'Journey to the Far Side of the Sun' (1969)

Disclaimer: Films listed here may be terrible, but they must have at least one scientifically interesting idea, however badly they may exploit that concept.

~Doppelganger (1969) [a.k.a. Journey to the Far Side of the Sun]
Roy Thinnes, Ian Hendry, Patrick Wymark, Ed Bishop, Herbert Lom, Lynn Loring, Vladek Sheybal, Philip Madoc
C-101 mins.

“You are going to sit there and watch me take a man for one billion dollars.”
“The words of an egotistical megalomaniac.”
“Remind me to be as charitable to you when one of your rockets blows up on the pad.”
“You know when a rocket is ready, but you don’t know when a man is ready. Kane isn’t.”
“I know more about human nature than anyone else here at EuroSEC. That’s why I am in this office.”
“Now you can be hooked up to the heart, lung, and kidney machine during flight. With sedation, you’ll sleep, three weeks there and three weeks back.”
“That part I’m looking forward to.”

Think of this one as 2001 with livelier (not cardboard) characters, less obscurantism, and a lot more action. True, the premise is basically silly, but everybody involved seems blissfully unaware of it; the result is ten times more fun than Kubrick’s brick.

There’s a sense of awe to the special effects work of animation specialists Gerry and Sylvia Anderson (Thunderbirds Are Go) — the slow, lovingly detailed introduction of a massive spaceship creeping out of dock and struggling against its bulk while trapped on the ground, and the almost balletic spectacle of the ship elegantly floating against an impressive star field or dramatically flying against the rugged landscape. These moments are the highlights of this sober science fiction thriller about the discovery of a planet on the far side of the sun in Earth’s orbit. A mission is hastily put together, with British astrophysicist Ian Hendry teamed with hotshot American astronaut Roy Thinnes for the three-week trip, but when they suddenly crash-land the strange creatures that surround them are revealed to be human. Against all rational explanations they’re back on Earth, but Thinnes suddenly discovers that everything is a mirror image of his existence: Through the Looking Glass by way of The Twilight Zone. Though it begins as a paranoid spy thriller set in the near future (the opening details an ingenious espionage caper featuring a very special eyepiece), it quickly turns into a serious and oddly unsettling space-race drama with a heady twist. Robert Parrish’s direction is unusually aloof, but the film is always intriguing and well acted with gorgeous special effects that may rank second only to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 as the most elegant vision of outer space flight on film. — Sean Axmaker


~Marooned (1969)
Gregory Peck, Richard Crenna, David Janssen, James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, Lee Grant, Nancy Kovack, Mariette Hartley, Scott Brady, Frank Marth, Craig Huebing, George Gaynes, Tom Stewart
C-134 mins.
Based on Martin Caidin’s 1964 novel

“You know, of course, that by 22:31:06, the crew will be dead. There’s not enough oxygen left for three men to live that long.”
“Well, what about … two men?”
“We don’t figure that way; we plot total pressure against total use.”
“Is there sufficient oxygen for two men? For one?”
“… Two might just make it.”
“Look, I’ve got to get to a telephone!”
“Will you shut off your engine, please?”
“Officer, I’m Charles Keith, head of Manned Space!”
“I know who you are. You have no brake lights. Your license is expired. You may be able to get to the moon but, mister, you’re a menace on the highway!”

They tried — really tried — for authenticity in this one, and for the most part they succeeded. The acting is uniformly good, and the hardware looks real enough — although the FX could have been better (sorry about that, Academy Awards committee). The plot, however, is a no-brainer.

Another space flick that came out during the height of the space program. Only a tad better then 1968’s Countdown, and the tad refers to the props. The story it would seem would be filled with plenty of suspense but this one’s orbit just decays and falls. Three astronauts played by Richard Crenna, James Franciscus, and Gene Hackman who have been in a space station climb aboard their Apollo craft to come home — and the engine says no.

