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Planeta bur (1962)
(More than) Space nostalgia
23 September 2019
When the film was shot, no information apart from earthbound observation had been available about Venus. Astronomers knew the composition of the higher atmosphere and some physical characteristics but nothing about the surface which is always hidden under thick layers of clouds. Then it was kind of a mysterious, impenetrable twin Earth bearing unimaginable secrets. Many (Western) sci-fi films handled the pre-spacefaring Venus in quite trivial ways. Although 'Planeta Bur' also represents a fantastical vision of Venus, the depiction of the surface with its orangeish haze and those granitic rocks was surprisingly accurate. The many details and the delightful photography made the film worthwhile. There's also a nice thriller element to the plot. The ending is still one of the eeriest, most bizarre scenes in all science fiction cinema. It is easily one of the better sci-fi entries of the early 1960s.

The film probably should have raised public interest in Venus exploration as in 1962 the ill-fated second generation of Venus probes was underway. None of them would ultimately reach its goal, only a few years after would the umpteenth attempt succeed. Fun fact: 23 years after the film, Soviet spacecraft called "Vega" really touched down on Venus.
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Acid war drama
12 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this film several times over the years as I possess the original West German VHS release. West Germany was the co-producing country that also arranged Robert Fuller for the lead role as he was currently working with German producers. Recently I've stumbled across an English-dubbed version and noticed considerable differences.

Several scenes were cut out, especially the more graphic ones but also political ones. I remember a scene in which Moshe and Halil smoke together in the desert only to find a more reconciliatory mood. Then I've found many dialogues altered. Uri is obsessed with Germans and the Holocaust in the English-dubbed version whereas in the German version, he was not only skeptical of God but also fed up with Israeli politics and especially its defence policy. The English-dubbed version featured ranting newsreel footage about the Six Day War I was unaware of in the German version. Now I'd like to find an original Hebrew language version for a further comparison.

The film itself is one of my favourite war films, a genre I usually don't appreciate much. The whole film has kind of an "acid" feeling to it; the original shooting locations like the inlet of Taba, the narrow wadis, the moon-like mountain landscape and the coral reefs along the desert add much to the odd atmosphere of the film. The use of the music score is very minimalist, emotions are reduced to human reactions. Patriotism, religion and solemnity are avoided although there surely are some comic moments. The cinematography was quite memorable, even though the directing tends to be intuitive sometimes. Given this and the "acid" feeling, the film fits perfectly in its era (1968) and is evocative of the Acid Western subgenre from those years. Whoever either is in search of such a niche product or has visited some of the shooting locations before (like I did) or is interested in the time and place of the film will probably enjoy this forgotten yet original production.
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An interesting background story
3 January 2018
Whereas the background story about an ageing astronaut who has found something or someone on the Moon proved sufficiently effective despite not being resolved satisfyingly, the plot around teenage love stories and trite father-son relationships did the film no real favour. On the other hand did the film avoid entering into the domain of hard sci-fi, making it accessible and even enjoyable for a wider audience. Unfortunately, the photography, score and direction were mediocre at best. The acting wasn't really bad but the performances aren't memorable, either. The film is hard to recommend because there's too little science fiction for fans of this genre and unnecessarily much for audiences interested in personal relationships. As a cinematic product, the film is quite negligible.
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