Monday, April 21, 2014
It's just barely possible I saw Journey to the Far Side of the Sun in the theater in 1969. I have some nagging memory of that, but no certainty. I've long wanted to get another look at, especially in light of rediscovering so many great Gerry Anderson productions such as UFO, Space:1999 and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. I recently added Thunderbirds to my collection, but more on that another day.
This movie was called Doppleganger in Europe, a name which has a proper mystery to it and of course points quickly the theme of the flick which features many of the classic Anderson touches. After years of puppets on television the Andersons wanted to break into live action and especially into film. They certainly the technical chops for it, but as this movie demonstrates, there's a lack of thematic depth which holds the work back.
The story is a simple enough affair. A new planet is discovered on the far side of the Sun in 2069 and Eurosec director Jason Webb (Patrick Wymark) wants to send men there, but it costs a lot of money. To fool the U.S. into being the sugar daddy for the operation, Webb allows the secret discovery to fall into the hands of the Soviets. This triggers a team up between Europe (Britain really) and the U.S. with Roy Thinnes showing up as ace astronaut Colonel Glenn Ross. Along with Ian Hendry in the role of Dr.John Kane, the two train then eventually head to the new planet. Crashing upon a arrival they discover that the world they have arrived at seems almost like the one they left.
This movie is a wonderfully quiet and technically sound presentation of space flight. The characters are by and large restrained with just enough personal intrigue to tell them apart. The movie seems to want to tap into the 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe with some psychedelic sequences and an ending which really does evoke the classic Kubrick space opera. The biggest problem with this movie is that the payoff doesn't really measure up to the build up. The discovery is curious, but doesn't seem to sufficiently challenge the protagonists enough to make me really care about their fates. It's all a bit too low key all the time.
This is a beautifully fabricated movie, but it sadly lacks enough of a point to make it elevate to a really rich viewing experience. If I actually did see this movie when it came out, I'm realizing why it left such a vague memory.