Cosmic Voyage: 1936 Soviet Science Fiction Film About a Moon Landing

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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.



Here is an interesting article about the film.

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Pereval: 1988 Soviet Science Fiction Animation by Vladimir Tarasov


Humans have crash-landed on an alien planet. Sixteen years later, they send a small search party consisting of their children – born at the time of the crash – back toward the broken ship. The young members of the party make their way through a hostile and surreal landscape that holds surprises for them. Finding the ship well-preserved gives one of the young people an important connection to his past and to his origin.

This film was directed by Vladimir Tarasov and was adapted from a novel by Kir Bulychev.

Ikarie XB-1: 1963 Czechoslovak Science Fiction Film of a Stanislaw Lem Novel

This 1963 Czechoslovak science fiction film directed by Jindrich Polák is an adaptation of a Stanislaw Lem novel called ‘The Magellanic Cloud.’ Reflexively, one tries to find similarities between this film and Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ But I think the better place to look for influence is in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film, ‘Solaris,’ which was also a Lem adaptation. ‘Ikarie XB-1‘ follows the crew of a ship sent to investigate a planet orbiting Earth’s nearest star, Alpha Centauri. On the way, they encounter a derelict space ship from 1987 Earth which appears to originate from the United States and carries a load of deadly poison and nuclear weapons. Crew members begin to inexplicably fall asleep. The ship also finds a giant dark star that emits an unknown type of radiation from which the humans are mysteriously rescued. The end of the film is a stunning sequence of mental breakdown leading to fantastic and life-affirming discovery.

But the various events do not matter as much as the way the film dwells on the people within their technological surroundings. It’s the focus on the mental status of the crew as opposed to exciting episodes that makes for the strength of this film and its influence on ‘Solaris.’ The film has a calm and quiet approach, simply trying to let us feel the vast distances traveled by the crew. The sets and visual effects hover between beautiful and unconvincing. But they work and are often effective. It’s really a pretentious art film in space. If you like Eastern Bloc science fiction and Stanislaw Lem’s peculiar writing, this is a must see.

Sally Saves Christmas

Some of the readers of this site will know that this story is the original piece of material behind Candlelight Stories. Back in 1994, I sat at a very flimsy folding table in a Los Angeles apartment with a box of pastels, crayons and ballpoint pens to scratch out a pile of illustrations that vaguely added up to some kind of Christmas tale. I still have all those original drawings in a big department store box. The interesting thing about the illustrations for me is the series of actions that they caused which led me directly into the various skills and technologies that I have used and made a living from ever since. After finishing the illustrations and creating a large bound book to give as a Christmas gift, I scanned the pictures and decided to try to put them into a slide show. I had an early version of the Mosaic web browser and soon realized that I could use my AOL account to post things in a folder that could be accessed by the web browser. Having done that and been very impressed with myself I showed it to my non-technical friends and received some half-hearted congratulations and was asked how I could ever hope to make any money that way. Within a few months I received a letter in the actual mail from the USA Today newspaper requesting permission to put an illustration and a web link in a listing of good things on the web. So I said they could and they printed their thing. So I began to add new things to the web site as I could.

It’s pretty much the same today. You just make a little thing and stick it on the web to see who likes it. But back then it was a little like magic. My web experiment grew quickly and when the higher-speed DSL technology first came into Los Angeles I jumped on it and got myself a Digital Alpha server and put it at the end of a DSL line in my own home to serve the web site. According to the company which was the first one up and running in L.A., I was the first person to attempt running a web server over the DSL technology in Southern California! They gave me totally free ISP service for several years in exchange for a little advertising. I’d actually have late night conversations with their engineers – sometimes from their cars as they made their way to hubs and switches in the dead of night to fix something. Imagine that kind of technical support today with your blog host! Won’t happen! This all worked well for a time. But then the DSL technology began to fail and I quickly realized it was a dead-end technology with too many players involved on the back end who could not adequately maintain the service without blaming each other for failures. But my point is that during that time, with that kind of approach, one could really get a sense of being visited by the world. I could watch the lights blink as people came onto the server to visit. There were times, during serious outages of some sort or other, when I’d throw the big Alpha server into my car and drive it to some other location for a temporary connection. Amazing. Fun.

It’s still fun today. That’s why I still post this odd little story every Christmas. It’s the original first thing of this site.

Stopover: Animation by Neil Stubbings

I like this fast-paced and funny little cartoon about a driving emergency in outer space. The characters are expressive and silly. The ‘I have to pee urgently’ walk is hysterical. The computer animation has that nice cartoony/drawn look that always catches my eye. Neil Stubbings directed the film for LeMob Animation.  Via Neatorama.