Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924)

Article #148 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 8-11-2001
Posting date: 12-25-2001 (MERRY CHRISTMAS)


No other movie means Christmas quite as much to me as that silent Russian epic, AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS. There’s nothing like a movie that purports to be a science fiction epic but actually spends two-thirds of its running time dealing with the trials and tribulations of a post-revolutionary married couple engaged in the rebuilding of Moscow while dealing with an unsavory boarder who not only contributes to tension in their marriage but steals sugar from his comrades to make me feel the warm glow of the Chirstmas Season. And when the protaganist disguises himself as his bearded but missing best friend to help build a rocket to go to Mars, doesn’t he remind you of that jolly old St. Nick? Watching our hero then lead the oppressed proletariat on Mars on a workers’ revolution, and then following this up with an ending that is guaranteed to leave smudges on your TV screen when you toss the patented DS Rubber Brick at it is bound to make you want to go out in the street and sing Christmas Carols until your voice goes out or you die…

Okay, I admit it; I don’t gear this column towards the holidays.

Seriously, folks, I was disappointed to find out that this movie was a lot more of a soap opera than the full-blooded SF epic that it promises. And even though it was still possible to make good films while being hamstringed by the necessity of adding Soviet propaganda to the proceedings (after all, look at the films of Eisenstein), the final trip-to-Mars sequence largely consists of nothing but that propaganda, making it less satisfying than the soap opera portion of the film (which actually, for what it was, wasn’t too bad). The sets and costumes during the Mars sequence are impressive, and I did find some of the comic relief in the movie quite amusing; nonetheless, I think anyone interested in viewing this film under the belief that they’re going to see a science fiction epic should be warned ahead of time about the exact nature of the film. Consider yourself warned.

And a Merry Christmas to you all!


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