This is an absolutely fascinating and rather beautiful 1936 Soviet science fiction film that foretold how a future 1946 moon mission would work. It’s got incredible zero gravity effects, miniature models of a fantastic space ship on a launch ramp, and very cool technical details like filling the cockpit with fluid to buffer the cosmonauts from launch forces. Then there’s a marvelous sequence on the surface of the moon with excellent stop motion animation inter-cut with live actors. Apparently, the Soviet censors banned the film after a short but successful first run because they felt the cosmonauts were having too much fun on the moon. They were right. These characters go hopping and bounding about with so much joy it’s almost an embarrassment. Citizens of the Soviet Union were not supposed to be happy.
Don’t worry about understanding Russian. The film was shot as a silent and is more or less a completely visual experience.
It was directed by Vasili Zhuravlov, but what’s really most interesting about the production history is that Constantin Tsiolkovski, a Soviet scientist and professor, became enthusiastic about putting some of his theories on space travel into a film. He consulted with the filmmakers in an attempt to lend verisimilitude to the moon voyage. Many years later, Werner von Braun credited Tsiolkovski’s calculations as having been correct.
So here is a old Soviet film that went to great lengths to get many of its details right.
Oh dear! What have we here? This is a Bollywood science fiction (and I use that term very lightly!) film that was apparently made in 1967, though it looks more 1950s to me. It was directed by one T.P. Sundaram. It is ostensibly about an astronaut who gets kidnapped to the moon and then has to fight for the moon princess and her kingdom when martians try to invade. The movie is a roaring low-fi spectacle with songs, fights and cheesy cardboard special effects. Spaceship controls are actually steering wheels. If you want some good advice, skip through to the 2 hour 15 minute mark and just watch the glorious action sequence that closes the film. You will see grown men fighting with giant sparklers aboard a crash-landing spaceship. You’ll see robots, a Cyclops, and two men engaged in a lunar surface wrestling match that makes Captain Kirk look like Bruce Lee’s star pupil. You will then see a rhinoceros. If you are not laughing hard enough to burst a vessel of some sort, then I don’t think anything can be done for you!
Here’s another short film by Phoebe Parsons. Her deliberately low-tech romantic science fiction tales are captivating because they are actually poems. My favorite part of this one is the amazing rocket ride.
The film is in Russian but you absolutely do not need to know Russian to enjoy it! Unfortunately, I can’t find the entire film, only these three excerpts.
Pavel Klushantsev’s 1957 film, Road to the Stars, features astoundingly realistic special effects that were an inspiration and obvious blueprint for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey ten years later. The film is an extended form of science education, building upon existing 1950s technology to predict space exploration of the future. The sequences with astronauts in zero gravity are incredibly realistic. The second excerpt from the film features the construction of and life aboard a space station in earth orbit that is not only convincing but also beautiful. There are several scenes with space station dwellers using videophones that anticipate the famous Kubrick videophone scene.