Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mirror, Mirror: Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun(1969)

Anyone that knows me will tell you that the decade of the 1960's is my absolute favorite decade for movies, and all genres of them, none more so than science fiction. During the 60's there have been some absolutely marvelous sci-fi films made: Planet Of The Apes(1968), 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968), The Day The Earth Caught Fire(1961) and Fahrenheit 451(1966) are just a handful that immediately come to mind. One such sci-fi film that perhaps doesn't get as much recognition is Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun, directed by Robert Parrish, produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the film derived from a story written by Gerry/Sylvia Anderson. This English film premiered in the UK under the title "Doppelganger" in October, 1969 and a month later in the United States by its American, and more recognized title "Journey To The Far Of The Sun".

The film's story: about one hundred years in the future the discovery of another planet in a perfectly reciprocal orbit around the sun relative to Earth, by an unmanned space probe, prompts a consortium called Eurosec to fund the construction of a rocket that will send two men to this mysterious new planet. The two men selected to make the journey, American astronaut Glenn Ross(played by Roy Thinnes) and English astrophysicist John Kane(played by Ian Hendry), undergo an accelerated and vigorous training regimen to ready themselves for the journey to the newly discovered planet. Their training complete the pair blast off into space aboard an enormous rocket. Once in space they spend three weeks in a kind of stasis, then awaken and, after entering orbit around the new planet, decide to touch down on the new planets surface. And touch down they do, though their landing is rough and their craft is destroyed as a result. The astro-physicist gravely injured, Ross and his injured comrade are soon picked up by a search and retrieval team. Later astronaut Glenn Ross is reunited with his boss, Eurosec director Jason Webb(played by Patrick Wymark) and his wife Sharon(played by Lynn Loring). Ross is accused of aborting the mission and returning to Earth by those he works for, and his wife, which makes Ross question his sanity. The astronaut knows he didn't turn back...and that he is on the new planet, which seems like Earth and could very well be Earth... But how can this new planet be so much like Earth? Well, it isn't...there's one major difference. (no other spoilers)

Thumbs up:

1. the actors, all of which turned in solid performances, especially the outspoken, vain and demanding "Jason Webb". Patrick Wymark's portrayal of the gruff but likable Eurosec chief is solid.
2. the special effects: this film lacks the grandeur and absolutely meticulously detailed effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That said the special effects, particularly the miniatures and pyrotechnics in this movie, are very good.
3. the score: at times dominated by strings the soundtrack for this film is at times very melancholy and beautiful, none more so than during the sequence where the astronauts continue to sleep in stasis, their rocket quietly moving ahead in space towards the new planet.
4. the sets used all effectively project a "futuristic" feel, appropriate to a film set about one hundred years in the future. I especially liked the designs of the offices and the vehicles used to transport the characters around: very cool!

Thumbs down:

1. the ending: abrupt and IMO somewhat enigmatic.
2. the brief outburst of violence(a hard slap) by Glenn Ross towards his wife. This scene seemed rather out of place in the film.
3. some of the outer space shots were a little shaky, effects wise

Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun(1969) is, I think, one of the more underrated sci-fi films of the 1960's. This movie won't blow you away, even if you're a sci-fi fan like me. It will, I think, grow a little more on you with the passage of time, and watching it once a year as I do.

This film is available on Region 1 DVD, and was actually recently re-released by Universal. The movie's aspect ratio is widescreen(1:85.1). My DVD copy is the older release(also in widescreen) with only scene selection and no chapter stops.

Here's the R1 DVD for sale at