The Soldier’s Tale Blu-ray Review: Will Make One Miss Hand-drawn Animation

There have been many cinematic iterations of the ordinary man selling his soul to the Devil for instant wealth and the regret from doing so, but I have never seen it done in such way as 1984’s Emmy-winning The Soldier’s Tale, a beguiling and classically animated hour-long film.

Buy The Soldier’s Tale Blu-ray

Based on Igor Stravinsky’s 1918 composition and directed by R.O. Blechman (legendary illustrator of the New Yorker), the tale centers on young soldier Vertov (voiced by renowned Serbian film director Dusan Makavejev) who is returning home from the war. He encounters a mysterious stranger who wants to buy his beloved violin from him. The stranger turns out to be the Devil (amazingly voiced by legendary Swedish actor Max von Sydow) who promises Vertov everything he desires. But there are costs. So, after regretting his decision and wanting to reclaim the old life he left behind, he fights the Devil for not just his violin (one that is used to cure a princess’ aliment in one of the film’s many whimsical alternate realities) but for his soul.

When watching this film, it made me miss the days of organic and hand-drawn animation (which can seem crude today especially where technology is concerned) and how detailed it was back then. So, I really loved the film and its approach to the overall theme of the things that you desire may not always be those that you need the most. That is a lesson (among many) that we can all still learn today.

Special features include audio commentary by Blechman, animator Tissa David, and associate producer George Griffith; No Room at the Inn, a short film by Blechman; The Hand of R.O. Blechman, a collection of animated shorts and commercials; and 2023 theatrical re-release trailer.

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