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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Czech wide screen sci-fi still impressive,
Second Run presents Ikarie XB 1 in its original uncut version and it's excellent. The film was made in 1963 and is set in 2163.
I'm not a sci-fi aficionado so come to Ikarie XB 1 through my interest in eastern european cinema of the 1960's, in the same way I appreciate say, Nosferatu or Metropolis, in the context of German cinema of the 1920's, rather than as a horror or sci-fi fan. Therefore, Kim Newman's video appreciation was much appreciated by me, exploring as it does both the political subtext of such Soviet block sci-fi, as well as this epics obvious and substantial influence on subsequent sci-fi films and TV of the 1960's. It's not a long film clocking in at a rather modest running time of 83 minutes but it's epic in its sense of scale, ambition and the inventiveness of the magnificent production design.
Taking place entirely onboard the spacecraft Ikarie XB 1, the film starts with a pre-credit sequence that depicts the psychological meltdown of one of the crew members and is very reminiscent of, and functions like the 'previously on...' synopses so prevalent at the head of most current TV serials. Except in this instance it's a flash forward and is an attention grabbing composite of what is to come.
Thereafter, the narrative is divided into three distinct sections. Firstly, we spend a good half of the film observing the daily work but mainly social life of the crew as the ship travels across the vast empty tract of space. There are many fascinating concepts on offer that are clearly a source of inspiration for later productions and it's all stunningly atmospheric. There's a palpable sense of the enclosing darkness of space and it's impressively photographed in 2.35:1 B & W.
At this point it's worth pointing out a couple of potential weaknesses. I partly concur with Kim Newman's appraisal of the early electronic score, in as much as it does date the piece somewhat. Nevertheless, it's still enjoyable and not too concerning, however, there's a clothing issue that is far more unsatisfactory from the point of view of datedness, or at least it breaks the spell for a moment. While the futuristic work uniforms are well realised and clearly influenced the Star Trek series, when the women dress for a dance party the dresses are straight out of the 1960 spring collection and represent a sudden lack of vision in an otherwise exceptionally well imagined future. On the other hand, the actual dance movements are a genuine attempt to consider how this social activity might have developed over two centuries.
The day to day business finally gives way to the first piece of exterior drama when the Ikarie XB 1 comes across a dead spaceship which contains weapons of mass destruction. Soon after the frightful denouement of this section comes the last and much more mysterious final section. When the crew succumb to a terrible sleeping sickness they ascribe their fatigue to the presence of a 'dark star' but the darkness of the mood at last turns to optimism, even elation as they realise, or at least believe that their deliverance has been gifted to them.
This Second Run package offers a new, beautifully restored anamorphic transfer that looks topnotch, plus the aforementioned video extra plus a booklet with another well researched essay by Michael Brooke.
Well worth a view in my opinion.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Czechoslovakian Sixties Sci-Fi.,
This review is of the `Second Run' DVD release in Region 2 format. This film is seen by many as an almost `lost' classic in the genre of sci-fi. Made in 1963 in the then Czechoslovakia, it is based on the book `The Magellana Cloud' by Polish author Stanislav Lem. It tells the story of a group of humans who have been sent to the next nearest universe where there is a likelihood that they will be able to find a habitable planet. The year this is taking place is in the year 2163.
The further they go from Earth the less they are able to keep in contact with their families and base. Once communications are cut they then realise how isolated they are and then cabin fever starts to creep in - despite the huge size of the ship. What this film really seems to be is straddling the 1950's type if sci-fi which to be honest I absolutely love like say `The Day The Earth Stood Still', or `War of the Worlds' and I hate the remakes of both of them, and the new wave of science fiction like `2001 A Space Odyssey' and `Star Trek' etc. Actually what I really enjoyed about it was spotting all the ideas that others had blagged for their shows or films.
The sets are really good and comparisons to the original `Dr. Who' are probably unfair as this is quite a bit better. The sfx are surprisingly good too and if you get a feeling of déjà vu a few times it will be because this did it first, the eagle eyed amongst you will see where the `Alien' franchise got a few ideas from too. Check out the `dance party' if you can keep a straight face at the futuristic dance moves, then you are truly a better man than I - or indeed woman.
