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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Voyage to the End of the Universe")

 

Directed by Jindrich Polák
Czechoslovakia 1963

 

Polák's pioneering and much-imitated feature IKARIE XB 1 is one of the cornerstones of contemporary sci-fi cinema. It predates Star Trek and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and was clearly an influence on both - and on almost every other science-fiction vehicle that followed.

Adapted from Stanislaw Lem's novel The Magellanic Cloud , the film is set in 2163 and follows a mission deep into space in search of alien life. During their perilous journey the crew confront the effects of a malignant dark star, the destructive legacy of the 20th century and, ultimately, the limits of their own sanity. With outstanding design and cinematography, IKARIE XB 1 is imbued with a seriousness, intelligence and attention to detail rarely seen in science-fiction cinema of the period.

***

2163 A.D.: Ikarie XB-1 is not just a spaceship, it's a "cosmic town of forty people" on a journey out of our solar system to explore the Alpha Centauri system not just for a planet capable of sustaining life but for one in which they expect that life has indeed developed intelligently. Although the journey will last fifteen Earth years, only twenty-eight months will have elapsed on the ship due to time delineation. Not only does the crew have to deal emotionally with the reality that their loved ones will have aged significantly upon their return (one man whose pregnant wife had to stay on Earth will not get to meet his daughter until she is a teenager), but they also find that the passage of time accelerates in their interpersonal relationships on board (friendships and love affairs come and go quickly - with the older crew members viewing them on surveillance monitors like a soap opera - and popular hangouts are soon abandoned as if their interest has waned over years). As they drift further away from the Earth and into the other star system, they start to encounter the unknown, from an alien vessel to the bizarre, narcoleptic, paranoid, and physically harmful effects of a close encounter with a "dark star" that threatens their very sanity and possibly their survival.

Based on an early novel by Stanislaw Lem - author of SOLARIS (adapted by Andrei Tarkovsky and later Steven Soderbergh) - IKARIE XB 1 is an exquisite piece of Eastern European science fiction (so much so that the film was only re-edited by American International for its U.S. release of VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE whereas some of their Soviet sci-fi pick-ups were salvaged only for their special effects shots with new stories and footage shot around them). The visual effects, set design, and performances are all of a high caliber, but it is the film's attention to the human aspect of the story that is most impressive. The interactions are sometimes immediate and emotional, and sometimes observed from a distance to surreal effect (if Fellini made a science fiction movie, he too would have indulged in such a rigidly choreographed - almost courtly - discotheque sequence and several of the dashing pans and tracking shots of twisted faces rushing towards the camera). That it lacks a spectacular laser battle ending is of little importance when the spirit of collaboration and cooperation - that made the exploratory journey (to connect with other life in the galaxy rather than to salvage resources) possible in the first place - is a stake.

Eric Cotenas.

Posters

Theatrical Release: July 1963 (Trieste International Science Fiction Film Festival)

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Review: Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Box Cover

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Distribution Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:27:25.125         
Video

2.36:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 32,869,933,590 bytes

Feature: 21,867,601,920 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.97 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio

LPCM Audio Czech 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Second Run

 

2.36:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 32,869,933,590 bytes

Feature: 21,867,601,920 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.97 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

Short film The Most Ordinary of Occupations (Nejv edn j í povolání, 1963 - 12:24)
A filmed appreciation by Kim Newman (12:00)
Alternative US version Voyage to the End of the Universe opening and end scene (4:00 / 1:09)
Booklet featuring a substantial essay by writer and film historian Michael Brooke.
2016 Trailer (1:54)
Voyage to the End of the Universe trailer (2:01)
Photo gallery


Blu-ray Release Date:
March 25th, 2019
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

This new Second Run Blu-ray is descried as "Ikarie XB 1 is presented from a new 4K restoration from original materials by the Czech National Film Archive". Early text screens tell us: The goal of digital restoration was to make the film available in a form similar to how it could have been seen and heard by an audience at the time when it was first released in 1963. As a result, various features that originate from the shooting of the film or its laboratory processing have been preserved and are evidence of the technologies and creative approaches of the time.

Supported by grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and co-financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. Project partners were the National Library of Norway and CESNET.

The source for the digitization were film materials preserved in the National Film Archive in Prague. The image was digitized from the original negative and the sound from the sound negative.

The restoration was done by the Hungarian Filmlab in Budapest, under the supervision of the National Film Archive in Prague, in 2016.

Eric reviewed the 2013 Second Run PAL DVD HERE.  While we haven't compared, the new 1080P is a notable upgrade. In this new restoration remain a few inherent weaknesses with some possible warping and inconsistencies in sharpness but it still provides a very worthwhile HD presentation with a strong adherence to the film elements and the film's pioneering effects appearing impressive.    

Second Run use a linear PCM 2.0 mono channel track (16-bit) in the original Czech language and the transfer adeptly supports the, often, intense score of Zdenek Liska (The Cremator, The Shop on High Street, The White Dove, Fruit of Paradise, The Fabulous Baron Munchausen). It sounds very clean (also restored) with some depth and there are optional English subtitles on the Region FREE Blu-ray.

Extras include, from the previous DVD - as described by Eric: "Critic Kim Newman offers an appreciation of the film, which he first encountered in its US version and then later in its original form. He suggests that Russia beating America into space lead to an approach in science fiction film of exploration rather than invasion. Michael Brooke's essay in the included booklet gives an overview of Eastern European science fiction from the twenties to the sixties, an analysis of the film, as well as some detail about the changes imposed on the film for its US release through American International (less extensive than their treatment of some other imports but ten minutes shorter, removal of anti-American/anti-capitalist references, and a nonsensical surprise ending). He also mentions that Stanley Kubrick only thought the film was only "a half step up from your average science fiction film" even though the film's influence is felt throughout 2001." As new supplements we get a 12.5-minute short film entitled The Most Ordinary of Occupations (Nejvšednější povolání) from 1964 regarding mathematics and science by actor/director Josef Kořán. Second Run include an alternative opening, end scene (cast and staff's names in the credits were altered significantly to look like English) and trailer of the US version Voyage to the End of the Universe, plus a 2016 trailer/photo gallery and a liner notes booklet with aforementioned essay by writer and film historian Michael Brooke.

NOTE: I understand there is an Easter Egg (hidden) supplement of Mehelli Modi from a Barbican Film Podcast talking about the film for about 1/4 hour (found while accessing the extensive 'Photo Gallery'). I have not indulged myself.

It's almost challenging not to view Ikarie XB 1 with a awe-inspiring sense of fascination. This is true not only as it is part of a less-exposed breed of Eastern European science fiction film but also the ambition and scale of the effects. For this it carries some camp value but much more in a kind of haunting story that IS evocative of both the latter-arriving
Star Trek original TV series and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey . The Second Run 4K-restored Blu-ray transfer is very desirable to those seeking this charismatic and curious sci-fi gem in the best possible presentation. You aren't going to see much like Ikarie XB 1 in your digital library and we definitely recommend!

NOTE: Some who enjoy this may also wish to take a peek at Planet Bur.

Gary Tooze

 


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Box Cover

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Distribution Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray


 


 

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