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DVD: Journey to the Far Side of the Sun / Doppelgänger (1969)
 
Film: 
Very Good
   
DVD Transfer: 
Standard
 
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DVD Extras :  
n/a
 
     
Label/Studio:
Universal
 
Catalog #:
 
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A
Region:
1 (NTSC)
         
Released:

June 24, 2008

 

 

 
Genre: Science-Fiction  
Synopsis:
Two astronauts journey to the far side of the sun (get it?) in search of a duplicate Earth.  

 

 

Directed by:

Robert Parrish
Screenplay by: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, Donald James
Music by: Barry Gray
Produced by: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson
Cast:

Roy Thinnes, Ian Hendry, Patrick Wymark, Lynn Loring, Loni von Friedl, Franco De Rosa, George Sewell, Ed Bishop, and Herbert Lom.

Film Length: 101 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.85 :1
Colour
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  English Mono
Subtitles:  
 
Special Features :  

(none)

 
 
Comments :

After the success of Stanley Kurbick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a handful of variable space epics emerged soon after, including Hammer's magnificently immature Moon Zero Two (1969), with its embarrassing special effects work and Don Ellis' funky jazz-fusion score; and Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969), the first live-action film from the producing team of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

By 1968, The British couple had enjoyed great success with their Thunderbirds TV series, a family oriented show using marionettes, striking models, and elaborate special effects, so it seemed natural for the Andersons to port over the best elements to the big screen.

Their first theatrical productions, the spin-off diptych Thunderbirds are GO (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968), were flawed with the juvenile plotting from the TV series, but the films contained specific strengths the couple would repeat in subsequent projects: a gorgeous visual style, and a superb sense of composition.

For Anderson fans, Journey is a bridge between the playful sci-fi adventures from the couple's TV shows, and live-action productions like UFO and Space: 1999, where they attempted to move into more adult drama (albeit with painfully clumsy results).

Although a comic book movie, Journey may be the Andersons ' most mature work, because it's also a unique procedural drama that spends a substantial chunk of time on astronaut training prior to the launch that sends two men to the other side of the sun in search of a duplicate Earth masked by the sun's bulk and radiation.

Training and launch preparation minutia as well as a lengthy launch montage are quite thrilling, although one can probably attribute the film's crisp editing style in part to editor Len Walter, as well as director Robert Parrish, a former editor who won an Oscar for Body and Soul (1947). The obligatory launch countdown, fixations with gadgetry details, and component-based space ships and air vessels that separate, gyrate and interlock are all familiar Anderson fetishes, but they're largely subjugated by the main story about a group of eggheads and space cowboys trying to find out what kind of a planet is hiding behind the sun.

The story is an eerie, engrossing B-tale told with the precision of a graphic novel. The visuals are very striking, and that comes from the Andersons ' retention of key Thunderbirds personnel, including art director Bob Bell, and cinematographer John Read, the latter maintaining beautiful compositions and lighting.

The designs, clothes, pastel colours, and pulsating techno-gear are uncluttered, much in the way the main and end titles (clearly inspired by films such as Billion Dollar Brain) emphasize clean modern graphics and text, and the film's special effects are largely very convincing, particularly the spaceship, somewhat derived from NASA's own experimental ships that interlocked or opened like predatory plants, and the Andersons' design concepts which went from bloated cartoon ships in the Thunderbirds outings to more elegant industrial designs in Space: 1999 (Season 1).

The cast is comprised of fine character actors, including Ian Hendry (Theater of Blood, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter) and gravely-grumbly Patrick Wymark, plus Austrian babe Loni von Friedl (fresh from The Blood of Fu Manchu).

Star Roy Thinnes as the lead astronaut was a natural choice for the producers, since his alien invasion cult series, The Invaders, was on the go; the actor apparently managed to finagle the casting of his then-wife, actress/manager Lynn Loring, who plays the astronaut's sexually frustrated wife.

A major plus is Barry Gray's exciting score, which interestingly contains a tragic theme that was later expanded into the Space: 1999 repertoire. Gray's title theme is gorgeous, but equally memorable are the action cues that feature robust orchestral performances, and a discretionary use of the Ondes Martinot. Only qualms: the heavy use of trippy montages clearly patterned after 2001: A Space Odyssey are basically tracked with the same music cue, making one suspicious the montages were last-minute additions to pad the film's running time, or the filmmakers simply felt the pretty footage was too good to whittle down to a few seconds.

The finale is surprisingly uncompromising, and those thinking of renting or buying the DVD should avoid peeking at the rear sleeve, because a still sort of blows the final sequence.

 

© 2008 Mark R. Hasan

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