ISSUE 04 / OCTOBER 2013

“SPACE: THE FINAL FRONTIER”

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CONTENTS
The Captain’s Log THE MOVIES Space Is Hard! In ALIEN, Ripley Proves That Sometimes A Woman Is The Best Man For The Job SERENITY: Joss Whedon’s Dry Run at THE AVENGERS Getting Heavy With GRAVITY Director Alfonso Cuarón The Schwartz Was With Me: Seeing SPACEBALLS At Just the Right Age IKARIE XB-1: The Czech STAR TREK The Cronenberg TOTAL RECALL That Never Was Secrets Of The Lost Cosmonauts

Editor-in-Chief
Devin Faraci

Managing Editor
Meredith Borders

Associate Publisher
Henri Mazza

Art Director/Graphic Designer
Joseph A. Ziemba

Copy Editor
George Bragdon

Contributing Writers
Britt Hayes, Jordan Hoffman, RJ LaForce, Greg MacLennan, Sarah Pitre, Katey Rich, Evan Saathoff, Robert Saucedo, Tommy Swenson, Ray Wagner

Public Relations Inquiries
Brandy Fons | brandy@fonspr.com All content © 2013 Alamo Drafthouse
drafthouse.com badassdigest.com birthmoviesdeath.com drafthousefilms.com fantasticfest.com mondotees.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / SEPTEMBER 2013

The Captain’s Log
DEVIN FARACI Badass Digest Editor in Chief @devincf Read more at badassdigest.com

Space. The final frontier. I feel a particular kinship with anyone who has ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what it’s like out there -- we’re the people searching for humanity’s future, which surely lies out among the stars. But until we can actually get there we’ll keep making movies about it. This month we’re celebrating space movies, inspired by the latest science fiction opus from Alfonso Cuarón, director of CHILDREN OF MEN and HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. GRAVITY examines the dangers and triumphs of spaceflight in almost unbearably tense white-knuckle fashion, and many of the movies we’re writing about this month find the inherent drama in humans sealing themselves in tin cans and shooting themselves into the void. In this issue you’ll read about the little-known Russian sci-fi film IKARIE XB-1, which influenced STAR TREK. We talk about the better-known comedy SPACEBALLS, and pay tribute to one of the toughest spacewomen ever, Ripley. And we also examine how truly difficult and dangerous space flight is, and look into legends about cosmonauts who found out firsthand. You can boldly go beyond the pages of BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. by visiting our Tumblr at birthmoviesdeath.com. There’s always more great content waiting for you over at BadassDigest.com as well. And if you wanted to enjoy this magazine on your futuristic, space-age personal data device you can download a copy at scribd.com/birthmoviesdeath. And remember, this isn’t just ground control to Major Tom -- it’s a two-way communication. Send us your comments, questions and favorite space ship designs to EMAIL@BIRTHMOVIESDEATH.COM. Hailing frequencies are open.
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Screening In October At The Alamo Drafthouse
Inspired by the upcoming release of GRAVITY, the Alamo Drafthouse programming team presents a month of screenings on the theme of “Space: The Final Frontier.” For tickets, showtimes, formats, and a full list of titles, visit drafthouse.com.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1968, G, 160 min
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Be prepared. This might sound like hyperbolic gushing, but you can’t overstate when you talk about 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It’s a film that transforms the thematic language and technological possibilities of the medium. It’s about no less than man’s emergence and place in the universe. It also houses arguably the greatest special effects of all time. It’s ambitious, big, bold and awe-inspiring. It’s an experience that demands to be seen on the big screen. In 1968 Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick collaborated to tell the story of 2001. What they created was a philosophical sci-fi journey. The two wrote the screenplay. Clarke modified it for his book of the same name as Kubrick was making his film. Kubrick’s aim was not only to expand the language of film with this story, but to test the limits of special effects in cinema. Using space footage and advisors from NASA, Kubrick and his SFX team used a combination of trick photography, conventional sets and visual effects to create the greatest, most striking images audiences had ever seen. In fact 45 years later, they have rarely been matched. Kubrick, a known perfectionist, held this project in such personal esteem that he wasn’t finish cutting it until minutes before it premiered. The result was worth all the sweat. Kubrick and company had made a film that truly changed cinema. Its visual language was unlike anything ever seen before. Its story, centered around theme and tone more than plot and character, deliberately paces across the screen with an obvious sense of purpose. From the dawn of man on earth to the near future in space to uncharted territory, 2001 hypnotizes you with its confidence. By the time its infamous psychedelic
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wormhole sequence begins it overtakes your senses. You have no choice but to give yourself over to it. There have been great, important, influential American films, but no one piece of cinema has done so much for movies as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. (R.J. LaForce) Badass Digest Presents: ALIEN Dir. Ridley Scott, 1979, R, 117 min
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In space no one can hear you scream, but it comes across loud and clear in the theater. Decades after its release, Ridley Scott’s ALIEN still stands as one of the scariest movies you will ever see in a movie theater, and

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it remains the apex of the dark side of science fiction. It’s one of the great movies, period. ALIEN is one of those films that very easily could have never happened. If Alejandro Jodorowsky’s tripped out version of DUNE had actually been made, there would be no ALIEN. But when that movie fell apart, screenwriter Dan O’Bannon wrote something he called Star Beast, and he brought into it the collaborators he met on that failed movie, including Swiss artist HR Giger. If STAR WARS hadn’t been a hit, Star Beast might have been made for Roger Corman instead of 20th Century Fox, which means Ridley Scott -- fresh off his debut film, THE DUELISTS -- would never have his career-launching success. And if ALIEN hadn’t been made... well, I don’t even want to contemplate that world. ALIEN was made, and ALIEN was a masterpiece. Giger’s biomechanical Xenomorph design is one of the most recognizable monsters in the history of cinema, and the film’s blue collar aesthetic, on the heels of George Lucas’ dinged and used STAR WARS aesthetic, forever changed the way we thought about space travel. All of a sudden the people piloting us to the stars weren’t smiling beacons of patriotic goodwill, they were space truckers looking to make a buck. And Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley became one of the prototypical

