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Nebo Zovyot

Nebo Zovyot (1959) Movie Poster
Soviet Union  •    •  77m  •    •  Directed by: Mikhail Karzhukov, Aleksandr Kozyr, Francis Ford Coppola.  •  Starring: Ivan Pereverzev, Aleksandr Shvorin, Linda Barrett, Konstantin Bartashevich, Mikhail Belousov, Larisa Borisenko, V. Chernyak, Viktor Dobrovolsky, Frederick Farley, Sergey Filimonov, Mary Kannon, Taisiya Litvinenko, Lawrence Loben.  •  Music by: Carmine Coppola, Yuli Meitus.
       1997, The Earth is split between two opposing powers, the North Hemis and the South Hemis. For years, South Hemis scientists have been working on the top-secret "Project Red Planet," which will ultimately lead to the first earthling landing on Mars. Word of this leaks out to the North Hemis, who are also developing similar Mars-bound plans. A conflict unfolds when one hot-headed North Hemis pilot blasts off for Mars in an ill-equipped ship, causing all sorts of commotion on space.
   Length:  Languages:  Subtitles:

Trailers:

   Length:  Languages:  Subtitles:
 2:02
 
 

Review:

Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
Image from: Nebo Zovyot (1959)
NEBO ZOYOT is the proper name for a pioneering 1959 movie made in the Soviet Union as an official state-sponsored arts project under the direction of Mikhail Karzhukov & Aleksandr Kozyr. By all accounts it was a breathtaking, visually intimidating project dominated by special effects work the likes of which had not been seen before. Roughly telling the story of a Russian space crew sent to find out the fate of an earlier mission to intercept an alien probe on collision with earth, the movie combined DR. STRANGELOVE anticipating interior sets, functional looking science fiction props & space wear, and miniature model effects that make the George Pal & Captain Video oriented Americanized science fiction of the day look like laughable kitsch. Even the trend-setting science fiction work of Italian director Antonio Margheriti looks klunky and flimsy alongside of what is left of the movie.

There are reports of the original film running over 2 hours, a grand celebration of the forward thinking ideals of Soviet Russia where technology, human ingenuity, and tightly controlled communist propaganda promised a brave new world. Fortunately or not, Roger Corman anticipated the fall of the Eastern Bloc, managed to catch a screening of the film, and was talented enough to realize that nothing of it's like had ever been seen in the west before. Corman wasn't necessarily a "good" filmmaker but he had an eye for talent and bought the North American distribution rights for the film, determined to wow audiences with a science fiction spectacle the likes had never been seen.

Bringing in a young directoreditor of promise named Francis Coppola, Corman oversaw a "redefinition" of NEBO ZOVYOT into a standardized American-ish Sci Fi potboiler about an astronaut crew sent into space to do battle with various space monsters. Corman had Coppola jettison half of the film's somewhat ponderous setup depicting the preparation & departure of the alien probe from it's home world -- one of the most visually striking sequences ever filmed -- opting instead for "new" inserted footage depicting the space monsters doing battle on the hull of our heroic space ship.

Sigh... the result is more than a bit of a mess that manages to water down the impact of the original material, complete with an illogical story arc that is mostly explained in voice-over narration & awkwardly dubbed English dialog concocted from whole cloth and edited in to fit the on screen action (more or less). The monsters are absurd: One looks like a giant disembodied vulva bedecked with a row of razor sharp teeth, and the looped footage of space suit wearing astronauts standing around -- apparently under the influence of 1g gravity -- does little but elicit snickers of laughter from viewers who get enough pure oxygen every day. Somehow he made this movie look stupid.

Yet there are segments where the original Russian made vision shines through: The opening launch sequences have a kind of majesty to them that Gerry Anderson would never be able to quite achieve with his THUNDERBIRDS creations, the interiors of the space ships all look spot on real enough for Mercury program era technology, and the Russian segments of the film have a texture to them that is mesmerizing... And make the inserted Coppola-made footage seem all the more absurd. Today it seems hard to understand why Mr. Corman would have advocated trying to fix what ain't broke in such a hamfisted manner, but that's 1962 for you, and fortunately the visual power of the surviving Russian segments worked to cement the film with a fervent cult following that allowed even some of it to survive for forty-five years.

Hopefully with a 50th anniversary of the original film soon coming a restoration effort can be made to show the film with only it's original Russian segments & appropriate language subtitles, like has recently been done with FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS and Pavel Klushantsev's PLANETA BUR, both of which have turned up on excellent DVDs that show the movies without Mr. Corman's interference. Retromedia shows the film under it's Americanized title BATTLE BEYOND THE SUN on a double movie DVD with the Italian space operetta STAR PILOT, and while contemporary audiences may not "get" the funky 60s approach to science fiction I cannot recommend it highly enough.


Review by Steve Nyland from the Internet Movie Database.