In the film "Victory," issued in honor of the 40th anniversary of World War II, the man who plays Harry Truman is made up to look like a cardboard villain.
His eyelashes are painted black, his face is pasty and waxen and when he receives the news that the United States has successfully tested the atom bomb, he smiles a strange smile that looks all the more sinister because of the light shining up from beneath his chin.
The film, part documentary, part docudrama and part feature, does not do much for the image of the Soviet Union's wartime allies. If Truman looks vaguely malevolent, Winston Churchill comes off as slightly ridiculous. Josef Stalin, meanwhile, is the only statesman of the three -- wily, tough and thoughtful.
The film's antihero, a dissipated American journalist, is revealed at the end to have betrayed not only the truth but a wartime friendship by writing anti-Soviet slander bankrolled by the Central Intelligence Agency.
SUCH HARSH, exaggerated and unfriendly portraits play to Soviet stereotypes and underscore a theme that runs close to the surface as the Soviets wind up preparations for the massive 40th anniversary celebration on May 9.
In the continuing and bitter debate over the delay in the opening of the second front, over the role of lend-lease, and over postwar settlements and latter-day German revanchism, there is a vague sense here that the Soviets' allies were not really committed antifascists.
When President Reagan this week visited a cemetery containing Nazi war dead, the image on the Soviet news program slipped in behind the fictional stereotype and locked into place.
To a Soviet citizen brought up on the litany of the horrors of World War II, in a country where the memory of the war, its victims and its heroes is a national shrine, Reagan's gesture was baffling, shocking, even painful.
The official reaction to the Bitburg controversy was slow in coming but when it came it was blunt, and summed up the Soviets' almost religious feelings about the war.
Izvestia, the government newspaper, called the visit sacrilegious. A Foreign Ministry spokesman called it blasphemy, while a Soviet general pronounced it an "act of treachery."
"I just don't understand," said one Soviet citizen, of the postwar generation. "How could he do such a thing? It's foolish, but it's worse than foolish, it's wrong."
ON THE SAME day that Reagan laid his wreath at Bitburg, East German leader Erich Honecker and the leaders of the West Berlin and West German Communist parties were in Moscow.
All three met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and all three attended ceremonies for the opening of a museum to German antifascists.
The opening ceremony dominated the evening news that night, and in speech after speech Germans and Soviets recalled the common struggle against Hitlerite fascism, and the creation of a socialist Germany.
The message was clear -- the victory was over fascism, not over Germans. In some ways it was a reply to the complaint from the West that the Soviet celebrations would turn into a "German-bashing" session.
So while Reagan was getting himself more deeply embroiled in the tortuous question of who was and was not a victim of fascism, and who shares the guilt, the Soviets simply sidestepped the issue by embracing "their" Germans, who in turn embraced their "liberators."
AT A PRESS conference this week, a group of Soviet military officers again complained that western historians play down and distort the role of the Red Army in defeating fascism.
A Yugoslav journalist then got up and wanted to know why the Yugoslav contribution to the great victory is given such short shrift in the Soviet press.
Amid all the endless articles, books, films and exhibits that have overtaken this city in the weeks before May 9, a young Soviet man, talking about the U.S. role in World War II, shrugs and says, "The war in the Pacific? What war in the