Tuesday 6 February 2018

Soviet SF roundup - 24

Sex Mission (1984) - An interesting satiric prologue with lots of 80s neon devolves into a Polish  Worm that Turned with a sperm fetish.

End of August at Hotel Ozone (1967) - Czech New Line release. Like Stalker (1979) and the always yellow-tinted junkpunk kitchen sink drudgery of Konstantin Lopushanskiy's Lenfilm ventures Letters from a Dead Man (1985, like Stalker and Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1978),  a Strugatsky adaptation) and Visitor to a Museum (1989), in that realm of Eastern European post-apocalyptic films that are just walks about desolate countryside, and enjoyed by people who don't live in desolate countryside unlike myself, so it isn't special.  Though it is lovingly black and white, bleak, beautiful, like White Horses gone Threads.

War of the Worlds - Next Century (1981)/O-Bi, O-Ba: End of Civilisation (1985) - Both Polish post-apocalyptica, both starring Jerzy Stuhr (also in ITC Popesploitation From A Far Country). War of the Worlds is not a HG Wells adaptation, but a rather dry but occasionally visually stimulating satire set in a far-future England with a major plot point based on the licence fee. O-Bi, O-Ba features glitter-glossed females, lots of neon in among walls of piled-up junk, so nice junkpunk design, lots of blue, looks like how Von Trier should have shot The Element of Crime. A stunning, Gilliamesque climax in the snow with a hot air balloon revealed to be the hero's sacred "Ark", a sign of the film's (to quote tasteofcinema.com) "caustic" wit.

Kin-Dza-Dza (1986) - Nice desert locations in a Beckett-esque comedy. Two blokes, including a Russian punk are transported to a junkpunk dystopian wasteland, suddenly via pressing a vagrant's futuristic watch and a cut, and spend times with men in junky outfits, dressed like stretched Time Bandits. Amusing but overlong.

Gorod Zero (1989) - Like the above, also from Mosfilm, a darkly humorous mystery/bureaucratic satire whose weird dieselpunk setting I can't ascertain if it is deliberate or just a product of being made in the USSR. A memorable touch is the full-size carousel dioramas housing human bodies, all of whom look like the cast of a Soviet Young Ones.

Watched 1936 Mosfilm epic Cosmic Voyage (1936), which though not great, has like Aelita (1924), epic Things to Come -ish visuals, and the less impressive, more prosaic Karel Capek homage Gibel Sensatsii (1936), starring Sergey Martinson, Frankland in the 1981 Lenfilm Hound of the Baskervilles.
 A lot of the 60s Soviet space operas look the same, but completely different to any Western SF, except perhaps sporadically, the odd bit of Italian schlock like Battle of the Worlds and Planet of the Vampires (1965). The strange settings and well-done FX and adult nature contrasted with the imported AIP-bought B-movie future of A Dream Come True (with its holiday camp space centre), Dovzhenko-Kiev's Battle Beyond the Sun, the Czech Radio Luxembourg-referencing AIP-TV comedy Man in Outer Space/Man from The First Century, Planeta Bur, the East German effort First Spaceship on Venus (actually, Crown Int. but still...) and the even more different Ikarie XB-1 (shot in B/W and featuring expensive dining parties in space). But they are still more trad Western sci-fi than the later, stranger SF to come out of Eastern Europe, though there were still worthy but dull-though-occasionally-sparky stuff like Stanislaw Lem android party Pilot Pirx's Inquest (1978), and the interminable likes of Mosfilm's trippy but outmoded psychodrama Moon Rainbow (1984), which features a sub-Moonraker laser beam fight, and Antonio Margheriti-esque Star Inspector (1980), which mixed in a ripoff of a vague description of Star Wars which b/w besuited exposition ghosts and  a naked baby chasing horses. These Mosfilm ventures were rivalled by the ambitious but like most Soviet space-goers, rather stiff and old-fashioned Ukrainian Orion's Loop (1982), with Anatoliy Mateshko, director of such films as Sony Pictures Classics' A Friend of the Deceased (1997) as well as British characters who are Russian-accented men speaking English in front of various black and Indian people, and an Obi Wan-ish ghost exposition man. There was also the MST3K-riffed Gorky Film Studio production Through The Thorns of the Stars (1981), which has Superman-esque titles, looks fabulous but is rather staid, but is rather cold, and feels sometimes like a space Emanuelle film. Gorky also made the CFF-with-a-huge-budget Teens in the Universe films.

East Germany's SF continued with the more 2001-ish but still fairly clinical Eolomea (1973) - which, per most Eastern Bloc SF has a genuinely  shonky giant stereotyped toy robot that waddles about, and In the Dust of the Stars (1976), which feels like an Eastern Bloc remake of Space: 1999. with a Eurovision-y girl group ballad theme, and space-buses that look like rubbish trucks, in some sandy desert quarry (the default setting of every Eastern European space movie), but still quite humourless despite the weird trampoline and snake dance disco sequences by Pan's People-types in filmy dresses to Krautrock. And it all ends with a mine of Beneath the Planet of the Apes-esque slaves breaking out and walking through bleak scenic backgrounds including a weird stone circle on a cliff.

On The Silver Globe (1978) - Visually compelling but overlong and nonsensical unfinished Zulawski epic. Like the first 30 seconds of the video for Loverboy by Billy Ocean, over two hours, without the funny puppets.

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