April 24, 2004

Movie Review: First Spaceship on Venus

This one is a treat, despite some flaws. Remember that bit in Shrek where he's talking about layers? You know, like an onion, there are many layers because it's not something simple? Fine, like a parfait then. The point is that there's a lot worthwhile in this movie, even if you're not a fan of the genre.

First Spaceship on Venus was made in East Germany in 1959. Rather than overt preaching about the joys of Communist living, the message here was much more subtle and pervasive. Almost every aspect of the movie was colored by the society which created the film and the society it was targeted towards. There's an grim earnestness here, where everyone is expected to pull their weight for the common good of all Earth (even those poor misguided Americans). Of course, the crew is gloriously diverse, containing both males and females and of every race. One scene that troubled me happened near the end, where some crew members were lost. There was no effort to rescue them, and even though they were hailed as heroes they weren't sacrificed. They were just left behind by circumstance when the ship returned to Earth, and little was wasted on regret. To my mind, that perfectly pointed up the socialist attitude of individual expendability.

This movie is based on a story by Stanislaw Lem, who's novel Solaris has been made into a movie twice - first in Russia, and then again a year or two ago by Hollywood (starring George Clooney). I've read some Lem, and don't much care for him. I'm wondering now if it's because of our differing viewpoints about the world we grew up in. His fiction is wildly imaginative, but there always seemed to be an alieness about his writing that had nothing to do with the story he was telling.

But despite (or maybe because of) this, First Spaceship on Venus presents an intriguing story. More cerebral than action-oriented, much of the plot is advanced via dialogue, and since it was filmed in the earliest days of space exploration, they get a lot of the science wrong, sometimes with unintentionally funny results.

The spaceship is one of the most beautiful creations ever conceived for the big screen. It also has one of the dumbest names - the Cosmostrator.

The special effects are outstanding for the most part, especially the surface of Venus. The dubbing and editing are horrible. Supposedly my copy was "fully restored and enhanced from a digital master", which just tells me that the original must've been in really bad shape. The picture isn't bad, but it's not all that great either.

Bottom line: this one is well worth watching. In fact, I'll go ahead and call this one a must-see.

Posted by Ted at April 24, 2004 07:59 AM | TrackBack

OT: love the new banner. It says: THIS ROCKET. IS. ON!!! Though I am gonna miss the come hither hussy...

Posted by: Tuning Spork at April 24, 2004 06:50 PM

Have you read The Cyberiad? Of all Lem's works, this is the shining jewel.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 25, 2004 09:38 AM
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