Friday, March 26, 2010

Roger Corman Week - Day 5 - Battle Beyond the Sun (1962)

A couple of weeks ago, in writing about the importation of Japanese giant monster movies to the U.S. (specifically Gammera and Godzilla), I talked about the process often used at the time of taking the footage of the original movie, redubbing it, rearranging some of the scenes, and shooting new footage, all in an attempt to turn the film into something the producers and distributers thought would be more palatable to American theatergoers. That is the same tactic that Rager Corman took with today's feature, Battle Beyond the Sun.

In 1962, Corman acquired the American distributuion rights to the 1959 Russian production Nebo Zovyot or  The Sky Calls. Rather than simply releasing it as it was and simply adding subtitles, Corman, who was always a good judge of what his audience wanted in a film, handed it over to Francis Ford Coppola to not only edit and redub, but to shoot new scenes that include a new five-minute introduction detailing the history of the space race leading up to the time of the film, along with a battle between two very odd-looking monsters on the surface of the red planet.

One of the most interesting changes that the Corman/Coppola team made to the film was to its setting. In the original film, as in real life, the space race being depicted was between the Soviet Union and the United States. In an attempt to de-propogandize the movie, however, in his new introduction which takes place in the far-flung future of 1997, Coppola tells us that
In the fear ridden years following the great Atomic War, the Earth and it's people had been reduced to a state of death and destruction. Those who had survived the tragedy began building anew with a hope for the future. But still the world remained divided. This time, man-made boundaries stretched beyond mere countries, forcing the isolated separation of one vast hemisphere from another. These two conflicting powers becam known as the 'North Hemis' and the 'South Hemis'.

So what was the ultimate result of all of these changes? Well, Corman and his crew took what was originally a fairly straightforward forward-looking and rather unique film about the possibilities of the space race and turned it into a fairly muddled, rather cheesy and ultimately forgettable mish-mash of a space adventure. At the same time, it must be noted that while Corman may have admired the High Art embodied in the original, what he turned out was what would sell to the audience he would be trying to entertain, and in the end, for Corman, (as for pretty much anyone in the industry) the bottom line was and is producing what sells. (Please note, I mean absolutely no slight towards Mr. Corman in the preceding statement. It's simply a matter of The Way Things Are.)

(This was not, by the way, the only time that Corman used the redub/reshoot method to bring foreign films to American shores. Another example is L'isola Degli Uomini Pesce which, under Corman's hand, became Screamers.)

Let's take a look at the trailer, shall we?

And now, the Skinny:
Title: Battle Beyond the Sun
Release Date: 1962
Running Time: 75min
Starring: Aleksandr Shvorin, Ivan Pereverzhev
Directed by: Mikhail Karyukov, Aleksandr Kozyr
American adaptation by: Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola
Distributed by: American International Pictures

Battle Beyond the Sun is available to watch or download for free here.
For those interested, the original Russian version with English subtitles is available for viewing here.
Amazon has Battle available on DVD: Battle Beyond The Sun.

The film isn't available to rent at Netflix, but they do have it available for instant viewing: Battle Beyond the Sun.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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