Howzabout Some Vintage Nazi Spaceship Pr0n?

I get all sloppy sentimental (but not about Nazis!)after the jump so I'm front loading the link & pictures then will bore you to tears on the other side. You have been warned.

VSF Weltraumschiff_I__1 flipped

VSF polaris2

VSF vlcsnap-1669869

VSF vlcsnap-1670124

 

When I was a young lad in Asheville, NC one of the local stations had a two-hour block of kids' programming in the pre-school hours.  Being in the middle of a large rural / agricultural area, the station realized many kids were up early to help with chores and then had a long wait until the school buses meandered around to pick them up. Much of the programming was standard cartoon fare [1] interspaced with Three Stooges and Little Rascals / Our Gang shorts plus the syndicated kids' science / history show Discovery.

What really made the block stand out were the odd ball cartoons and animation they would run.[2]  In addition to the regular stand alone cartoons, they ran animated serials of varying lengths.  There was a Crusader Rabbit cartoon every day, Clutch Cargo was doled out on a regular basis, the Rankin-Bass stop motion New Adventures Of Pinocchio got a couple of runs, but several odd cartoons as well.  Many were Russian animated fairy tale cartoons which, running several minutes longer than their American counterparts, got chopped up into two / three / four part stories.  The animated French features La Bergère et le Ramoneur a.k.a. Le Roi et l'oiseau a.k.a. The Curious Adventures Of Mr. Wonderbird [3] and Jeannot l'intrépide a.k.a. Johnny The Giant Killer were chopped up into serialized form (with erratically paced chapters, I might add), but the oddest thing they ran was a mash-up called The Space Explorers.

Lemme backtrack to explain just how crazy-bad this country got over communism and perceived Bolshevik influences back in the 1950s & 60s:  It was a time when any reference to things Russian that did not include an overt condemnation of communism was viewed as crypto-propaganda to subvert good loyal Americans.  The Russian fairytale cartoons cited above were easy to adapt for American broadcast because they contained no overt communist symbols or slogans.

However, the animated Russian science fiction film Polet na lunu a.k.a. Flight To The Moon did have such symbols:  Red star and CCCP markings on the spacecraft.[4]  Polet na lunu is a jim-dandy boy's own adventure about a trip to the moon, but the heavy use of Soviet Symbols made it problematic for American airing.

Enter one Bill Clayton.  He wanted to use the interior and lunar sequences from Polet na lunu since they were commie-content free, but needed suitable spaceship footage to compliment them.

Now the ball starts to make some funny bounces.  Clayton and his animator collaborator Fred Ladd located some great public domain footage that would fit into his revamping of Polet na lunu (hence The Space Explorers).  Two problems:  The tiny one being that the spaceship footage was live action, and the much bigger one being it came from a 1944 Bavarian sci-film Weltraumschiff 1 Startet.

Check that date, that means it was a Nazi sci-fi film!

Figuring that what the hey, what they don't know won't hurt them, Clayton -- using his two original totalitarian film sources plus some planetarium footage thrown in for good measure -- cobbled together a fairly serviceable juvenile sci-fi yarn about a young boy stowing away on a rescue spaceship in search of his missing cosmonaut father.

Not bad, though even as a kid I remember thinking how much they used the same shots over and over again.  Not that it mattered, for the spaceship was glorious!  I remember pulling the handlebar off my kid brothers' tricycle and pretending it was the rocket because it had a similar shape.  The Space Explorers was a nifty little space adventure but after I left Asheville I never saw it again (even though all the other oddball animations cropped up on other stations).

Jump ahead five or six years.  By now I was a monster kid, fully immersed in Forry Ackerman's Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine.  Forry launched a similar but more serious less silly magazine for sci-fi films called Spacemen.

It was in those pages that I saw two images for Weltraumschiff 1 Startet, which I recognized as the live action spaceship from The Space Explorers.  Over the years I gleaned more information about both The Space Explorers and the original German movie.  However, except for a few stray film clips, I never had a chance to see either The Space Explorers again or Weltraumschiff 1 Startet in its entirety.

Until recently, that is.  Thanks to the wonder of YouTube, a pristine copy of Weltraumschiff 1 Startet is now available in its entirety.

It is beautiful to look at, even if its origins are a bit suspect, and the fiction part leaves much to be desired.  The design work is what sells this film, and it is evocative of classic 1940 spaceships as no other film is.  Compare the stills above the jump with these covers from Astounding magazine by Hubert Rogers and you'll see what I mean.

VSF Rogers

Here's the link again, and I urge you to follow it.  For those of you sensitive to such matters, while a few swastikas appear on the tailfins of airplanes in a professor's lecture, I detected no overt Nazi references in the story itself.[5]

Yeah, it's old old school, and reality has left it far behind in the stardust, but dang, doncha wish thus coulda been the way it was?  Nazis excluded, of course…

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[1]  Warner Bros, Tom & Jerry, Betty Boop / Popeye, Follow-the-bouncing-ball singalongs and =ptui!= Terrytoons.

[2]  Some how a stray copy of Ray Harryhausen's Little Red Ridinghood ended up in their rotation but none of his other fairy tale shorts; go figure...

[3]  If you haven't seen this yet, track it down!  It's as if Hans Christian Anderson did his take on Metropolis and opted to throw in a giant city smashing robot.

[4]  Polet na lunu the cartoon was based on the earlier live action feature Kosmicheskiy reys a.k.a. Cosmic Voyage or The Space Voyage.  Here's the feature with Spanish subtitles.

[5]  Josef Goebbels, loathsome scumbag that he was, was no idiot and realized that constant overt propaganda would only work against his cause, especially in neutral nations.  Many of the biggest German productions of this era were devoid of Nazi symbols and propaganda in order to make them more palatable to audiences internal and extra.

 

 

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