badass movie heroines, breaking out of the Final Girl cliché (which, on some level, ALIEN helped create). None of the other films in the ALIEN franchise have ever matched Scott’s original. The sense of creeping dread is overwhelming, punctuated by bursts of bloody terror. The first chestbursting scene, with John Hurt writhing on the breakfast table as seemingly gallons of blood spurt from his chest, is an indelible pop culture moment that is so good no amount of parody or repetition can dull its brutal edge. And the characters are among the best in science fiction history, lightly sketched with masterful performances that continue giving us new nuances to discover. What’s so brilliant about ALIEN is that it works as a psychosexual creep out -- the phallic imagery and the penetration violence sticks with you forever -- as well as a wonderful in the moment fun house. That’s true horror -- something that has you jumping in your seat while still scarring you in the long run. Sink into the sticky, hot embrace of the Xenomorph and enjoy one of the greatest movies we’ve ever shown on this screen. (Devin Faraci) BARBARELLA Dir. Roger Vadim, 1968, PG, 98 min
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Barbarella (Jane Fonda), an astro-navigatrix and adventuress from the year 40,000, receives an assignment from the President of the Republic of Earth who reaches her via a nude statue that doubles as a video-phone viewing screen. He happens to catch her in the middle of a zero-g striptease as she wriggles out of her spacesuit, the opening credits doing a barely sufficient job of covering her prurient parts. At this point in your first viewing of BARBARELLA you probably already have enough information to realize this is the movie you’ve been waiting your whole life to see. Did I mention the cockpit of her ship is covered in brown shag carpet and her only companion is a lisping A.I. abacus? A renegade scientist named Dr. Durand-Durand (yep, this is where the band got their name) has created a weapon called the Positronic Ray and he’s going to use it to rule the Universe. It’s up to Barbarella to stop him. Embarking on a swirling pop art journey of intergalactic adventure and sexual discovery, like an erotic CANDIDE or a swinging sci-fi GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, Barbarella crosses galaxies searching for the sinful city of SoGo, surviving an attack by children armed with sharp-toothed mechanical dolls, crossing vast icy wastes in a sled powered by space stingrays, escaping a machine designed to kill its victims with sexual pleasure, and making love to a blind angel and restoring his self-confidence. Adapted from a French comic book by horndog director Roger Vadim, BARBARELLA’s rambling, episodic structure is merely an excuse to revel in eyepopping art design, flagrant sexual hijinks and just a dash of social commentary (in the distant future, only the lower classes still make love in the physical sense). This psychedelic sexploitation romp is a candy colored ode to the joys of comic books, with all the campy, stylized sets and charmingly retro special effects you can find in the eighties’ FLASH GORDON movie, only way dirtier and more subversive. Jane Fonda turned down offers to star in both BONNIE AND CLYDE and ROSEMARY’S BABY in favor of completing this movie and she clearly made the right choice. The supporting cast includes John Phillip Law, the same year he starred in the equally wild, visually thrilling, Euro-pop super crime wonder DANGER: DIABOLIK. Famous mime Marcel Marceau shows up as the talkative Professor Ping. Model, jet-setter and Rolling Stones love interest Anita Pallenberg plays The Great Tyrant, the Black Queen ruler of SoGo. And David Hemmings, as the underground rebel leader Dildano, gets Barbarella to give up her exaltation transference pills and find pleasure “the old fashioned way.” A true masterpiece of bubblegum sci-fi pop, erotic
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camp and visual inventiveness, BARBARELLA dares to imagine a bright and optimistic future where love and sex are the only things that will redeem any of us. (Tommy Swenson) ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS Dir. Byron Haskin, 1964, NR, 110 min
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“ We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – JFK, September 12, 1962 In December of 1963, a week to the day after the funeral of John F. Kennedy, filmmaker Byron Haskin and his crew set out into the desolate wilderness of Death Valley and started scouting for locations that could double for the surface of another planet. A race between superpowers was under way, started by a forward thinking young president, to see which nation would be the first to space and the first to set foot on the moon. But Haskin was imagining even further out, wondering what it might look like on the surface of Mars. It would still be two years before the Mariner 4 would send back the first actual images of an empty and barren Mars, forever altering and solidifying our picture of the red planet. But before those images, people’s dreams of Mars were still built out of the fertile Barsoomian fields traversed by John Carter in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the canals, transplanted Midwestern farmlands and mythical cities of Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Mars was the point of origin for innumerable invasions and the projected location of future utopias. In the words of Carl Sagan, “Mars [had] become a kind of mythic arena onto which we projected our Earthly hopes and fears.” What remains surprising about Byron Haskin’s Mars so many years later is how, in its starkly inhospitable view of the planet, it dashes all hope of an exotic world worth exploring and presents a grounded view of a practically uninhabitable planet. Transposing Daniel Defoe’s literary masterpiece from a tropical island to an extraterrestrial wasteland of unexpected verisimilitude, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS quickly dispenses with the more adventurous aspects of survival and uses its setting to explore themes of isolation and loneliness. It masterfully dramatizes the discovery that outer space is not a playground for adventure but a vast, cold, oppressive emptiness. The movie isn’t without its genre trappings or sense of fun though. There are some aliens after all. The castaway protagonist spends most of the movie hanging

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out with a little capuchin monkey pal! At one point he has a psychedelic hallucination of his dead commander, played by a cosmically bizarre Adam West. West’s brief performance is genuinely wild and everything you’d want from the man who would be Batman. The film’s script was written by Ib Melchior, a filmmaker who had previously journeyed to Mars in 1959 with THE ANGRY RED PLANET, a sci-fi horror movie complete with giant amoebas and a wild spider/bat/rat/ crab monster. When a scheduling conflict prevented Melchior from directing ROBINSON CRUSOE, the script was rewritten to remove some of the more outrageous and fantastical elements and Byron Haskin stepped in to direct. An obvious choice for the job, Haskin had directed WAR OF THE WORLDS a decade earlier, as well as FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON in 1958. He had been working in film since the twenties, first as a cinematographer for D.W. Griffith and later serving as head of visual effects at Warner Brothers through the thirties and forties. His approach for this project was to abandon fantasy, base the technical designs and dialogue on information gleaned about NASA’s Project Gemini missions, and create a profound, almost spiritual story of human survival in the worst of conditions.

The movie has the same genuine spirit of discovery and sci-fi sincerity as the original STAR TREK and its influence on that show seems apparent. Although simplistic and hokey when compared to something like 2001 or most sci-fi films of the seventies, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS was an early attempt at making a smart science fiction film for a thinking audience. It’s a cautious first step towards legitimizing sci-fi as a “serious” cinematic art form. Billed on its original release as “SCIENTIFICALLY AUTHENTIC… Only one step ahead of present reality!”, ROBINSON CRUSOE now feels like a relic of another era -- an artifact of that brief, wondrous time when we knew we had the technology to get to outer space but we still didn’t know what was waiting for us out there. (Tommy Swenson) SERENITY Dir. Joss Whedon, 2005, PG-13, 119 min
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You can’t stop the signal. Released three years after the short lived but wildly

