95 years ago, on September 25, 1924, at 23 Tverskaya Street, Moscow, everyone could finally get an answer to a riddle that tormented many, many, for half a year. The riddle was the strange words: "ANTA … CLOTHES … UTA …" Since February 1924, they were printed in newspapers without any explanation or comment. The answer was the film directed by Yakov Protazanov Aelita, which premiered on that autumn day at the Ars Electric Theater.
And the strange words are “just” the radio signal from Mars, which, according to the film, was sent by the Queen of the Red Planet to Earth. So – for health, with great fanfare and an unprecedented advertising campaign, the history of Soviet cinema science fiction began. Nothing then foreshadowed the deplorable state into which it would slide into sweat, and even more so, that gloom in which this genre resides with us now.
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The famous blogger Vitaly Dubogrey, who lives in LiveJournal under the nickname dubikvit, conducted a poll a year ago on the topic: “Twenty Best Soviet Sci-Fi Films”. The top three looked like this. The third place was given to the serial television film “A Guest from the Future,” shot on the story of Cyrus Bulychev “One Hundred Years Ahead.” The second place went to the film adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s short story “Dog’s Heart”. The first place was taken by the two-part painting by George Danelia “Kin-dza-dza”.
This top three clearly demonstrates that the most promising area of cinema science fiction – the space opera – in the Soviet Union has gone nowhere. That is, it seems to exist – the picture “Through thorns to the stars”, “Inquiry of the pilot Pirks”, shot by Stanislav Lem, and even an adaptation of Ivan Efremov’s famous work “The Andromeda Nebula” appeared in the survey. But all this was far from in the first places.
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You can, of course, say that our viewer, they say, is not enthusiastic about the space opera as such. It is possible, but not impossible, because this very spectator, as soon as he got the opportunity, immediately rushed headlong into the whirlpool of the most unbridled cosmo opera, as evidenced by the incredible ratings of the Babylon 5 series and the real cult around the Star Wars movie epic.
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Meanwhile, our film industry was originally sharpened for the production of space opera. We can say that with it all Russian cinema science fiction began. Moreover, on this path, heights were demonstrated to which Western directors and producers reached soon and with great difficulty.
The same "Aelita" Protazanova was, oddly enough, the world's first full-length film about space flight. For that time, it was a real breakthrough, which American science fiction writer Frederick Paul will write about later: “With all its shortcomings, Aelita is one of the best science fiction films of the silent movie era.” It is said, perhaps, even too carefully. Because the next film about space travel was shot by the notorious Fritz Lang, director of the acclaimed Metropolis. And he shot it only five years later – his “Woman on the Moon” was released only in 1929, and the priority of Soviet filmmakers was not called into question by anyone. Moreover, criticism of those years directly indicated that Lang was inspired by Protazanov’s film. By the way, despite the “scientific credibility” of “Women on the Moon” recognized by NASA itself, Fritz Lang for some reason does not have weightlessness during the space flight.
Shot from the film “Woman on the Moon”, 1929
But she is present in the unconditional movie hit of January 1936. The Soviet film “Space Flight” about the flight of rocket-planes “Joseph Stalin” and “Klim Voroshilov” to the Moon simply could not turn out bad. Director Vasily Zhuravlev is one of Sergei Eisenstein’s students. The technical consultant is not anyone, but Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who, unfortunately, did not live up to the premiere of the film for only four months. By the way, the theme of weightlessness in free flight, which was tackled by Tsiolkovsky, was carried out in practice not only by director of photography Alexander Halperin, but also by aircraft engine designer Alexander Mikulin – it was then on his engines that the first Soviet Tu-104 jet airliner flew. In a word, the film was on top from all sides. Cosmonaut Georgy Beregovoi, after watching this movie, will say: “The crew’ floating experience in zero gravity made an amazing impression on us: everything was shot so accurately that it was possible to take shots for documentary shot inside the Salute.
The only drawback that crosses out everything else will be Goskino’s weird approach to cinema science fiction. Yes, the system declared: “In 1934 there was a complete transition of Soviet film production to sound cinema.” However, in practice it turned out that the "Space Flight" was shot as a silent film.
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Very similar problems were accompanied by Pavel Klushantsev, the creator of the film Planet of Storms, famous throughout the world and forgotten by us, based on the story of the same name by Alexander Kazantsev. Having gone on hire almost exactly a year after the flight of Yuri Gagarin, on April 14, 1962, Planet of the Storms got into the stream so much that it became a kind of record holder – it was bought in 28 countries of the world. Including in the USA, where there were their masters and their ambitions. Maybe they were, but they obviously did not reach the level of Klushantsev. And mainly through special effects. Nobody could do this in the world. And therefore, Klushantsev was not just borrowed some tricks, like Stanley Kubrick, who completely copied the method of shooting zero gravity. No – we blasted everything that is bad, including characteristic ideas and even objects. And the rod still has, as evidenced by at least the 2012 Prometheus film – the spacesuits there are exactly the same as those worn by the astronauts from Planet of the Storms. But it’s known that the death of the robot in boiling lava was not shown in Terminator 2, but in the same “Planet of the Storms”, but it’s known that the anti-gravity flipper Luke Skywalker in the fourth episode of Star Wars was cut off by Klushantsev probably to everyone. In the end, George Lucas bluntly called Klushantsev "the godfather of Star Wars."
Shot from the movie "Planet of the Storms", 1962