Movie Review: Battle Beyond the Sun

Battle Beyond the SunWe watched a new old movie Friday called Battle Beyond the Sun. It is the U.S. version of Nebo Zovyot, a 1959 Soviet science fiction film directed by Mikhail Karyukov and Aleksandr Kozyr.  At first I thought it was originally an Italian movie — because the astronauts all wore turtlenecks and corduroy jackets under their space suits — but apparently it is Russian, dubbed over in English by bad voice-over artists.

The story did involve the sun, but there was no battle. That word was probably put in by the marketing department. It starts out as a fairly common theme: after a world-wide nuclear war (in 1997) what’s left of the world population is divided into two factions, North Hemis and South Hemis, but instead of being a Mad Max style post apocalypse, both sides rebuild their technology and begin a race to get to Mars (so they can claim it for their new home). As two enemy ships (one from North, one from South) are en route to Mars one suffers a malfunction and calls for help. The other ship, instead of responding with “Too bad suckers, Mars is ours” rescues the enemy crew and returns them to Earth. It’s actually a little more complicated than that: involving an asteroid and space monsters, but this is just a thumbnail sketch. The unselfish action of the crew ushers in a new age of peace and cooperation for all humanity.

I think it’s interesting how this perspective differs from typical American or Japanese perspectives on similar scenarios I’ve seen.

Roger Corman acquired the film for US distribution and hired a young film-school student named Francis Ford Coppola to Westernize it.[1] In addition to preparing a dubbing script free of anti-American propaganda and supervising the dubbing, Coppola filmed a few shots of two space monsters fighting and cut them into the Soviet material. According to Jack Hill, who worked on the new version (it was his first paid job for Roger Corman), Coppola’s idea was that one monster would look like a penis and the other a vagina.[2] The new monster scenes were shot on a sound stage in Hollywood.

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