Deep space. The silence of the void. Shhh.
July 8, 2011 2:18 PM Subscribe
posted by Nomyte (24 comments total)
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NOON, 22ND CENTURY. The research vessel Pegasus is getting ready for liftoff from a spaceport near Moscow. Its small crew of three comprises interplanetary zoologist Dr. Seleznev, his adventurous nine-year-old daughter Alisa, and the terminally pessimistic Captain Zeleny. As they search for rare animal specimens to expand the Moscow zoo's collection, they will discover which of the ferocious tigerat
's two tails is longer, save a planet of robots
from a paralyzing epidemic, and deliver a modestly sized birthday cake
Released in the USSR in 1981, Союзмультфильм
's «Тайна третьей планеты»/"The Secret of the Third Planet" is an animated sci-fi adventure film for children. The unique soundtrack, combining influences from Krautrock
and Tangerine Dream
-style electronic music, is a particular prize.
Here is decent-quality video without subtitles: 1
Here is somewhat fuzzy video with occasionally inaccurate English subtitles: 1
Here is a bizarre dubbed (and heavily adapted) version with completely different music: 1
(IMDB claims that Kirsten Dunst and James Belushi are among the voice actors who contributed to this dub.)
Here is an even more bizarro dubbed version, but this time with the original music intact: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
Wikipedia notes that "there is currently no version which preserves the original Russian voices and music and also has English subtitles." The Russian original is widely available on PAL DVD.
The screenplay was adapted from author Kir Bulychev's 1974 novel «Путешествие Алисы»/Alisa's Journey (RU, with occasional b/w illustrations) by the author himself. Apart from several scenes that do not contribute to the main narrative, the screenplay is quite faithful to the original material. Perhaps Bulychev's best-known children's novel, Alisa's Journey was translated into English as Alice's Travels and issued as part of the omnibus Alice: The Girl from Earth. The translation is obscure and difficult to find, but seems to be available free from the publishers. The translation seems reasonable.
The world first met Alisa Selezneva as a toddler in the 1965 short story collection «Девочка, с которой ничего не случится»/The Girl That Nothing Ever Happens To. The character was named after the author's own daughter, who was born in 1960. The first, very short (RU), story has long since established itself in popular culture: Alisa doesn't want to go to bed, so her father dials a random videophone number in a mock effort to reach Baba Yaga. He gets the Martian consulate instead, where one of the puzzled employees kindly asks Alisa to go to sleep. The alien hangs up, but then calls back in the dead of night, pleading: "Everyone at the consulate is awake. We have pored over all the encyclopedias, studied all the videoreferences, and yet we still cannot seem to find out who exactly this Baba Yaga is and how she can be reached."
The Alisa novels proved enduringly popular. The entire series grew quite numerous before Bulychev's death in 2003 (previously). As the novels progressed, Alisa gradually grew from an inquisitive and petulant toddler into a clever and brave girl of 12-13, modeling all sorts of Soviet pioneer values. (Many of the stories and fragments from the cycle appeared in the «Пионерская правда»/Pionerskaya Pravda, a long-lasting Soviet newspaper for children and adolescents in the pioneer organization. At least one of the novels was written in collaboration with the young readers, who would send in plot points and story suggestions). As part of the research conducted by the (fictional) Moscow Institute of Time, Alisa traveled to an interglacial period when mythical creatures and heroes of Russian folktale roamed the Earth. She was shipwrecked on an uninhabited island patroled by rusting war machines from modern times. She traveled into the 20th-century Soviet past to stop time bandits, saved an alien planet from a space plague, witnessed the end of Atlantis, met a sentient spaceship, and accomplished a great deal of other stuff.
Several of these sequels were also adapted for the screen. In the first two live-action releases, the part of Alisa was played by first-time child actor Наташа Гусева/Natasha Guseva. An adaptation of the tale of Alisa's trip into the Soviet past, «Сто лет тому вперёд»/One Hundred Years from Now Ago (1977), was released in 1985 as the live-action miniseries «Гостья из будущего»/Guest (fem.) from the Future (1, 2, 3, and so on). No subtitles are available, but clips may be worth checking out for a peek at Soviet children's culture and the somewhat haunting closing song (if you're curious, the words are similar — in spirit — to The Road Ever Goes On). Alisa's adventures in mythical prehistory were filmed in live action as «Лиловый шар»/The Violet Orb in 1987 (fansubbed: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7).
A different young actress appeared in the 1988 «Остров ржавого генерала»/The Rusty General's Island. (Please enjoy a mashup of clips from the film with music by Kraftwerk. Those robots are practically Dalek-quality!). There also exists a late Soviet, puppet-animated version of «Узники Ямагири-мару»/The Prisoners of the Yamagiri-Maru (1988), about some thrilling hijinks involving deep-sea wrecks (fansubbed: 1 | 2 | 3). Perhaps some MeFites might appreciate its low-budget puppety charms.
