Russian Fantasia: A Photo Essay

We went to see two films at the ‘Russian Resurrection’ film festival in Adelaide last night. It was "Russian Fantasia" night, which focused on classic soviet fantasy and scifi films — how could I not see both?
The first film, Letters from a Deadman (1986) was set in Moscow post-nuclear holocaust. A history professor and a handful of his colleagues survived the holocaust by living in the bunker beneath the museum in which they worked. Meanwhile, the world above ground has been blown to smithereens–gas masks abound, food is scarce, medical treatment has to be obtained on the black market. The main character spends his days searching for his son above ground, and trying to obtain medicine for his ailing wife. By night, the professor writes letters to his son in the unlikely hope that he is still alive. This was a very dark film: the music score was at times chilling, at times harrowing, and the imagery matched. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing this one again (I have a fascination with films and books that suggest humanity might have to live below ground…)

But I promised you a photo essay! Enough of this dark, brooding stuff!

The next film we watched was Amphibian Man (Russian: Человеκ-aмфибия) and this movie ROCKED! Filmed in 1962, this film is a GEM of cheesy fantasy goodness! It was based on the novel by Alexander Beliaev, and has since become a cult classic — and I can totally see why. If you like your men with eye makeup and wearing too-short shorts, if you like bedazzling Technicolour washes, if you like completely implausible science, if you like doe-eyed starlets and dashing (but stupid) young heroes, if you like evil villains (also wearing too-short shorts and mascara) who don’t know how to hold their plastic guns, if you think continuity between scenes (or in general) is overrated, and if you’d be tickled by a random gypsy dance number, then Amphibian Man is the film for you! 

Here’s the film, in brief, in photo essay style:

Amphibian Man tells the story of a boy named Ichthyander (played by the lovely Vladimir Koronev)

who was surgically altered by his father to survive under the sea. The father saves his ailing son’s life by replacing his defunct lungs with the lungs and gills of a shark (Yeah, totally believable science!). The father, a millionaire doctor, lives in a fabulously decorated 1960s villa in Argentina (the setting of our tale) which is conveniently riddled with secret passage ways, and thereby provides easy access to the sea. Every day, Ichthyander leaves via the underwater duct, swims around in his sparkly silver wetsuit, and then performs some synchronised swimming routines while his father watches from the comfort of his fancy basement:

Meanwhile, the local Argentinian pearl divers have seen Ichthyander, and have begun to fear the ‘Sea Devil’. Two of these pearl divers — the evil Pedro and his soon-to-be father-in-law — decide to catch the ‘Sea Devil’ so that they can force him to work for them, making them millions with his aquatic capabilities. One day, evil Pedro is in the process of haranguing his crew because of their fear of the ‘Sea Devil’ when our doe-eyed heroine, Gutiere, enters the scene. Disgusted with Pedro’s advances (and knowing full well that her fathers debts to Pedro mean that she will have to marry him as compensation), Gutiere dives into the water, claiming she’s going to swim to shore.
Instead, she nearly drowns:

Ichthyander, our amphibious young hero, sees Gutiere while he’s frolicking about with the sea horses. He instantly falls in love with her, rescues her by flipping her up into Pedro’s waiting boat, and then he proceeds to brood over her while Pedro takes the credit for her rescue. Part of this brooding love involves Ichthyander mooning about in his father’s house while pondering over this hilarious ‘wet dream’ sequence:

Come frolick beneath the waves with me, Gutiere!
Alas, trouble ensues. Ichthyander is no longer happy living a solitary life in the sea — so he tracks Gutiere down, it’s love at first sight, and Pedro is none too happy about it. He manages to abduct Ichthyander, takes him to sea and forces him to dive for pearls (Oh, poor Ichthyander!) Not to fear! Dr. Father comes to the rescue in the most outstanding 1960s submarine ever created! Pedro retaliates by getting Dr. Father and Amphibian Man arrested. The jailers keep Ichthyander in a water tank while he is incarcerated, which subsequently ruins his ‘air-breathing’ lungs!
Oh no!

What will happen to our young hero? Have they gotten him back to the sea in time?

You’ll have to watch it to find out!


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