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(aka "Voyage to the End of the Universe" or "Icarus XB 1")

 

directed by Jindrich Polák
Czechoslovakia 1963

 

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: 25 November 1964 (USA)

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DVD Review: Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Second Run DVD

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:22:51 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.46 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• An Appreciation by Kim Newman (16:9; 11:30)
• 19-page Essay Booklet by Michael Brooke

DVD Release Date: September 23rd, 2013
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Second Run's high-bitrate dual-layer DVD sports an attractive anamorphic transfer that is likely comparable with the Czech and Italian DVD releases (the Italian DVD has the same bitrate as the Czech and is likely a direct port). The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is in excellent condition.

NOTE: Second Run's Chris Barwick informed me that they "did carry out some additional clean-up and restoration work on this, removing blemishes, scratches and artefacts etc. from the Master which are evident in the Czech release (and presumable in the Italian one)."

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 ahlf step up from your average science fiction film" even though the film's influence is felt throughout 2001.

The Czech edition has a number of additional extras, but only the feature is English friendly (well, that and the excerpts from the opening and closing of the US version).

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Second Run DVD

Region 0 - PAL

 




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