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adored Joss Whedon television series FIREFLY, SERENITY failed to make much of an impact at the box office, but ten years later this film and series are as strong as they ever were. SERENITY is a spaceship full of perpetually on the run renegades lead by the roguish Captain Malcolm Reynolds (the spectacularly charming Nathan Fillion) who will do anything for cash. After being on the losing side of a civil war, Reynolds and his crew will smuggle, cheat and steal to keep their lives simple and off the grid. That is until one day a routine transport of a brother and his sister turns the crew of Serenity into the most sought after ship in the galaxy. Joss Whedon’s directorial debut of his revived television series is an absolute marvel. It gave fans everything they had ever wanted out of the abrupt end to the series while also not alienating any newcomers from being indoctrinated into the world of Browncoats with a story that was independently approachable. Working on an extremely scaled back sci-fi budget, Whedon and his team managed to create the same fully realized sci-fi western world we had fallen in love with on television. All the original cast came back without missing a step and the world was a better place for having the snappy dialogue and wacky characters back on a screen. Sadly SERENITY didn’t take flight when it was originally released but we can still band together, console each other and celebrate the triumph of this film. “Y’all got on this boat for different reasons, but y’all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this -- they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.” (Greg MacLennan) STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME Dir. Leonard Nimoy, 1986, PG, 119 min
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a time travel sequence that puts the trippy in trip, the crew lands in the city of San Francisco, where they must overcome their greatest adversary -- the archaicness of the ‘80s -- to retrieve two humpback whales. That’s right, STAR TREK IV is a whale movie, and not only that, it’s the best whale movie ever made. (Sorry, Willy!) The unabashed earnestness of the STAR TREK franchise lends itself gladly to an environmental agenda, and the idea of Kirk, Spock and the gang fighting to save the whales is the most heartwarming thing that’s ever happened in the United Federation of Planets. (Need I mention that the whales’ names are George and Gracie?) With such a noble message, this film could have easily slipped down a sanctimonious slide, but fortunately, the script combats any threat of loftiness with major wallops of humor. This is, arguably, the funniest of the STAR TREK movies, with the series’ inherent campiness joyfully mingling with the goofiness of the ‘80s. From Chekov’s “nuclear wessels” to Kirk yelling, “Double dumbass on you!”, the Enterprise crew isn’t afraid to get ridiculous, and their interactions with relics of the past like computers and punks are goldmines of hilarity. Some of the most amusing moments in the movie are a natural byproduct of the fact that the “future” was conceived in the 1960s, while “the past” was actually the present when this film was released. Compared to ‘80s fashion, Kirk’s boots and bell bottoms are delightfully retro, while an IBM PC looks way more high-tech than the computers on the ship. These contrasts, rather than detracting from the film, actually make it even more enjoyable, because the movie’s creators are in on the joke, and they’re laughing along with you. After more than 25 years, the charm of STAR TREK IV is far from endangered, though the same can’t be said for humpbacks. Who wants to join my “Save the Whales or We’ll Be Destroyed by an Alien Probe” campaign? (Sarah Pitre) Tough Guy Cinema: TOTAL RECALL Dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1990, R, 113 min
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The crew of the Enterprise has discovered a dizzying array of alien beings and cultures in their explorations of the universe. They’ve battled Klingons, faced off with Romulans and been troubled by Tribbles. But out of all of their adventures, my favorite encounter will always be their brush with the life form known as 1986 San Franciscans. In STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME, a mysterious alien probe threatens to destroy the planet Earth unless its communications are answered by a very specific type of creature. Unfortunately, that creature has been extinct for centuries, which means Kirk and company must journey to the past to retrieve it. After
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Your mind, it is the center of your life. It is everything you hear, everything you see. Everything you feel, it is everything you are. How would you know if someone stole your mind? Earthbound muscleman construction worker Douglas Quaid, has dreams of living on Mars. Quaid’s wife has

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no desire to give up her perfect life on Earth, so one day Quaid goes to Rekall where they can remember it for you wholesale. Rekall puts you under and implants your mind with your wildest fantasies and you couldn’t be the wiser for it. That is until something goes wrong and Quaid can’t separate what’s real and what isn’t. They stole his mind, now he wants it back. Paul Verhoeven directs AHNULD Schwarzenegger in his sci-fi blast of pure excellence. You’ll see a man with an alien in his stomach, a lady with three boobs and what happens to a body when it’s exposed to the Martian landscape. You’ll wish you had three hands and six eyes because no remake can ever replace the classic awesome of the original. After languishing for years in development hell, this film was finally able to come to fruition after 42 drafts of the script. Richard Dreyfuss, Patrick Swayze and William Hurt were all in line to play Douglas Quaid until everything fell through and one Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped in to save the day. Schwarzenegger had extreme creative control and his first act was to hire ROBOCOP helmer Verhoeven to anchor this otherworldly INDIANA JONES goes to Mars. What started as a disaster developed into one of the coolest longstanding action films of our time AND managed to be a huge success despite only having 42 seconds of CGI in it. Open your mind and get your ass to Mars! (Greg MacLennan)

Kid’s Camp: ZATHURA: A SPACE ADVENTURE Dir. Jon Favreau, 2005, PG, 113 min
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First developed as a direct sequel to JUMANJI, ZATHURA has all the cool ideas of that film and none of its failings. Directed by Jon Favreau and starring Josh Hutcherson and Kristen Stewart, ZATHURA follows two young brothers who stumble upon a retro space adventure game that proves to have real world effects. As soon as the game begins, the boys and their sister find themselves hurtled through space as they race to finish the game and restore their lives to normalcy. But with the attacking alien Zorgons, things might not be as easy as they thought. Adventure and excitement await in this way better than it needed to be non-sequel. The sibling dynamics are spot on and relatable while the special effects will dazzle the kiddos as they learn a thing or two about the importance of family and working together along the way. Favreau brought in effects wizard Stan Winston to anchor the practical effects in the film which really created a tangibility to the otherworldly. This movie feels dangerous but never stops being fun for adults and kids alike. The film was a critical success but opening just one week prior to a Harry Potter installment all but sealed its fate as a financial disappointment. But with Potter and company out of the way it’s time to right the wrongs and give this film the chance it deserves. (Greg MacLennan) 6

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Space Is Hard!
RAY WAGNER Space Industry R&D Engineer and Badass Digest Contributor @ray_wagner Read more at badassdigest.com

Let’s face it: space is a great place to set movies. In space, future versions of ourselves can duke it out with extra-terrestrials, dark cosmic energies or, more simply, evil future versions of ourselves. Space is so big that, frankly, it’s hard to imagine all that crazy stuff not being out there, somewhere, someday, one way or another. And so, more often than not, space films hit the fast-forward button on human progress, whisking us past our current baby steps to a time when we can sail the cosmos but somehow seem to keep having the same problems getting along that we’ve always had. There is a minority of pictures, though, that stay a little closer to home and a little more rooted in our current predicament vis-à-vis space travel. And while I love a good interstellar yarn as much as the next space cadet, I have to admit a preference for these more reality-based films. Titles such as APOLLO 13, inspired by true events, and MOON, an easy extrapolation from where we are now, both come to mind. This month at the Alamo Drafthouse, we’re featuring another pair of films from that same cohort: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY. There’s great dramatic hay to be made out of contemporary space travel because, quite frankly, space is hard. That’s an easy thing to forget, since we’ve made trips to and from low Earth orbit pretty routine over the last 40 years, and we’ve gone to the surface of the Moon a few times to boot. But that track record belies the contribution of an army of scientists, engineers and technicians working tirelessly to make it all seem so easy. The dangers are myriad, and, even today, traveling to Earth’s orbit isn’t for the faint of heart. And that’s to say nothing of trying to travel beyond orbit to the Moon and points more distant. GRAVITY, if you’ve seen the trailers, gets a lot of mileage from one of the biggest unmitigated threats to spacecraft currently on orbit: space debris. Since Russia flew Sputnik in 1957, the spacefaring nations of Earth have thrown more and more equipment into orbit. Every spent rocket booster and end-of-life satellite up there joins bits of space rock captured by Earth’s gravity to create a sea of junk that can circulate for years before burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. To complicate matters, this debris tends to self-pulverize, forming a cloud of smaller and smaller bits that are increasingly hard for spacecraft to avoid. At orbital speeds, each piece of junk acts like a bullet, and for manned space vehicles, orbital debris strikes can mean loss of power, loss of coolant or, more terrifyingly, loss of atmosphere. GRAVITY paints a stark and realistic picture of a worst-case orbital debris strike. And then there’s 2001, the great granddaddy of realitybased science fiction movies. There’s so much to be said
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about how carefully Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke incorporated the 1960s’ vision of where we were headed as a spacegoing people. Their designs for orbital hotels, moon colonies and long-duration space vessels both borrowed from the forward-looking concepts of the day and fleshed them out to provide a template that, quite frankly, still influences the thinking of those in the space business. This dedication to detail is best seen in the wonderfully intimate picture of life onboard the spaceship Discovery One, which is headed to the outer planets on a very long journey. To combat the ravages of weightlessness on human physiology, Discovery’s two crew members live and work on the interior surface of a rotating centrifuge simulating Earth’s gravity. In order to illustrate the mind-blowing perspective when up is the new down, Kubrick built the whole set as a giant rotating barrel, and he spun it around his actors as they traversed from one area of the ship to another. We’re entering an exciting time in our progress outward. Commercial companies are on the verge of opening orbital trips to private citizens, and governments are contemplating voyages past Earth’s orbit for the first time in forty years. As we push outward, the dangers will be no less present than they always have been. We’ll deal with potentially fatal solar flares, ask our astronauts to put up with the psychological rigors of long trips in small spaces and rely on vanishingly small windows of opportunity in orbital mechanics just to make the trips possible. Robots -- humanoid and otherwise -- will almost certainly be our constant companions and workhorses. And, wherever we go, we’ll likely have to live off the land if we intend to stay for any length of time. The future, in other words, is ripe for a new generation of speculative science fiction, inspired by -- and building on -- the adventures to come. 6

