Movie recommendation

Greg Smith

"Road to the Stars" (1957) is hard to categorize. It's about half Encyclopedia Britannica classroom instructional movie, half speculative science fiction about space stations and moon landings, and half Soviet propaganda. Yes, it's in Russian, but this version has German main titles and English subtitles - a truly international mash-up. It was released just weeks after the launch of Sputnik 1. The first part is pretty slow and focuses on Russian rocket theoretician Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. It gets moving a bit better in the second half. The overall style reminds me a lot of the Disney/von Braun television shows from the same period, but told from the Soviet perspective.

What is really interesting about this is the special effects, especially the depiction of weightlessness, advanced for the time. Apparently, American director Stanley Kubrick saw this film sometime in the early '60s and it got him thinking about how to do realistic photography of planets and spacecraft in motion. We all know how that turned out. In fact, there are a few shots and compositions in "Road to the Stars" that were copied almost verbatim in "2001." Look for the "sunrise from orbit" shot, and one that looks a lot like the upside down flight attendant in the lunar shuttle, for examples. This connection to "2001" is probably the most significant thing about the movie, which might be completely forgotten otherwise.

It takes a bit of willpower to get through the first part, but it's only 40 minutes long and overall, worth seeing.


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