On The Silver Globe is one of those films in which the story behind the film is just as fascinating as the film itself.

The basic story of the film is this: Three space farers land on an alien world and end up drastically changing the local culture; a generation later another spacefarer tracks them down and discovers their new world has degenerated into a brutal, oppressive mess.  Things go downhill from there.[1]

The story behind the film is this: In the mid-1970s, Polish director Andrzej Żuławski received permission from the then-Communist government of Poland to make a film based on his great-uncle Jerzy Żuławski’s novel of the same title, part of his magnum opus The Lunar Trilogy, a huge hit in pre-WWI Europe and translated into every language on the continent…except English.

Żuławski the younger had a prickly relationship with the Communist censors and an on-again / off-again career that typically saw him being exiled, making a hit movie for another country, invited back, exiled again, etc., etc., and of course, etc.  On The Silver Globe was greenlit during one of the on-again periods.

On The Silver Globe was to have been the biggest and most expensive Polish movie ever, and the Poles have made some pretty big, grandiose movies.[2]  What’s important to note is that Żuławski launched this project before Lucas’ Star Wars was released or Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Battleship Yamato or Captain Harlock changed the face of sci-fi manga -- and subsequently world sci-fi -- forever.

And it sure as hell was waaaaay ahead of David Lynch’s Dune or George Miller’s Mad Max.

So why have you never heard of this film before now?  Well, as par for the course, Żuławski went from on-again back to off-again; a Communist official, thinking the film was a criticism of Marxism, took umbrage at the production and shut it down when it was 80% complete, ordering the sets & costumes & negatives destroyed.

Żuławski, fed up, left for France.  And there things remained until 1988 and the fall of Communism in Europe.

Freed of censorship, Żuławski was delighted to learn cast and crew members had hidden away footage from his work print as well as some of the costumes.  Żuławski reassembled the film into as close to his original idea as possible; it’s missing several key scenes (and presumably the special effects, miniatures, and opticals that would have been added in post production) that are filled in with modern city scenes and narration.

But as for what’s left -- holy shamolley, wotta movie!  This is indeed a big film and filled with big ideas.  It develops a lot of ideas that later productions would build their entire film around[3] and had it been released as planned in 1977, almost every major sci-fi film after that would be accused of ripping On The Silver Globe off.

As it is, it’s a perfect example of Mark Twain’s dictum, “When it’s steamboat time, you steamboat.”  Space opera was in the air in the mid-to-late 1970s and somebody had to be first with the game changer that would re-write the rules; George Lucas drew the lucky number from the hat.

It is a must-see movie for all serious film buffs, sci-fi fans, and especially film makers who specialize in cinefantastique.  On The Silver Globelooks like it was filmed by aliens on an alien world, and while American audiences might feel parts of it are evocative of our own Native Americans’ cultures, Żuławski was also drawing upon the cultural traditions of the Lapps and the Mongols as well.  There is an unreal dream-like quality to the entire film (which, truth be told, may be due in no small part to the truncated production history) but like our most vivid dreams, an unsettling sense of reality as well.

In an era when most films are CGI spfx ridden, On The Silver Globe is shot using mainly real locations, giving the production a sense of solidity found more in Mad Max movies than Star Wars.

It was released in the States on DVD in 2007 with English subtitles but now a fully restored versions is making the rounds of the last few art houses.

Or if you’re a cheap bastard like yrs trly, you can watch it on YouTube in Polish without subtitles.

However you watch it -- watch it!



[1]  Oh, yeah, and like Star Wars movies are any cheerier when you boil them down to their key points.

[2]  Check outThe Saragossa Manuscript or Pharaoh if you ever get the chance.

[3]  Looking at you,Prometheus.

Writing Report August 9, 2016

Writing Report August 9, 2016

up the long ladder and down the short rope [updated]

up the long ladder and down the short rope [updated]