In The Dust Of The
Sound: C+ Extras: C+ Film: C
By the mid-1970s, any war between Hollywood and Britain
against the East Bloc countries in the field of Science Fiction motion picture
and TV production was over and in a sign of things to come, East Bloc
production had failed to compete in profound ways. Though some productions were still coming out of the Soviet
Union’s Mosfilm/Sovexport unit, including simple science space films, the
ideological battle was finished and to think Star Wars had not even
arrived yet. Gottfried Kolditz’s In
The Dust Of The Stars was issued in 1976 and became the last of four DEFA
Studio’s entries in to the genre. After
watching it, I could see why.
The film gets to an interesting and promising start with a
pre-credit sequence and a beautifully haunting if odd vocal theme song, but
something interesting was expected since writer/director Kolditz was behind the
70mm Sci-Fi film Signals – A Space Adventure back in 1970. This time, he was shooting in 35mm, but the
idea was to do an outright adventure more competitive with what was coming out
of the U.S. & U.K. to keep up. As a
result, most of the women look so much like Barbara Bain from Space: 1999
that lawyers for Bain and Sir Lew Grade might have sent cease & desist
orders had East Germany not been Communist.
Akala (Jana Brejchova) even looks like her more than a bit, though the
female members of ABBA could find some mirror images themselves. As for the men, the further the film goes on,
the wackier they look. Then some
dancing women arrive that make one wonder if the producers were trying to
create the anti-Zardoz, playing against John Boorman’s bold 1973 Sci-Fi
classic about the human race, evolution and civilization.
If this film is as anti-American as previous films The
Silent Star and Eolomea (both reviewed elsewhere on this site), then
just its efforts to have people from one conformist civilization land up on a
planet with crazy cult-like conformists on another led by the bearded madman
Zonk (yes, you read that right) controlling the “party girls” and the weird
ways of this place. TEM 4 has sent out
a distress signal they did not expect to get a reply to, let alone a visit, but
spaceship Cyrno has arrives and craziness will ensue.
Of course, unlike the previous films which have just dated
badly, oddly and represent failed ideologies and propaganda, this film is just
a bizarre, dated, oddly repressive and repressed version of even the lowest
budget Sci-Fi TV of the time. It may be
on film and even have its amusing share of female nudity, as the obviously
male-created production becomes even campier than you’d expect, it is not that
scientific as it purports to be, boasting an actual doctor as advisor in its
Instead, as soon as the ship arrives on the planet, it
looks more like a costume party than anything akin to solid science-based
Science Fiction. Though the end of the
film could be taken as possibly asking for the need for Socialism as the answer
for any civilizations ills, the film is so lopsided and inevitably idiotic that
any such message is lost in the confusion and fiasco that is this wacky
film. No wonder DEFA and the East
German government pulled the plug on the genre. The actors were trying to be serious, which makes it al the
funnier, but it lands up being no more scientific than Space Academy, Jason
Of Star Command or Ark II.
If only they were on DVD too, but maybe soon.
The letterboxed 1.85 X 1 image is not anamorphically
enhanced as back of the box’s text tries to claim. Furthermore, if you zoom in with a 16 X 9 set, you will cut into
the English Captions. The Dolby Digital
2.0 is monophonic, unlike the previous multi-channel stereo efforts from DEFA
in the genre. Whether this was
originally stereophonic, we could not confirm at press time, but we can say
that it is a shame that Karl Ernst-Sasse’s score was not as intriguing as the
title song, sung in German by a female vocal group or one uncredited young lady
doing overdubs and backing vocals for her own work. For the record, the title song is called Das Licht and is
performed by Ruth Hohmann & Erbe-Chor and seems to be far out of place
versus the rest of the film and even much of its score.
Extras include a good interview with one of the directors
of photography, stills, text bio/filmographies for director Kolditz and actress
Brejchova, trailers for all three of the four DEFA Sci-Fi films First Run has
issued separately (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and in a boxed set that
includes The Silent Star and Eolomea, and an excellent text essay
about East German Science Fiction literature worth your time.
In The Dust Of The Stars may not be great Science
Fiction, but it is the amusing end of an era worth catching, though we
recommend you see the other film first and all in chronological order.
- Nicholas Sheffo