Nebo zovyot (1959)
Article 5504 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Mikhail Karzhukov and Aleksandr Kozyr
Featuring Ivan Pereverzev, Aleksandr Shvorin, Konstantin Bartashevich
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Space drama
Two rockets are in a race to be the first to reach Mars. When one of them runs into problems, the other must change its course to rescue the astronauts.
I’ve already covered this movie in my review of the Americanized version known as BATTLE BEYOND THE SUN, and usually I won’t re-review a movie unless it has more than one listing on IMDB. However, my friend Andrew Kidd rightfully suggested that it would be worthwhile to give the original Russian print a look, as the American version changed the movie by grafting on some truly ridiculous monster footage (among other things). This type of modification changes the tone of the movie completely, and it really is unfair to judge the original film by that version.
This is not to say that the original version is a neglected classic; it really doesn’t have much of a story, and it’s stodgily directed. It is, however, sincere and modest, and sometimes it even manages to achieve a bit of lyricism. Somehow, this meshes well with the movie’s interest in exploring the issue of sensationalism; one of the rockets is making a big media splash, while the other is quietly trying to accomplish its mission before announcing itself. Given this is a Russian movie, it’s no surprise that it’s the American rocket that needs to be rescued, and that’s another aspect of the movie the American version downplayed. All in all, this movie is only so-so, but it does deserve to be judged on its own merits rather than those of the American version.