Battle Beyond The Sun (1959) [Science Fiction] [Adventure]

Battle Beyond the Sun is the English-dubbed, re-edited U.S. version of Nebo Zovyot, a 1959 Soviet science fiction film directed by Mikhail Karyukov and Aleksandr Kozyr. It tells of the “space race” of two future nations competing to become the first to land a spacecraft on the planet Mars. Roger Corman acquired the film for US distribution and hired a young film-school student named Francis Ford Coppola to Americanize it. In addition to preparing a dubbing script free of anti-American propaganda and all references to the USSR, and supervising the dubbing, Coppola slightly re-edited the footage, eliminated the framing “daydream” sequences, and even saw to it that a pastel rhombus shape was matted in on a shot-by-shot basis, to cover the Cyrillic letters CCCP (USSR) which adorned the space station and Soviet rocketships. Coppola also had filmed a few shots of two space monsters fighting and cut them into the Soviet material. According to Jack Hill, who worked on the new version (it was his first paid job for Roger Corman), Coppola’s idea was that one monster would look like a penis and the other a vagina. The new monster scenes were shot on a sound stage in Hollywood. Hill and Coppola also shot some footage of the Rose Parade at Pasadena. The film opens with a non-sequitur prologue in which a narrator voice explains space flight concepts. Models of space craft “currently under development by the United States Government” are shown in succession. The narrator usefully explains that “the motion picture you are about to see may be called ‘a fantasy of the future’.” The time: November 1997. In the “fear-ridden years following the great atomic war”, the world has been divided into northern and southern hemispheres. The two countries, North Hemis and South Hemis, are clearly analogues for the United States and Soviet Union. The camera zooms in toward the South Hemis banner. Dr. Albert Gordon and his wife, Dr. Ruth Gordon, currently head the top secret “Project Red Planet” for South Hemis. (The footage we see is dubbed from the original Russian-Soviet; names have been Anglicized.) A space mission – more re-purposed footage – blasts off for an orbiting space station. The mission docks with the station, delivering the Gordons as well as Astronaut Craig Matthews.

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