Pavel Klushantsev

It would’ve been an outrage if DV had passed an entire week of moon-themed films without mentioning Pavel Klushantsev. But, as the saying goes, we saved the best for last.

Klushantsev is a Russian film director whose work may not be known by everyone, unlike the films which copied from him. Planeta Bur (1962) was used in no less than two American films (Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet made in 1965 and 1968’s Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women) and some have noticed the series of similaries between Klushantsev’s Road to the Stars and a little known movie called 2001 – A Space Odyssey.

Klushantsev started by making very realistic films, but Road to the Stars (Doroga K Zvezdam) changed the man’s career. Both the US and Russia were experimenting with space travel in the fifties. Klushantsev took that fact and started dreaming about what life in space could look life. Fact and fiction mingled into 1958’s Road to the Stars, his visionary masterpiece. In fact, the scene where the cosmonauts wave goodbye before taking off looks identical to the first Soviet space departures. Clearly the Russians liked the film so much life started to imitate art.

Road to the Stars may have been a fictionalised documentary, Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms) was Klushantsev’s only fiction movie. In this film the cosmonauts land on the planet Venus, where the crew (and robot) find lots of wonders and monsters.
The original release of Planeta Bur was slightly cut: there’s a scene where the female cosmonaut sheds a tear when she fears some of the crew have died. This overt display of emotion was considered unruly and had to be cut. Luckily later released did include this short scene.

The United States proved themselves less feminist with their copies. In Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet the female astronaut is reduced to the good woman who looks good, cooks for the crew, is easily scared and in full adoration of the brave men who accompany her. Three years later things didn’t improve much: Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women reworked the movie just a little bit. Now Venus was inhabited by women in bikini (including Mamie van Doren).
The US may have beaten the Russians to the Moon, but at least the Russians had figured out in the 60s that women were more than t&a.

But let us not digress… after Planeta Bur Klushantsev returned to his more factual style. The sci-fi parts and overt display of emotions had made him, the very renowned director, fall out of grace with the government.
In 1965 Klushantsev released Luna, a documentary on the Moon. It would be his penultimate film. His final film, in 1968, would reveal its topic through the title: Mars.

Road to the Stars profited from a wonderful coincidence: just before the film was released, the Russians managed to send a rocket into space. But it wasn’t just the Sputnik that made Klushantsev’s films so popular. The director was incredibly creative and managed to create realistic special effects. (Planeta Bur includes an underwater scene that was shot in a studio with a tiny aquarium in between the actors.)
The Americans were introduced to Road to the Stars thanks to legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite, who in a documentary on the race to space, showed fifteen minutes of footage from Klushantsev’s film to show how the Russians were imagining space. In total, the fictionalised documentary were sold to 20 countries.

I’ll leave you now with a couple of links, for those who’d like to know more about Klushantsev.
– The article Road to the Stars looks at the director’s imagination and compares the film to 2001 – A Space Odyssey.
– There’s an excellent documentary on the director. It’s called The Star Dreamer.
– Xploited Cinema still sells the dvd release of Planeta Bur.
– On YouTube csnc82 has combined 10 minutes of Luna with some music. (Remember, that’s only a fifth of the actual documentary!)

And finally, here’s more work from csnc82. He (or she) has set clips from Road to the Stars to the music of Kraftwerk. It’s not ideal (especially not since some of the footage is shown in fast forward), but at least it allows you to enjoy the director’s visual flair.

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