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In ALIEN, Ripley Proves That Sometimes A Woman Is The Best Man For The Job
BRITT HAYES Badass Digest Contributor @MissBrittHayes Read more at badassdigest.com

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From the outset, Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction horror film ALIEN is a little misleading. We meet the crew of the commercial towing spacecraft Nostromo, who are awakened from stasis to investigate a mysterious call of unknown origin from a nearby planet. For the first 20 minutes of the film, the men do most of the talking, while our heroine Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) says almost nothing. Scott wants you to believe that this is a male-dominated ship -- men, like the computers the crew heavily rely on, symbolize rational thinking, and our primitive instinct, nurtured by years of social conditioning, is to trust that which is masculine; that which hunts and gathers, provides and makes the judgment calls for our best interests. We see the Nostromo, dominated by men, and we blindly assume that these guys know what they’re doing. They don’t -- not really. The men make horrible decisions: science officer Ash (following orders from Captain Dallas) violates quarantine protocol and brings a mysterious alien life form aboard the ship, putting the lives of the crew at risk. When the alien breeds something far more sinister, Dallas hatches a plan to rid the ship of its terrifying alien intruder, refusing to listen to Ripley or allow her to perform the dangerous task of entering the air ducts to flush the creature out -- as if only a man in charge is capable of such valor. At one point she confronts him by barring his exit, demanding her voice be acknowledged and heard (this is the moment when the Nostromo apparently becomes the Texas Legislature). And perhaps if any of these men had listened to Ripley, they might have lived. ALIEN is filled with sexual imagery, highlighting the divide between male and female. The flamethrowers the men use to battle the alien intruder are symbolically phallic, as is the rolled-up newspaper Ash uses to try and choke Ripley into submission in one of the film’s most horrific and psycho-sexual moments. When Ash, an android, is bludgeoned to death, his body sprays out a viscous white liquid, reminiscent of semen. To take the sexual symbolism even further, ALIEN illustrates what happens when a man is the victim of a non-consensual sex act (the face-hugger) and later endures a violent birth (the infamous chest-bursting sequence) -- two acts of violence in which the victims are traditionally identified as women. These men are forcibly penetrated and made to sacrifice their bodies in ways they’ve never had to imagine, much less fear. Perhaps this is why Ripley is the lone survivor: she is both masculine and feminine everywhere that it matters. Weaver is slightly androgynous in the role, creating a character that isn’t your typical, conventionally sexy, babe-alicious horror starlet. That’s not to say that Ripley isn’t sexy, it’s that she illustrates that women who are tough are sexy . She’s
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attractive in a way that’s unconventional because of her masculine energy and her refusal to indulge in the superficial components of “femininity”: make-up, accessories, deference to male authority -- and yet there isn’t a big show about how masculine she is or some throwaway line about why she’s not your average girl. The best science fiction immerses you in a strange version of our world and doesn’t need to hold your hand and explain why and how everything is different. And in that way, the best science fiction is similar to the best representations of women in film in that it isn’t condescending to the viewer, and trusts us to intelligently process what we are seeing -- whether it’s a capable, strong woman or an alien planet (to some people, these things are unfortunately still the same). When we see Ripley at the film’s end in her wife beater (a typically male article of clothing that’s evolved from a symbol of blue collar masculinity into a red flag of illiteracy and douche-ness), men’s dress shirt and plain white underwear (unadorned with flowers or lace), she is a woman who has conquered and survived -- not due to dumb luck, or the help of some macho hero, or while crying big mascara tears into her cleavage. She’s no final girl like the women who survive monsters and boogeymen in your average campy horror flick. She’s the final woman, and she’s the best -- and only -- man for the job. 6

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SERENITY: Joss Whedon’s Dry Run at THE AVENGERS
EVAN SAATHOFF Badass Digest News Editor @sam_strange Read more at badassdigest.com

It’s sort of bizarre that SERENITY and THE AVENGERS are the only big Joss Whedon genre films we have. Both came out of atypical origins that in many ways dictated their fate: one a last hurrah for a doomed cult television show and the other a culmination of several separate but largely successful mainstream comic book films. It’s just a guess, but the very best SERENITY movie possible probably still would have failed financially, while the very worst version of THE AVENGERS you can imagine probably still would have made a little money. It just wouldn’t have made all the money. Obviously, both films charge Whedon with the unenviable task of wrangling and introducing a large number of highly individualistic characters. The original Firefly crew has nine members. There are six Avengers, but you must also add Loki, Agent Coulson and Nick Fury, making them more or less even. In THE AVENGERS, he pulls this off by staggering introductions. Thor, for instance, doesn’t appear until about forty five minutes in. With SERENITY, however, Whedon throws us into the mix with an awkward, exposition heavy walk and talk through the entire ship. THE AVENGERS’ tactic is far more successful because the property affords Whedon the luxury of pre-introduced characters. With SERENITY, Whedon has only a few minutes to bring new audiences (on whom the film’s financial success depended) up to speed on a whole crew of strangers. But before any of that can happen, Whedon opens each film with similar scenes that establish a ruling organization (The Alliance and SHIELD), a villain (The Operative and Loki) and a MacGuffin (River Tam and the Tesseract), thereby defining his story parameters. Both sequences provide the films with their respective low points, almost knowingly so. SERENITY in particular utilizes a strange dream within a video recording double fake-out to get the information across. The two openings feel more like narrative work than actual narrative. Once SERENITY and THE AVENGERS get over their bumpy launches, however, they both soar, managing to create entertainment even during their brief periods of downtime thanks largely to tropes specific to Whedon. Obviously both films are especially funny, but his strengths go much deeper than that. Take, for instance, Whedon’s remarkable ability to create credible villains. Through Whedon, even Loki -- a character whose menace clearly grows out of insecurity -- has the ability to suddenly obliterate THE AVENGERS’ lighter tone with a speech seething with genuine malice toward Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Conversely, a still snapshot of one of SERENITY’s Reavers would seem more silly than threatening. But
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they are no laughing matter as depicted in the film. Whedon achieves this by focusing more on reactions to the Reavers than the Reavers themselves. But this tactic has limits. Eventually, we need to see firsthand why they’re so awful. Whedon delivers this late in the film as the Serenity crew flies through Reaver space. We see their strange, barely comprehensible ships ripping other vessels apart and hear radio transmissions of their victims’ screams, making it feel as though our heroes really have entered a kind of unnatural Hell they have no ability to fight off if discovered. While Joss Whedon excels at raising tension, he has an equally strong ability to cut through that tension with sudden levity. This is part of why it’s so rewarding when the Hulk destroys Loki’s hubris by slamming him into the ground like a rag doll. SERENITY does this even better thanks to its darker tone and the earned dignity of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s far less jokey adversary, The Operative. When Mal drives his tiny vessel headfirst toward a massive Alliance fleet, only to reveal an equally large Reaver fleet behind him, it supplies one of the most rousing moments in recent sci-fi history. In one move, Whedon provides a heroic action that cuts down The Operative’s confidence, gives our ragtag group a fighting chance against overwhelming odds and brings the Alliance face to face with a monster of its own creation. In a sense, the Loki moment contains some of this karmic perfection as well since he’s taken down by the very beast he previously worked so hard to manipulate. And there’s so much more. Both films display distrust for authority, for instance, and both utilize the death of a beloved character to raise stakes. But more than anything, both films are fun and fulfilling in ways most genre films fail to achieve lately, a success Whedon arrives at thanks to stubborn insistence on brains before spectacle, which of course leads to more creative and meaningful spectacle. At times SERENITY is more than a little rough around the edges, and the earnestness of its “cowboys in space” concept often feels a bit dorky in retrospect. But it displays many of the same strengths that made THE AVENGERS so likable to so many and proved Whedon’s ability to bring his unique talents to a much bigger canvas. 6

