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On My Radar: ‘Planet of the Storms’

NewsOn My Radar: ‘Planet of the Storms’

‘Planet of the Storms’
Klushantsev and his co-author Alexander Kazantsev’s next sci-fi movie “Planet of the Storms” tells about the fantastical adventures of a group of cosmonauts during an expedition to Venus. It was released in 1961, the year Yuri Gagarin made the first-ever spaceflight. Some 20 million people watched the movie in the USSR, while copies of it were sold to 28 countries for distribution, including the US. In America, the movie was bought by director and producer Roger Corman, often called “The Pope of Pop Cinema”. “In the 1960s, I bought the American rights to several Russian science fiction films. They were made with tremendous special effects. They were, unfortunately, filled with anti-American propaganda,” Corman told outlet Kinoeye in 2003. “I said to the Russians: ‘I’m going to have to cut the anti-American propaganda out. They understood.” Footage from ‘Planet of the Storms’ was used in 1965 to create a movie called ‘Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet’ released in the US. Director Curtis Harrington was in charge of the remake. In an interview published by Psychotronic Video magazine in 1993, he said, “I had, instead of the Soviet actors, Faith Domergue orbiting the planet Venus. Then all the scenes with the Russians were dubbed in English. She was in touch with Basil Rathbone who was supposedly on a Moon station. That’s all I shot about a day or two with her. The rest was just dubbed stuff.”

‘Moscow’s Sci-Fi Influenced Hollywood’s Star Wars Films’
Friday was the first anniversary of Russia-Ukraine war. There is no sign of the end of it. The sound of war-drums has rather increased. Both US (which is fighting a “proxy war”) and Russia are showing their supremacy in every aspect. The—first Russian 24/7 English news channel which brings the Russian view —has claimed that the fact that many Hollywood blockbusters were “influenced’ by the first Soviet sci-fi films, may sound surprising. “It took years for American viewers to realize that several movies they watched in the sixties had actually been made in the USSR,” says Anastasia Safronova, RT Editor, in his in-depth report.

Pioneer of Soviet Sci-Fi
Safronova says the director Pavel Klushantsev is considered the pioneer of not only the Soviet Union’s but of the world’s sci-fi cinematography. He was born in 1910 in St. Petersburg. In his memoirs, he recalled he’d wanted to be an engineer but it was easier to join a cinematographic college. Klushantsev wrote in his book ‘Away from Big Roads’ that it helped him to become a pioneer in visual effects: he invented some 300 shooting devices. During World War II, Klushantsev couldn’t join the Soviet troops because of bad health. He stayed in the city, now renamed Leningrad, where he shot newsreels during the 900-day siege of the city. In 1942, the heroic work of Soviet cinematographers was awarded an Oscar: An Academy Award was given to the documentary ‘Moscow Strikes Back’, which was shot during the Battle of Moscow. The premiere of ‘The Road to the Stars’ coincided with a turning point in space history: That same year, the USSR launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik-1. An obsession with space started to spread across the globe.

‘The Sky Beckons’
Another Soviet movie that Corman bought for US distribution was ‘The Sky Beckons’ (1959) by Alexander Kozyr and Mikhail Karyukov. Special effects shown in this film looked quite incredible for its time; it showed a space rocket making a vertical landing on a floating platform (half-a-century later, Elon Musk’s SpaceX did this in reality). ‘The Sky Beckons’ was about a Mars-bound space race between Soviet and American exploration teams. To cut “the anti-American propaganda out,” Corman hired young student Francis Ford Coppola, who would later become an icon of world cinema. In 1962, a movie called ‘Battle Beyond the Sun’, about a space race between two fictional nations, was presented to US audiences. Footage from ‘The Sky Beckons’ was also used in ‘Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet’. It is said that Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ used graphics solutions from ‘The Sky Beckons’ created by the fiction artist Yuri Shvets. ‘Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet’ includes footage from another Soviet movie, called ‘A Dream Comes True’ (1963). It was directed by Mikhail Karyukov together with Otar Koberidze. Like in ‘The Sky Beckons’, the plot features an expedition to Mars.

Soviet Legacy
Film expert Stanislav Lugovoy explained to RT that the concept of ‘copyright’ in its international meaning almost didn’t exist in the USSR. In the seventies, iconic Soviet director Andrey Tarkovsky was furious over the fact that his film ‘Solaris’ had been shortened and re-edited in Italy before its release. According to film expert Stanislav Lugovoy, Soviet cinematography had so many world-class cameramen and filmmakers. The gap in technical development grew with the years. In the end, it was already impossible to compete with Hollywood’s special effects.

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