Early Soviet Science Fiction Film Production

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Aelita: Queen of Mars

“Aelita” is considered to be one of the earliest science fiction films about space travel. Based on Alexei Tolstoy’s novel of the same name, it is a silent movie directed by Yakov Protazanov released in 1924. The film was very popular at first but fell out of favour with the Soviet government, becoming difficult to see until after the Cold War.

Its release was extravagant for its time, with a massive Western-style publicity campaign. The scale and expense of the production was stressed: thousands of rubles, extras, and meters of film shot. Leaflets were even dropped from planes to advertise the film’s release. It had many favourable reviews but was later accused of destroying the ideological significance of the novel.

The film starred Yuliya Solntseva as Aelita, the Queen of Mars, who later became a film director herself and married the famous Soviet director Alexander Dovzhenko. The main male lead of the story was Nikolai Tsereteli, who portrayed Los, an engineer who travels to Mars and falls in love with Aelita. Igor Ilyinsky, a popular Soviet comedian, had his debut in the movie as Kratskov.

The film then and now is most noted for its unique and avant-garde set and costume designs in the scenes of Mars. Aleksandra Exter, a distinguished artist of the time, designed the costumes and Isaak Rabinovich designed the sets. The two utilized dramatic angles, geometric shapes and patterns for the inhabitants of Mars, helping to differentiate them from the people of Earth.

Amphibian Man

“Amphibian Man” is based on the novel by Belyaev, which tells the story of a boy named Ichtyander who undergoes surgery and is fitted with a set of shark gills, having to split his life between land and water to survive. He falls in love with a girl but complications arise due to his double life as both man and fish. The film was directed by Vladimir Chevotaryou and Gennadi Kazansky and was released in 1962. It was extremely popular and sold over 65 million tickets. The film had a number of popular songs and dances, some of which are still popular today. It is considered to be a cult classic in Russia.

Vladimir Korenev plays Ichtyander in the movie, the amphibious boy who falls in love with Guttiere, a beautiful girl played by Anastasia Vertinskaya. After the films release, Korenev became an instant Russian heartthrob with a dedicated group of female followers. Vertinskaya became one of Russia’s most respected film and stage actresses of all time.

“Amphibian Man” was one of the first films to shoot underwater scenes in natural conditions. The film is set in Buenos Aires but was filmed in the warm climate of southern Russia, in the Caucasus. All the actors were first trained how to dive in a swimming pool before shooting started. Divers were used to supply the actors with air underwater before filming, at which point the actors would have to free drive during their scenes. There were some technical difficulties with the scuba gear and a few close calls for the actors.

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