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Getting Heavy With GRAVITY Director Alfonso Cuarón
DEVIN FARACI Badass Digest Editor in Chief @devincf Read more at badassdigest.com

Alfonso Cuarón has already given us one of the great science fiction movies of our time, CHILDREN OF MEN. His latest film, GRAVITY, ups the science aspect, using realistic physics to tell the story of an astronaut stranded in space after a terrible orbital accident. GRAVITY is the kind of movie that will have audiences white-knuckling theater seats, but it will also turn younger viewers onto the majesty and excitement of space exploration. Don’t be surprised when the first human on Mars namechecks GRAVITY as a favorite film. GRAVITY presented its own unique challenges. Not only did Cuarón and his crew have to invent new technology in order to shoot microgravity as realistically as possible, as a storyteller he was limited to just two actors onscreen. It helps when those actors are George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, of course -- even if they are strapped into bulky, accurate space suits. In this interview Alfonso Cuarón talks about the realities and challenges of space travel, as well as the reality of how we’ve watered down the term ‘science fiction.’ GRAVITY aims to reclaim the science part of that phrase. Q:  Can you talk about your approach to space in this movie? A:  First of all everything was surrounding the main problem that this is a journey of our character. Space offers two great things: one, it’s a metaphorical environment, but at the same time we wanted to take it very seriously. We wanted to portray on film something similar to watching a Discovery Channel documentary where something goes wrong. We didn’t want to create any technology, we wanted to create a reality that is up there right now. Not only did we not want to create any technology, we wanted to portray technology that is ingrained in
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people’s consciousness. That’s the reason we used the space suits, knowing that the next generation of space suits is going to come very soon. But that next generation, for our audience, is going to look science fiction-y. That’s why we brought back the space shuttle, knowing the space shuttle is out of order but that it’s part of the collective consciousness of what space exploration is about. We took a very detailed approach to space. This is an amazing environment. On one side of you there’s the totality of Earth, and on the other end there’s nothing. Already there you have a metaphor. You’re between life and nothing. We were detailed with the space ships and the space suits, but also with the rendering and the lighting of the whole thing. Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer, who has done most of my films, and Chivo -- that’s what we call him -- was adamant about honoring the light that exists in space. It’s one single source, without any diffusion. The one single source is the sun, and there’s nothing to suck in that light. Then you have the bounce from planet Earth, and we thought about how those colors would affect everything. We wanted audiences to feel like they were in space. One of the other realistic things about this movie is that Sandra Bullock’s character isn’t a heroic pilot or astronaut; she’s a technician who gets caught in a terrible situation. We needed her to be a little bit of a fish out of water. Metaphorically and literally she’s a character who lives in her own bubble, and here her own bubble is her space suit. The film is a journey towards her rebirth. Part of her rebirth is to come out of that bubble, so shed her own skin. It was very important to have her as a normal person. For audiences they’re

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watching a film that is in space, but emotionally we wanted audiences to bring their own emotional experiences into the film. In other words the debris is nothing but adversity -- it’s a woman going through adversity the same as everybody else does. We have adversity every day, and we wanted that journey through adversity to be something in which audiences could invest their own emotions. We didn’t want to create a superhero who is going to solve things. We wanted to create a normal person. Q:  Speaking of adversity, it must have been very tough making a movie that is essentially one actor on what I’m assuming is a green screen, stuck in a space suit the whole time. How did you work with Sandra Bullock to get her in the place she needed to be while also keeping her feeling supported and safe? A:  The biggest challenge of this film was precisely that. We had to invent technology to make this movie, and unfortunately that technology was not performance-friendly. We pretty much had to animate the whole film using as a guide the voices of George and Sandra. But once we finished the animation, everything had to be programmed based on those animations. Once we programmed there was very little room for adjustment. What that means is that Sandra had to perform based on very strict boundaries, especially in length. She could change things in her dialogue and performance, but it had to be the same length. That was written in stone. It was very challenging. Everything was very, very uncomfortable for Sandra. She would have to be in all these contraptions. It wasn’t even green screen. There is very, very little green screen. The technology we created was based on LED light. Most of the filming she was in a box

filled with LED light, isolated from the rest of the crew. The nearest crew member was 20 feet away. All of her communication was through radio; she had her space cap with the earphones in it, and we would communicate through the mic. It took so long to get in and out of the device that, in between takes, Sandra chose to just stay there. It was pretty handy when making a journey of isolation -- she went through the same things as the character. One of the things that surprises me most about space travel is how relatively safe it is. There have been some tragedies, but no one has actually died in space. With all the realism we’re talking about, we’ve been trying to be as accurate as possible while keeping in mind that this is a movie. This is a fiction. So we have to contrive certain elements and certain procedures. In reality what is amazing is that if you talk to these people and research how welldesigned these missions are. They cover every single angle. They have a back up for every single thing. They have a procedure for every single thing. It’s impressive. There are a lot of people involved in each one of these missions, and a lot of those people know only about one thing -- but they are experts in that one little thing. In other words, if a guy knows about that screw he knows EVERY SINGLE THING with that screw. It’s really impressive. The reason there haven’t been many catastrophes is because of the immense preparation that goes into these things. It’s such a hostile environment. Q:  You have obviously immersed yourself in a ton of research for this movie. What do you think is the future of the space program? A:  I leave that to the experts. I leave the answers

