January 14, 2012
Those persons who were impressed with the recent escape film "The Way Back" should not miss this movie. This Russian adventure film involves four geologists sent out to Siberia to search for diamond deposits. Then without warning, they are trapped by a giant, ferocious forest fire. The visuals are simply astonishing...who will survive and who will not? I never even imagined that a conflagration could be filmed like this. Are a thousand acres of trees in flame - how could that be? The geologists (and the viewers too) experience the world coming to an end. The photography, the landscapes, and the final scene stick forever in my mind.

By the way, Criterion did an exceptional job on the transfer of this film to disk. The picture quality is outstanding.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...Never Sent" never known! March 30, 2012
By Jrum C.
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Happened upon this Criterion release quite by accident, and what a find!! I have never seen such stunning black and white photography in a film (incl. Kane, 3rd Man). Camera work, cinematography, acting, story: simply marvelous. Synopsis: 4 geologists in Siberia, battling the elements for survival. 1959, Russian, with English subtitles; in monaural. No extra features, save nice booklet/essay, but never you mind: a superb film!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Big Burn! April 27, 2012
It is nice to see Letter Never Sent given the deluxe treatment, but this is not one of Kalatosov's better works. Sure, it is stylish with many intriguing cinematic techniques employed, especially as a fire sweeps across the Siberian taiga, in which these four Soviet geologists find themselves in pursuit of diamond veins for the state government. It struck me as a purely ideologically driven film, as opposed to his masterpiece, The Cranes are Flying (The Criterion Collection), which captured the humanity of Soviet citizens as WWII closed in around them.

There is plenty of tension with the geological team forced to flee a raging forest fire after several weeks of mineral exploration, but it is hard to feel much empathy as it seems Kalatosov and Urusevsky were more interested in visual effects. I suppose this is partly due to the censorship at the time. The map becomes paramount in this film, not the characters. There are much better films to be had by this great Soviet filmmaker.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Visually astonishing! It's the words that I can easily describe the 1960 film "Neotpravlennoye pismo" (Letter Never Sent) directed by Soviet filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov.

Known for directing the 1957 film "The Cranes are Flying" and the 1964 film "I Am Cuba", "Letter Never Sent" would reunite the filmmaker with "Cranes" actress Tatyama Samjlova who had become of the most talented and sought out actress of the time in Europe.

And while "Letter Never Sent" is not as popular or as critically favored as Kalatozov's other two films, the film is best remembered for its surreal and visually stunning cinematography by Sergei Urusevsky.


"Letter Never Sent" is presented in black and white (1080p High Definition). I have to admit while watching this film, I was floored by how gorgeous this picture looks considering it was made back in 1959. There were no blemishes, the detail was strong, no blurring, no problems whatsoever. I have to go and say that the picture quality is fantastic as close ups show skin pores and grime on the characters faces, contrast levels are wonderful as whites and greys are well-defined, black levels are deep. I was very impressed!

According to the Criterion Collection, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a new 35 mm print. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.


"Letter Never Sent" is presented in LPCM Monaural Russian with English subtitles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Interesting is not a word I would use to describe this gorgeous, yet hollow film. Granted, Kalatosov was working within a very strict regime when it came to film. But his other films are much better in my opinion. At least they have better stories.

This film is about four geologists searching for the 'diamond pipeline' in Siberia. They end up trapped in a raging fire (which happens in the summer in Siberia) and struggle to survive. The little piece of interesting story line revolves around Sergei's letter which, of course, isn't sent. But this is brief and occurs in the early part of the film. The second half is mainly a lot of very dramatic shots of the group trying to survive the inferno.

The one other interesting tidbit is the obvious Soviet endorsed propaganda. The group is trying to discover these diamonds, not for personal gain, but for the glory of the Soviet Union. In fact, we hear the congratulatory voice on the radio (which is only working one way) who continues to thank them for their efforts for the Soviet people and promises to send planes and helicopters and search parties. I get the message guys, the Soviets will leave no comrade behind!

So a few little interesting tidbits here and there, but a very dramatic and striking background. Worth the current $8.99 price to be sure. Luckily my local library had a copy. It's probably not a film I would re-watch.

Russian dialogue with English subtitles. Includes a pretty short booklet insert with a brief essay and a few photos from the film.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a movie for the modern film lovers...
While the story line was well written, the acting left a little to be desired. I thought it was slow developing, so if you're expecting some super action war movie. Read more
Published 8 months ago by J. Bethany
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful film
This Film is wonderful , I really enjoyed it. A story of Russians searching for Diamonds in Siberia and their friendship and the things that can go wrong. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jerry G
5.0 out of 5 stars human spirit
Based on a true story this film portrays the struggle of the human spirit in the Siberian wilderness. Read more
Published 9 months ago by nikita zelensky
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect.
It is s great film, excellent quality.
I recommend it for everybody who likes an adventure with much romance,
thank you.
Published 10 months ago by VALMIR
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for the impression.
He could see the movie of the recollections seen 45 years ago, and it has been moved deeply.

Thank you for the impression.
Published 19 months ago by Jo0034 from JAPAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding
Astounding piece of work with some of the greatest cinematography of all time.

Terrific use of mirrors and reflectors.

A classic.
Published 21 months ago by Mark Kevin Savage
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Movie in Black and White
This Russian movie is considered a classic. Done in black and white with English subtitles, it's set in Siberia and involves a hunt for diamonds. Read more
Published on August 14, 2012 by Scott Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone
I found this film to be enjoyable from an aesthetic standpoint. The cinematography was done really well, as the back cover of the dvd states, featuring "one daring shot after... Read more
Published on August 12, 2012 by Jacob K
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cinematography...
Stunning cinematography and art direction. Camera angles, lighting, everything breathtaking. The plot was rather thin, though, so I dropped it to three stars. Read more
Published on July 31, 2012 by Berner owner
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary filmmaking, entertaining story
First things first: The cinematography of "Letter Never Sent" isn't just "good" - it's quite simply some of the greatest cinematography of any film of the 1950s (which is saying a... Read more
Published on June 23, 2012 by Thomas McNeil
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