This is undoubtedly an important film, but as some critics have said it is a bit on the slow side in places but then so was Kubrick's effort in my opinion. It also lacks pizzazz; well space is a vacuum don't you know. That said you do have to concentrate in a few places but it has more than one cliff hanger and loads of ideas thrown in so I found it to be a really worthwhile watch. I love seeing how cinema has developed and for me that was the real charm of this film. If it lacks technical merit it does so only by today's standards. The acting and direction are all ruddy good and the space suits are rather good for the era too. If you are a fan of science fiction and/ or a film buff then you should find something here to keep you entertained.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting precursor to many SF movies,
Ikarie XB-1 is an interesting movie in its own right, but remarkable as a precursor to the SF movies / TV series that came in its wake. In its concept of a varied crew that goes on a mission of space exploration, one can't help but find the inspiration for Star Trek. Stanley Kubrick's 2001 and Ridley Scott's Alien could have well taken inspiration from the production design and atmosphere of this film. Well worth seeing especially if you're into SF movies.
While it would have been ideal to see this in HD format, Second Run's DVD gives a very impressive presentation of the film in its original aspect ratio (2.35:1, anamorphically enhanced). The audio (Czech Dolby mono) is clear in terms of dialog, and gives a nice representation of the very interesting background score. Extras include a video piece with Kim Newman, and an excellent essay on the included booklet.
The only complaint I have is with Second Run's so-called "eco-cases". They're quasi-flexible flimsy affairs that seem to withstand very little stress. Mine arrived pretty much caved in (a blu-ray case in the same parcel was pristine). Amazon UK has promised me a replacement which should hopefully be fine, but someone should tell Second Run to go back to more sturdy cases.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magellanic Cloud,
This 1963 sci fi jewel is based on the The Magellanic Cloud (Polish title: Obłok Magellana)novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem (1955). Stanislaw Lem is best known for his novel Solaris on which Tarkovksy based his sci fi jewel with the same name. Jindřich Polák made a beautiful movie with Ikarie XB-1 and you can clearly see that this movie has been a huge influence on amongst others 2001 : A Space Odyssey.
During the year 2163 the so called spaceship Ikarie XB-1 is on it's way to a mysterious white planet which orbits the star Alpha Centauri. En route to this planet the astronauts encounter the negatice effect of a radioactive dark star which results in the crew being very sleepy at first but some suffer from mental breakdown.
As usual the packaging by Second Run and the booklet within the DVD case is beautiful and contains lots of information about the film. Moreover the film itself contains the original closing scene and not the ridiculous US ending ( the film was once released in the USA with the title Voyage to the end of the Universe ).
This film is a must have for each sci fi fan. A true jewel and highest possible recommendation.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent early sci-fi,
I only found out about this film as a result of the publicity around this re-issue, and am very glad I did.
This is a really great ecample of early sci-fi.
It has that genuiine 'futuristic' (now 'retro-futuristic' of course) look to everything, when people just let their imaginations wonder as to what future technology would be like rather than assuming it would be like our own (ever noticed how the original Star Trek, made in the 60s, had a large wall-sized flat-screen but 'Alien', made in the '80s, has old-style CRT monitors aboard the Nostromo...?).
The acting is fully committed and the film takes an expansive look a both the psychologicial and physical demands of being on a long space journey with an uncertain end, adn teh decision the crew have made about their own lives to be there.
The perspective (from Soviet-era Czechoslovakia) also makes it unusual and whilst many (including me) would agree that the Soviet era was a failed experiment there is an interesting scene which seeks to make people think about the excesses of the West and where they might lead.
Overall the look, feel and sound (there's an excellent experimental soundtrack) and artful direction by Jindřich Polák make this a must for any sci-fi movie fan.
There's also a good accompanying booklet and a decent video essay of the film which does a good job of pointing out the main underlying films.
All-in-all, well worth the price.
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Voyage to the End of the Universe ( Ikarie XB 1 ) by Jindrich Polįk (DVD)