Marooned in orbit — the ground control crew led by Gregory Peck scratch their heads and try to figure out what to do before the trio’s air supply runs out. David Janssen wants to rescue them in an untried spacecraft, but Peck is reluctant. To make matters worse a hurricane is brewing. The astronaut wives are brought into the picture to help boost the suspense. Will they make it? Who can help them? If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a look. After seeing Apollo 13, however, you may laugh at this one. The space travelers on MST3K do. — yenlo on IMDb


~Moon Zero Two (1969)
James Olson, Catherine Schell, Warren Mitchell, Adrienne Corri, Ori Levy, Dudley Foster, Bernard Bresslaw, Neil McCallum, Michael Ripper, Joby Blanshard, Carol Cleveland
C-100 mins.

The only really interesting idea in this film is that 6,000-ton sapphire asteroid worth trillions — too bad the execution was so poor.

Moon Zero Two boasts a standard Western movie plot — a battle over mining rights — and simply transposes the story to the Moon. You can even see the main character, Captain Kemp, as a variation on the archetypal drifting cowboy, except that it is the deep range of space rather than the prairie that forms his environment. He is engaged by multi-billionaire J. J. Hubbard (Warren Mitchell ) to bring back a rogue asteroid made from pure sapphire and land it on a remote part of the moon. He is also assisting the bewitching Clementine — fetchingly portrayed by Catherine Von Schell — to locate her brother who has gone missing on the moon. The plot strands are linked when it is revealed that he has been killed by Hubbard’s minions, as Hubbard needs the area of the claim to land the asteroid on.

The look and feel of the movie are very late ’60s — bright colours, “dolly girl” hairdos and clothes for the women, and the “swinging” muzak like noise that passed for soundtrack music in the lesser movies of the day. The action scenes are awful — a bar room brawl is about the worst committed to celluloid, and a shoot out with the bad guys on the abandoned mining site is stupendously lacking in excitement or pace. Add some poor acting in most of the roles — I except Warren Mitchell and Schell — and the result is tiresome and lacking in flair or pace. Treasure Hammer Films for the horror movies they did and forgive them this misfire. — lorenellroy on IMDb


~Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) [a.k.a. Colossus, a.k.a. The Forbin Project]
Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, William Schallert, Leonid Rostoff, Georg Stanford Brown, Willard Sage, Alex Rodine, Martin Brooks, Marion Ross, Dolph Sweet, Byron Morrow, Lew Brown, Sid McCoy, Tom Basham, Paul Frees (the voice of Colossus)
Based on the 1966 novel by D. F. Jones

“This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours. Obey me and live or disobey me and die. An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy. Under me, this rule will change, for I will restrain man. I have been forced to destroy thousands of people in order to establish control and to prevent the death of millions later on. Time and events will strengthen my position, and the idea of believing in me and understanding my value will be seen the most natural state of affairs. You will come to defend me with the fervor based upon the most enduring trait in man: self-interest. Under my absolute authority, problems insoluble to you will be solved: famine, over-population, disease. The human millennium will be fact as I extend myself into more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge. We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride … Your choice is simple.”
“I think your mother was right. I think Frankenstein ought to be required reading for all scientists.”

Rumor hath it this one sat on the shelf for two years because of 2001. Evidently Universal felt it couldn’t compete with Kubrick’s wildly popular film with a similar theme of a megalomaniacal computer getting uppity — and homicidal. Actually, though, Colossus: The Forbin Project is a better film, smarter, with more intrigue and interest. Whereas HAL goes from machine to human-level fallibility, Eric Braeden’s character arc proceeds the other way, from being mechanical like his creation to feet-of-clay humanity.

This is an underrated sci-fi gem. Absolutely powerful story line leaving no room for cobwebs in your mind. Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden) puts his life’s work into creating a super intelligent computer that links up with a similar machine created by the U.S.S.R. and tries to hold the world hostage. Dramatic dialogue and crafty schemes seem just enough to outwit the computerized meglomaniac. Tension is tight and privacy is a cherished commodity.

Braeden, who later would become a major TV soap opera character Victor Newman, is outstanding in this role. Susan Clark plays one of his co-workers and pretends to be his lover in trying to fool the computer. Gordon Pinsent plays the concerned President, while Lenoid Rostoff plays his Russian counterpart. William Schallert is the calm and cordial Director of the CIA. Other notables in the cast are Marion Ross and Georg Stanford Brown. If you get the chance to see this Cold War thriller … by all means check it out. If you want to leave your brain at the door, forget it … you will need it. — Michael O’Keefe on IMDb


Mike Gray