Alisa and her world were reimagined for a new 2009 animated film based on the novel «День рождения Алисы»/Alisa's Birthday (1974). In part animated using Flash, this Alisa has a little more attitude. Check out one of the trailers. In a video interview, Guseva, the original live-action Alisa (who appears in a cameo role, voicing a starship captain drawn from Lucy Liu's facial appearance [embedded video link sadly verklempt]) was reported to have said «Хочется эту Алису поймать и всыпать ей…» ("You want to grab this Alisa and knock some sense into her…").
In 2008, a teaser trailer was produced for something called «Приключения Алисы: Пленники трех планет»/Alisa's Adventures: The Captives of Three Planets, but the production seems to have mercifully stalled some time ago. The plot is about some kind of interplanetary terrorists, very au courant. Here is a kind of creepy-looking teaser for a computer-animated 26-episode series that's apparently in the works (sorry, Googlish). Purists are complaining loudly (in Russian). Timur Bekmambetov (tangential previously) is involved with the project.
But back to Bulychev. Born Игорь Можейко/Igor Mozheyko in Moscow in 1934, the author published all of his fiction under pseudonyms. Кирилл (Cyril), but mostly simply Кир (Kir), was the primary pen name, combining his wife Kira's first name with his mother's maiden name.
Bulychev's father successfully concealed his family's szlachta roots and was eventually appointed to the law faculty of a university. Bulychev's mother came from the family of a career military officer and was for a time the commandant of the Shlisselburg fortress near Leningrad. Bulychev himself completed studies at МГЛУ, the USSR's largest academic institution dedicated to the study of foreign languages, thereafter working in Burma as a translator and correspondent for a Soviet news agency. Upon returning to the USSR, he began graduate studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he specialized in the history of Southeast Asia and defended a dissertation on the history of the Pagan Kingdom.
Simultaneously with the start of his graduate studies, Bulychev began to write fiction, using the pseudonym Maung San Ji for a few early stories. He kept his identity a secret until 1982 out of concern for his reputation as a scholar, only revealing his real name when he was awarded the USSR State Prize for his screenplay for «Через тернии к звёздам»/Per Aspera Ad Astra (somewhat previously). Bulychev went on to receive a number of other Russian-language awards (Googlish) for his fiction and essays.
Bulychev's oeuvre is extensive and largely unknown and unavailable in English. It seems that at least one small publisher tried putting out some translations, but has since folded. A smattering of other translations exists. In addition to novels about Alisa, Bulychev wrote a sequence of humorous novels set in a city reminiscent of Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork (Гусляр/Gusliar cycle); tales of survival on alien planets (e.g., «Посёлок»/The Village); some space operas about the dangerous work of the Intergalactic Police (e.g., «Покушение на Тесея»/An Attempt on Theseus); and various Strugatsky-like tales about academics and scholars in weird and fantastical settings (e.g., «Вид на битву с высоты»/A View of the Battle from Above).
Here (EN) is a candid, if rather staccato, series of answers to reader-submitted questions Bulychev took during one of his public appearances in 1997. He talks about his background, his work, and his writing method. Here (EN) is a similar, somewhat longer one, translated somewhat less capably. Here is a more interesting interview, touching on Bulychev's opposition to the Americanization of Russian cinema and literature, his feelings about "self-justifying" violence in books, his attitude toward prying questions about his wartime childhood, his self-assessment as a mediocre writer and unremarkable human being, and so on (Googlish again, sorry).
By comparison to his earlier writing, which either featured typical Soviet sci-fi protagonists (moral, decent, hard-working) or was directed toward children, Bulychev's post-Soviet work was on the whole darker, more pessimistic and violent (e.g., his 1993 novel «Любимец»/Favorite, which describes a future in which humans are kept as docile pets by alien overlords). After the fall of USSR, Bulychev became a strident and outspoken critic of the old order, often clashing with fans suffering from childhood nostalgia for the socialist techno-utopias his earlier books were set in. Before his death, Bulychev became known among readers as something of a Harlan Ellison. This was not a total about-face, as can be seen from stories Bulychev wrote "for the desk drawer" ("в стол," i.e., without hope of publication) in the 60s and 70s and did not publish until much later (such as the explicitly critical short story «О страхе»/"On Fear" (sorry, RU)).
In addition to genre fiction, Bulychev/Mozheyko wrote under his real name as well, primarily history and accounts of Southeast Asia (including a biography of Burmese revolutionary Aung San). He has also translated some English-language science fiction into Russian, including Asimov, Clarke, Sturgeon, and Simak. Finally, Bulychev had an abiding interest in the history of medals and decorations, completing at least one volume on the emblems of Imperial Russia.
(1980s Russian sci-fi animation previously.)