Planeta Bur

Title: Planeta Bur
Translated Title: Planet of Storms
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure
Starring: Vladimir Yemelyanov, Georgi Zhzhyonov, Gennadi Vernov
Director: Pavel Klushantsev
Language: Russian
Release Date: 1962

One of those films that has been on my list to watch for far too long – in fact this one can even be timed to the date I first reviewed “The Star Dreamer” and discovered Klushantsev's genius – and my interest is all down to how the film is constructed. It wasn't only the Americans that were dreaming of space during the cold war, and this man's work became widely known and hugely successful in the USSR, but knowledge of him outside his home country often seemed limited to only a select few. Called inspirational by the special effects wizards that would make both 'Alien' and 'Predator;' techniques developed here would be used again to great effect by Kubrick's '2001;' entire scenes stolen by B-Movies to come; this film is an integral part of any legacy Sci-Fi films have to leave behind and once you start watching it, it isn't difficult to see why.

When Earth's first voyage to the planet Venus doesn't go as planned and their fuel supply ship is destroyed by a stray meteorite, the remaining two ships – the landing supply ship and the radio communications ship – are left with one of two options; wait in orbit for four months, hoping to survive any incoming meteorites, or attempt to land on the planet and await the backup fuel supply ships return from there. Taking their chances on the planet, once again, things never quite go according to plan and the three man glider intended to guide the main supply craft down crashes in a hostile environment, but not before scouting out a safe landing location for the rest of the crew. Amidst this alien world, this group of seven – six men and a humanoid robot – bravely scout out the lost crew members in the hopes that they might re-unite and await for help to arrive together.

It certainly isn't a particularly long film at only 75mins, and neither does it perhaps sound like it yields the most fascinating plot, but all the interesting points comes in the little details, and certainly watching 'The Star Dreamer' first has yielded an increased interest in many scenes that you may otherwise take for granted, instead forcing yourself to look on in amazement and remind yourself that this was created 50 years ago. There are certainly aliens that look more comical than creative; some sort of bearded octopus and swarms of 'Barney the Dinosaur' spring to mind, but the crux of the effects outside of the creatures are nothing short of incredible. He tosses people up into zero-gravity conditions like its nothing, hover-cars held by no visible wires, plants wrap their tendrils around our heroes and grip tightly on (none of this actor holding onto the prop and pretending – even toddlers aren't convinced by that crap), fish swim around the crew as though it was actually filmed underwater (an impossibility at the time), the robot moves convincingly – even if in design it does look a great deal of influence was taken from the earlier US film “Forbidden Planet” – and even the planet landscape looks distinctly alien.

But there are more details than just how meticulously he planned the effects, stretching out into the plot itself; everything from the mission itself to the little details all makes sense, and is a far cry from unintelligent. Questions are always raised about the possibility of life on alien planets but how many films start discussing the consequences of evolution on a singular race inhabiting multiple planets? The idea that through common ancestors planets were not populated through terraforming but from gradual evolution to grow accustomed to the conditions on the new planet? A concept that in our desire to make a world suitable for us we forget that over generations evolution may well make us suitable for the planet, and this isn't the only question of its kind raised in this films short duration. It's difficult to recommend this film as it's likely not to appeal to many; there may be a few action sequences but is by no means an action film; there is certainly a touch of drama but it never feels like its in focus; nor does it feel like the focus is solely on philosophising; and there's little mention of the USSR and no Capitalist or America bashing so it can't even be considered propaganda material. It is simply a feast for the eyes for fans of classic cinema and all Sci-Fi fans curious as the origins of modern cinema. There can be no question of it, Klushantsev was a legend of his time and his work goes on criminally under appreciated.


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