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about technology to the experts. But being a huge aficionado, I know that the next stage from the shuttle is the Orion. The other big thing that’s happening around the world is private enterprise getting into space exploration. Some of it is for more frivolous things, like space tourism… but I’m all for it. Even if I call it frivolous that would be my dream. I would love to do that. Entrepreneurs are getting into space exploration for the exploitation of minerals and stuff. One of the most amazing pieces of space exploration, and one of the most amazing pieces of technology ever, is the Hubble Telescope. It has proven to be an amazing resource for knowledge. Literally it’s a time machine, you can use it to look into the past of our universe and where we come from. For me, not being an expert, what makes sense is that the future would be a combination of Hubble-like machines, either stationary around Earth orbit like the Hubble, or like the Keppler that was going to travel to other systems, together with what is considered close range missions. All of these entrepreneurial projects for exploration but also exploitation. A lot of private enterprises are taking this very, very seriously. Obviously something is happening there. NASA, I hope it keeps receiving resources. I hope NASA keeps being healthy and alive, because it’s one of the best things America has to offer to the world. It’s an amazing symbol; beyond its pragmatic uses I would keep NASA alive because it presents an amazing view of what America can do. Q:  When we think about movies with realistic space travel, 2001 is the first film that comes to mind. What are some movies that are touchstones for you? A:  We knew that what we were going to do had never been done. This is a whole film that takes place in zero gravity… well, actually microgravity. None of the technology that existed before applied to what we were trying to do. We were trying to honor not only microgravity but also zero resistance, which means a very weird way of moving that we’re not used to on planet Earth. And also we used very long takes. That presented yet another set of challenges. But 2001 is… I’m not going to say it’s the best film about space because it’s just one of the best films ever. It wasn’t such a point of reference because it’s such a philosophical piece, and we were approaching this in a very different way. What I’m saying is that 2001 is incomparable. 2001 is one of the only films that actually takes space and technology seriously. There are a lot of films set in space that I am a fan
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of. It goes from silent films -- the Fritz Lang film WOMAN IN THE MOON, that is amazing. It’s the ‘20s and he has a movie where space travel is for exploitation -- there’s gold in the Moon. And they’re traveling in a rocket ship that goes through stages, not unlike what the Apollo used later on. And you can see that he was very meticulous in trying to convey the technology, and that was in the ‘20s. Then in the ‘50s there was DESTINATION MOON, which was very serious in how they tried to convey space travel. In the ‘60s there was a film I loved as a kid called MAROONED, and it stars Gregory Peck and Gene Hackman. A year after that film was released came the reality of Apollo 13. It was predicting what would happen. And obviously APOLLO 13 is a movie that takes space seriously, and besides 2001 is the movie that is most meticulous and accurate about everything. Another one is THE RIGHT STUFF. Although it’s minimal the amount of space compared to, say APOLLO 13. But they take the technology and the physics of space seriously. There are other films about space, like Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS, that are philosophical works. The whole thing about technology of space and the physics of it are in the background because in the foreground is this amazing story of humanity. Q: Do you consider GRAVITY to be science fiction? A:  That’s a strange thing because now I don’t know what science fiction is about. Science fiction has been so confused with fantasy. What I used to consider to be fantasy is now known as science fiction in many instances. GRAVITY is science fiction in that it’s a fiction and we tried to include as much of a scientific element into everything surrounding the fiction. Some might say it’s not science fiction because it takes place in the present, not the future. It’s not inventing technology. From that perspective I don’t know if it fits into the modern idea of science fiction. Science fiction lost its meaning. Everything that takes place in space gets called science fiction, but a lot of films that take place in space are actually fantasy. Or horror -- I love ALIEN, but it’s a horror film that happens to be set in space. The Cameron one, ALIENS, is an action movie in space. I quite like EVENT HORIZON -- it’s not unlike Tarkovsky. But I don’t think that’s science fiction -it’s a haunted house, but they use a space ship. Would I consider MAROONED science fiction? Yes, it’s a film that’s a fiction that incorporates science as well. 6

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The Schwartz Was With Me: Seeing SPACEBALLS At Just the Right Age
KATEY RICH Editor-in-Chief of CinemaBlend.com @kateyrich Read more at badassdigest.com

It was the winter of 2000, and the Blockbuster in Aiken, South Carolina was still open. It was as generic and poorly stocked as a small town video store could be, but it still had that one guy, the offbeat handsome dude at the check-out counter who would judge you, up or down, based on what you’d picked. And the night that I rented SPACEBALLS, I passed his test. I had seen the movie at some neighbor’s house when I was younger, mixed in with MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL and DUCK HUNT as wonderful things that kids in other houses had and we didn’t. By the time I chose to rent it I was in high school, on my way back to rejoin a group of friends who were geeky, but not nearly geeky enough to enjoy SPACEBALLS as much as I did. Mel Brooks’ STAR WARS parody was equal opportunity silly but also deeply rooted in references to other movies, references I relished understanding more and more every time I watched it. I loved my friends, but when I laughed at the LAWRENCE OF ARABIA musical cue, they rolled their eyes at “jamming the satellite” and moved on. Blockbuster Guy got SPACEBALLS. When he smiled and gushed about its greatness he wasn’t just flirting with me (a revelation for me in those awkward, awkward days) but giving me permission, for the first time, to embrace a movie nobody else seemed to like. In a town too small for movie clubs and a time before Netflix, discovering movies weirder than you could imagine required a Virgil, someone who could confidently guide you toward a strange new world of cheap production values and deliberately awkward acting. SPACEBALLS is an incredibly mainstream example, but 13 years after its release it was obscure enough to count. The day that the cute Blockbuster Guy gave me that nod, it wasn’t just the first time I’d passed muster with him -- it was the first time that liking something weird and a little silly helped me get attention from a guy. An older, college guy. Maybe you had more noble motivations for checking out movies outside your comfort zone, and good for you. I’ve built up my memory over the years to pretend I didn’t rent CASABLANCA and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST entirely to impress Blockbuster Guy. But he was surely part of it, a standin for all the urbane, weird, slightly pretentious guys I planned to meet once I finally left for college. When I met those guys eventually, they would not be especially impressed by SPACEBALLS. But as an entry point, it wasn’t half-bad. For a kid learning to take films seriously and figure out how they work, SPACEBALLS can be a mind-blower, proof both that movies have rules and that they can be willfully broken. The jokes in SPACEBALLS run
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a crazy gamut. An eight-year-old can laugh forever at Pizza the Hutt and “Beam me up, Snotty,” and then a teenager, thinking she’s gotten all the jokes, can be stunned by the appearance of actual John Hurt for the ALIEN diner scene. When Dark Helmet scrolls through a VHS copy of SPACEBALLS to the part of the story they’re in, it’s an exhilarating moment of meta. The way they hunt down our heroes by watching their own movie is a convenient plot device and a critique of those same devices in straightforward movies -- film criticism and cheerful nonsense with a Rick Moranis bonus. STAR WARS itself was the result of filtering decades of culture into a single story, and by the turn of the last century movie culture was well into the process of cannibalizing itself, picking its stories and characters and ideas from everything that had come before. SPACEBALLS just made the process obvious, and funny. It was Mel Brooks combing the video store shelves to pick the reference points I would need for the next decade of loving movies. It took years to realize that Lone Star’s refusal of his reward for returning Princess Vespa is a direct lift from IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, but when I got it, it felt like a little clue dropped to lead me toward a cinema-loving future I couldn’t see from inside that fluorescent lit Blockbuster. I never had any other real interactions with Blockbuster Guy, and I don’t remember his specific approval of anything else that I rented. But I’m still so grateful for that single nod, for the unspoken promise that the weird stuff your friends aren’t into will, eventually, lead you to someone who is. 6

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IKARIE XB-1: The Czech STAR TREK
JORDAN HOFFMAN Badass Digest Contributor @jhoffman6 Read more at badassdigest.com

