Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969 United Kingdom)

Intriguing sci-fi entry has enough going for it, that it deserves to be better known. Conceived and produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson of ‘Thunderbirds’ fame, it has a pace so slow that it’s not going to be to all tastes. But patient audience members should appreciate the excellent, colourful visuals and the vibrant cinematography. The special effects are pretty good & the music score is an enjoyable one. This flick provided what the audience of 1969 wanted: a detailed look on the astronauts, their training, preparation, the technical means available to them – make everything as realistic as possible. That was the thing to do, I suppose, if you wanted to entertain people who were witnessing the landing on the moon.

The film begins at a time in the future–though exact when is uncertain. Using a cool bit of spying, as an agent (Herbert Lom) is able to steal secrets from the European Space Authority. What he’s passed on to his comrades is that there might be a planet on the other side of the sun–one that is blocked by the sun so its existence was previously unknown. As a result, if a space flight is made there, they need to do it soon–before someone else beats them to it. However, the Europeans don’t have the will for such an expensive program and look to the Americans for help. A NASA astronaut (Roy Thinnes) is chosen to command this bizarre trip to this planet and his co-astronaut is from the European program (played by Ian Hendry).

Because the flight is long, they devise a sort of hibernation for the crew–they’ll sleep during most of the flight and awaken when they arrive at the new planet. However, when they awaken, they find themselves back on Earth! What about the new planet?! What gives?! I’d say more, but don’t want to spoil it for you. Considering that I have lamented that “UFO” was prematurely canceled, seeing this film was a treat for me. It’s sophisticated enough that it is a far cry from Anderson’s puppet films earlier that same decade and is pretty well done–like “UFO”. It’s funny, but had “2001: A Space Odyssey” not debuted a year earlier, this film would have been a standout for its special effects and many of the scenes still look nice today.

But to the sophisticated viewers of 2018, this motion picture does look a tad dated. From the mini-skirts to the ultra-serious middle aged men with Beatle comb-overs, endless tape reel computers and flashing lights, JTTFSOTS screams 1960s. But for me, this was not an issue–I liked the Sylvia Anderson set and costume designs and don’t mind the use of the usual Anderson models (used far less effectively in previous projects, such as “Thunderbirds”). I think they are quaint and I recommend this film. Plus, unlike “2001”, the film is entertaining and does not get too pretentious. In other words, it’s very approachable for the normal everyday person. By the way, if you are a trivia nut, look for Vladek Sheybal as a psychiatrist. He was a semi-regular on “UFO” and also played a Bond villain in “From Russia With Love”.

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