A while back, I bought this 50-movie set, Sci-Fi Invasion, for five bucks. That adds up to ten cents per movie. 1962’s Battle Beyond the Sun was originally a ponderous Russian sci-fi movie with a ton of anti-U.S. sentiment, reedited into a “rah-rah hooray for America” adventure movie. The result is about as incomprehensible as you’re imagining.
Here’s what happens: In the far-distant future of 1997, which is after the nuclear devastation of World War III, the Earth is divided into two factions, North Hemis and South Hemis, which are both in a race to put the first man on Mars. One of the ships crash, and its rival sets out on a rescue mission, only to have both crews under siege by ferocious alien creatures.
Speculative spectacle: Although they seem to threaten the astronauts, the aliens are more interested in fighting each other. One is this one-eyed creature with an uncomfortably suggestive sideways mouth, and the other looks like a headless body with big eyeballs at the end of its arms, where hands should be.
Sleaze factor: None. This is one stodgy, starched-shirt movie.
Quantum quotables: The opening narration states, “The motion picture you are about to see can be called today a fantasy of the future. But one day, maybe not too far distant, audiences will be able to look back on it in the same spirit which we view pictures about the first covered wagons crossing the plains.”
What the felgercarb? At a space station, one guy loses control of the artificial gravity and floats around like a goofball, but why is it just him without gravity and no one else? Am I missing something?
Microcosmic minutiae: Legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola shows up in the credits as “associate producer.” Here’s how that happened: Roger Corman (Who else?) obtained the rights to a Russian sci-fi film called The Sky is Falling, and he hired Coppola, who was still in film school at the time, to dub and re-edit an Americanized version of the movie. Coppola and equally-legendary-but-for-other-reasons filmmaker Jack Hill worked together on the project, filming some new footage as well. All the stuff with the aliens came from Coppola and Hill, not the original film.
Worth ten cents? The Coppola-Corman-Hill collaboration makes this a novelty item, but mostly it’s tedious viewing.
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