As a STAR TREK fanatic it is my obligation not just to watch (and rewatch) every episode and film in the franchise, but to try and iron out a sustained internal logic and obsess over the show’s origins. (Exhibit A: my two years’ worth of “One Trek Mind” columns at StarTrek.com.) Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find the smoking gun that proves STAR TREK’s creator Gene Roddenberry or his team of producers, writers and designers ever watched one of my favorite lesser known films, Jindřich Polák ‘s sharp 1963 space adventure, IKARIE XB-1. But just as Scotty said about Dr. Nichols’ invention of transparent aluminum, I don’t know that they didn’t watch it! If they did -- and there are more than trace elements of STAR TREK in this fascinating Czech science fiction movie -- it was most likely a different version than what’s available today. As with any genre masterpiece that’s slipped through the cracks, there’s a bit of a story behind the film. Until recently it was damn near impossible to see IKARIE XB-1, but a poorly dubbed and chopped up version released by Samuel Z. Arkoff ’s American International Pictures as VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE played TV as a late movie back in the day. (Ikarie Xb-1 is based on a Stanislaw Lem novella called “The Magellanic Cloud” from the mid-1950s that is still waiting to be translated into English.) The AIP version cut out a lot of the cool parts and changed the ending (more on that in a bit) and, by getting rid of the Czech language, made it far less mysterious and otherworldy to my Western ears. I had the good fortune to see IKARIE XB-1 in 2004 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which
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I believe was the first time this Cold War film had ever been screened in the United States. I immediately took to my personal blog (now home to cyber tumbleweeds) to say rapturous things. Excerpts: One of the most beautiful and simply spellbinding sciencefiction movies I’ve ever seen. If Antonioni were to shoot an episode of “Star Trek,” it would look like this. . . But this is MORE than cinematography (it isn’t Black & White, it is Silver!) and mood. This put me in a Movie Trance. It takes a lot for me to totally forget my surroundings and get 100% in The Zone. . . Anyway, the audience was absolutely buzzing after the screening at MoMa. A common comment was how much Gene Roddenberry cribbed from this. So what the hell is this movie about? And what’s the connection with the utopian vision of TREK? Basically, this is about a large starship -- one with corridors, living quarters, recreation and dining rooms -- on a mission to explore strange new worlds and to seek out new life and new civilizations. The closest star, Alpha Centauri, can be reached in a year’s time, and images of a “white planet” in its orbit are thought to contain life. Now’s the time to go check it out. It’s a large crew of forty and, remarkably for its time, it is of mixed gender. Some of the crew’s function is a little vague -- there’s no clearly marked Uhura at a comm station -- but the women on board aren’t just there for window dressing. (But, as would be the case on TREK, the film doesn’t reject shots of a woman in a bathing suit when appropriate.) The crew of the Ikarie is, indeed, all white, but the names of crew members are international. More to the

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point, this film predates the radicalization of the Czech New Wave and the Prague Spring; it is a production in league with the pro-Soviet propaganda of its time. As such, the code is all about selflessness, working for a common good and rejecting greed. Spare time is spent reading poetry, playing chess, listening to classical music or staying fit in a Greco-Roman-esque space gym. A crewman leaves his pregnant wife behind, knowing the two year trip on the ship (at superluminal speeds) will actually be fifteen years on Earth. (TREK never dealt much with time dilation.) When he discovers that a female crew-member is pregnant, and was specifically selected to give birth to the first child of space, he’s surprisingly accepting, despite the realization that his wife could have come along. The American version would have been all about his taking over the ship to return home. The movie breaks down into four chunks -- really like four episodes. The first introduces us to life aboard the ship. It’s an unusual design, somewhat boxy, but also features smaller shuttle pods. The interior is part hotel, part abstract art gallery. There are food synthesizers. Engine rooms are vast and strangely empty, and the voice of a computer (male, unlike TREK’s Majel Barrett) observes all. En route, they discover a mysterious spacecraft. Unaware of its origin, an away team investigates. Inside, a dead crew, similar to a number of TREK episodes. In time, we learn it is an Earth ship from the “barbaric” 20th Century (1987, to be precise.) The people aboard the ship murdered one another while fighting over oxygen. They are dressed as capitalists (ties!) and there are closeups of dice and whatnot. As our people leave the ship, they trigger an atomic self-destruct. Next, members of the crew all start getting mysteriously ill. We watch and see how the different departments react, working for a cure as well as working toward a way to continue the mission even if they all collapse. In time, they discover the source (radiation from an unseen “dark star”) and learn that their salvation came at the protection of “beings” on their destination planet. Before they can get there, though, they have to deal with a crew-member who has gone mad and looks to sabotage the ship in an ill-fated attempt to return home. Though they could easily gun this guy down, they don’t. They corner him and talk to him, with the hopes of nurturing him back to health. The movie ends with this hardworking crew achieving their goal. They have found life elsewhere in the Universe and it is a pure win for science and exploration. The AIP version didn’t like this optimistic, humanist ending so they lopped it off and added a PLANET OF THE APES switchemaroo ending. When
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they get where they are going, we see that where they are going was actually earth. (This kinda keeps the Cold War derelict ship from making any sense, same as the recreational “smell” vials that are meant to remind you of Earth, but I don’t think anyone at AIP much cared.) IKARIE XB-1 kinda lacks for a strong central character, but in true Soviet/Eastern cinema form it is all about the collective. (Though there’s a wacky old man who won’t take his vitamins and has a pet robot who certainly gets my vote for best in the cast.) But if the movie has a star it is the overall tone. The look is just remarkable, as is the early electronic music and sound effects. The sets are spare and crafty, but don’t come off as cheap. And even though everything is shot with an elevated hum, it feels tactile and lived in. The scene in the swingin’ lounge (with all the women wearing long dresses) is crazy and out of place, but the disconnect adds to the dreamlike feel of the whole enterprise. The ship functions, particularly during the trip to the older vessel, are carefully shot in low light to wisely leave much up to the imagination. A terrific DVD from Facets is available, though this is also a legal stream on places like Archive.org. I strongly advise taking the journey. Personally, I’d like to see a world where the odd 20th Century killer nerve gas called “Tigger Fun” becomes some sort of meme. 6

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The Cronenberg TOTAL RECALL That Never Was
ROBERT SAUCEDO Alamo Drafthouse Programming Director, Houston @robsaucedo2500 Read more at badassdigest.com

