|IKARIE XB 1 (VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE) (director/writer: Von Jindrich Polak; screenwriters: Paul Jurist/from the novel by The Magellan Nebula by Stanislaw Lem; cinematographers: Jan Kalis/Sasa Rasilov; editor: Josef Dobrichovský; music: Danny List; cast: Zdenek Stepanek (The Captain Abajev), Radovan Lukavskij (Commander Byron MacDonald), Otto Lasckovic (Michael, coordinator), Frantisek Smolik (Anthony, mathematician), Dana Medricka (Nina Kirova, sociologist), Marcela Martinkova (Wertbowsky's wife Steffie), Jiri Vrstala (Erik Svensen, pilot), Ruzena Urbanova (Eva, historian), Jaroslav Mares (Milek Wertbowsky), Svatava Hubenáková (Rena, MacDonald's wife); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Rudolf Wohl; PAL DVD format-Filmexport Home Video; 1963-Czechoslovakia-in Czech with English subtitles)|
a curio that's worthwhile seeing--especially if
you're a fan of the great writer Lem."
by Dennis Schwartz
Jindrich Polak ("Riders in the Sky")
effectively directs this well-produced straightforward
Czech sci-fi fantasy film, one that's amazingly almost
propaganda-free for an Iron Curtain country, that's
shot on a low-budget and in black and white. Polak and
co-writer Paul Jurist adapt it from
the 1955 novel The Magellan Nebula
by Stanislaw Lem.
Its English film title alludes to Icarus, the Greek
mythological character who flew too close to the sun.
Ikarie XB-1 predates both Stanley
Kubrick's groundbreaking 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
and Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek series
(1966-1969), and was certainly seen by
visionary pic of the future, that is set in 2163. At
that time the international community on Earth has
banded together to launch its first
multinational interstellar mission to explore the star
Alpha Centauri and a planet orbiting around that star.
While on the space voyage, on the Ikarie
XB-1, we learn that those who remain on
Earth will have aged 15 years during the
course of the 28 month mission while the crew will
only age a few years.
pic opens with Commander MacDonald (Radovan
Lukavskij), of the Ikarie, saying
his goodbyes to his pregnant wife Rena (Svatava
Hubenáková) through a
faulty communication setup that fades out after she
jokes their child will be 15 when he returns and that
she will age so much he might not find her desirable
flight, the crew tries to be cheery and fight off
their boredom while enclosed for such a long time in a
tin spacecraft. Humor is derived at the expense of the
brainy mathematician Anthony (Frantisek
Smolik), the creator of the ship's robot,
Patrick, who loyally follows him around while
playfully mocked by the crew because it was built in
the 21st century and is missing some of the 22nd
century updates even if it still works.
midflight, the Ikarie comes upon a mystery
abandoned spacecraft and the captain (Zdenek
Stepanek) refuses to use robots to
investigate, and instead sends 2 crew members. They
solve the mystery by finding a human crew dead and
nuclear arms aboard (a cue for some Cold War barbs
aimed at the West).
the conclusion, as the Ikarie returns to Earth after
successfully completing its mission, a nearby nebula infects
the ship with radiation that leaves everyone
with a sleeping sick illness. The 2 crewmen who
boarded the abandoned space ship are the most deeply
affected by the radiation, and one of them, named
Michael (Otto Lasckovic),
goes berserk and declares the Earth is gone and
pulls out a ray gun while threatening the entire
Like all space films emerging from the Soviets and the Eastern Bloc, this one deals with space exploration and not alien invasions. It's a curio that's worthwhile seeing--especially if you're a fan of the great writer Lem. Though too talky and too sweet of a plot, it deserves some recognition for its contributions to the genre, its intelligent script and its numerous ideas.
REVIEWED ON 11/26/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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