David Everitt
March 13, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

EAST SIDE STORY (1997, Kino, unrated, $59.95, subtitled) A veritable Swing Time for Stalin, this funny, perceptive history of Iron Curtain musicals offers a surreal montage of crooning tractor drivers, dancing Five Year Planners, Busby Berkeleyesque chorus girls in factory overalls, and cavorting teens in Vacation on the Black Sea, the commie answer to Palm Springs Weekend. Interspersed with the delirious images is comment from film historians and some stars of this peculiar subgenre, an escape valve for the entertainment-starved proletariat. A-

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