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TOTAL RECALL is a nearly perfect movie – full of Schwarzenegger self-satire, beautifully rendered practical special effects and a wonderful blend of smart science fiction and gratuitous pulpy action. But what if the movie had mutant space camels? Oh God, what have we been missing all this time? TOTAL RECALL took its sweet time in its journey to the big screen. Based on a short story by science-fiction master Philip K. Dick, the movie was first bought for development by Ronald D. Shusett in the ‘70s. Shusett invited future ALIEN collaborator Dan O’Bannon to help flesh out the 23 page short story into a featurelength film. Shusett and O’Bannon’s script was a mess of conflicting ideas -- with O’Bannon pushing for a weighty science fiction concept with an ending that saw the hero transformed into a godlike synthetic being housing the entirety of the Martian race and Shusett keen on creating RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK on Mars. The two took the script to Disney, where Shusett had a development deal after the success of ALIEN, but the studio passed -- allowing mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis to swoop in and acquire the project. While early attempts to rework the script’s third act with directors Richard Rush (THE STUNT MAN) and Lewis Teague (CUJO) didn’t work out, it was hoped that Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg would be the one to crack the code for successfully bridging Philip K. Dick’s ideas to the fun adventure film the producers’ had envisioned for the project. Unfortunately, nobody told Cronenberg this. Cronenberg spent a year on the script -- stripping away any sense of levity and camp that had been layered onto Dick’s story. The result was something thematically very faithful to the original short story but in direct contrast to what the producers had hired Cronenberg to make. Cronenberg’s vision for the film’s protagonist was actor William Hurt. Douglas Quaid was a psychologically wrecked man struggling to piece his memories together. Of course, it was Cronenberg, undisputed master of body horror, who also introduced the concept of mutants into TOTAL RECALL. Without Cronenberg’s involvement, we would never have had Kuato, the tumorous oracle who leads the Martian rebellion, or any of the other malformed mutants who make the Red Planet their home. Cronenberg also took the concept of Ganzibulls, Martian creatures created by Shusett that were basically camels outfitted with oxygen masks, and turned them into sewer-dwelling mutant camels. Cronenberg, faced with the reality that the movie he hoped to make was in stark contrast to the movie he had been hired to make, left the project around the same time Richard Dreyfuss became attached to star. As the years passed, the project continued to evolve -- and even came close to shooting with director Bruce Beresford
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and Patrick Swayze. Of course, the film would eventually get made with director Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Cronenberg’s legacy does not end there. After TOTAL RECALL was an international success, Gary Goldman, the writer that was hired to polish up the script for Paul Verhoeven, decided to option another Philip K. Dick short story for his directorial debut -MINORITY REPORT. After talking with Verhoeven in the hopes the filmmaker would lend his name to the project as a producer, Verhoeven convinced Goldman that MINORITY REPORT would make a perfect sequel to TOTAL RECALL. Unbeknownst to Goldman and Verhoeven, though, Ronald D. Shusett had it in his contract to write the first draft to any sequel to TOTAL RECALL. Shusett agreed to Goldman’s suggestion that they co-write the sequel together and that the contract be amended that Goldman would be attached to co-write any sequels. It was through the concept of mutants, brought to the story by Cronenberg, that Shusett and Goldberg found the way to connect MINORITY REPORT’s story to the world of TOTAL RECALL. In the final filmed version of TOTAL RECALL, it was established that the mutants had some degree of precognitive ability. In Goldman’s script for TOTAL RECALL 2, Quaid becomes the head of a company who uses the mutants to see into the future and predict crimes before they happen. Unfortunately, just as the project was building momentum, Carolco Pictures, the film’s studio, went out of business and the writers were able to take the project to 20th Century Fox. Unfortunately, it was at Fox that Verhoeven was betrayed by his former cinematographer Jan De Bont, who had been eying the script and worked with Fox to wrestle it away from Verhoeven. De Bont and the studio proceeded to strip the script of all connections to TOTAL RECALL and set the story up as its own project. After a series of flops (SPEED 2 and THE HAUNTING) from De Bont, Fox lost interest in making the project. It was at this point that Spielberg stepped in and developed the project -- combining elements of both the De Bont draft and Goldman and Shusett’s draft. De Bont, Goldman and Shusett would all receive producer credits on Spielberg’s final film, and Goldman and Shusett would find their contract evoked one more time when Dimension Films bought the rights to TOTAL RECALL, intending to make a sequel. For more information on the making of TOTAL RECALL (and its proposed sequel), check out David Hughes’ excellent book TALES FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL -- Hughes goes into great detail exploring the troubled production history of films such as Darren Aronofsky’s BATMAN, Paul Verhoeven’s CRUSADE and more. 6

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Secrets Of The Lost Cosmonauts
DEVIN FARACI Badass Digest Editor in Chief @devincf Read more at badassdigest.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

We all know that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space… but what if he wasn’t? What if the truth were more complex, and that Gagarin’s true feat was being the first man in space who survived? The space race was the best thing to come out of the Cold War; the tensions between the US and the USSR threatened to destroy the world, but they also sparked the greatest advancements in human history. Both nations were desperate to beat the other, and for a while the Russians had a distinct advantage, with Sputnik being the first artificial satellite put into orbit and then Gagarin being the first human to escape Earth’s atmosphere. The competition was so fierce that safety was sometimes a secondary concern; there were some in the US government who thought we should send an astronaut on a one-way trip to the Moon so we could get there first. Once the astronaut was on the Moon we could then begin worrying about how to bring him home. That recklessness -- and the Soviet Union’s penchant for denials and cover-ups of setbacks and disasters -- led to rumors of a top secret Soviet space program that was sending humans into space long before Gagarin’s journey. As far back as 1959 there were stories circulating that the Soviets had lost multiple cosmonauts -- including a woman -- in attempted suborbital flights. Some of these rumors came from misunderstandings, such as the 1962 death of Colonel Pyotr Dolgov. Dolgov parachuted from a balloon at almost 94,000 feet but didn’t survive; he hit the visor of his helmet while jumping from the balloon gondola and his suit depressurized, killing him. At least that’s the official story. Some of the “Lost Cosmonaut” theories have the spacefarers dying in space or on the launchpad, but the conspiracy theory surrounding famed Soviet test pilot Vladimir Ilyushin is much more entertaining. Ilyushin, some claim, beat Gagarin to space by five days, launching on April 7th, 1961. But Ilyushin’s trip didn’t make the history books because it was a major embarrassment to the USSR, as a malfunction supposedly brought Ilyushin’s capsule down in China. He was taken prisoner and held for a year. There’s some plausibility to this tale, especially when you realize that unlike the US space program the Russians kept their launches secret. Gagarin’s feat was only publicized when he got home safely, so is it impossible that Ilyushin’s mission would be scrubbed from the records? In 1999 Nikita Khrushchev’s son told documentary filmmakers that the story was true, but Ilyushin himself never spoke of it, taking the truth to his grave in 2010. The spookiest and strangest “Lost Cosmonaut” story actually has audio evidence to back it up. In 1960 Italian brothers Achille and Giovanni Judica-Cordiglia set up an amateur radio listening station and began picking up transmissions from space. They listened in on and
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recorded some huge moments in space history, including Gagarin’s first flight and John Glenn’s conversations with mission control from the Friendship 7 capsule. But they also claimed they picked up secret transmissions, and some of what they heard was terrifying. That first year they claimed to hear two different Soviet space capsules get lost in space, with one sending an SOS message that got fainter as it drifted off into the interstellar reaches. In 1961 they listened in as a capsule orbited the Earth three times… days before Yuri Gagarin’s launch (did they hear Ilyushin’s ill-fated trip?). That year they picked up the sounds of a cosmonaut suffocating to death. They listened in as a number of Soviet capsules supposedly veered off course and disappeared into the solar system. The most bloodcurdling recording the Judica-Cordiglia brothers made captures the sounds of a female cosmonaut burning up on re-entry in 1963: “Come in… come in… come in… Listen! Come in! Talk to me! I am hot! I am hot! Come in! What? Forty-five? What? Fifty? Yes. Yes, yes, breathing. Oxygen, oxygen… I am hot. This… isn’t this dangerous?” “Transmission begins now. Forty-one. Yes, I feel hot. I feel hot, it’s all… it’s all hot. I can see a flame! I can see a flame! I can see a flame! Thirty-two… thirty-two. Am I going to crash? Yes, yes I feel hot… I am listening, I feel hot, I will re-enter. I’m hot!” Experts have questioned the veracity of the recordings, but it remains possible that the Italian brothers did stumble upon the dark truth behind one of the great legends of the Cold War. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / SEPTEMBER 2013

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