Mystery of the Third Planet

Tagged: Film

Russian animated film (1982; vt The Secret of the Third Planet; vt Alice and the Mystery of the Third Planet). Original title Tayna tretyey planety. Based on the novel Puteshestviye Alisy ["Alice's Travels"] (in Devotchka S Zemli omni 1974; vt Alisa's Travels) by Kir Bulychev. Soyuzmultfilm. Directed by Roman Kachanov. Written by Kir Bulychev. Voice cast includes Vladimir Druzhnikov, Nikolai Grabbe, Olga Gromova, Vsevolod Larionov, Vasily Livanov, Pyotr Vishnyakov and Yuri Volyntsev. 48 minutes. Colour.

In 2181 Captain Zelyony (Volyntsev), Professor Seleznyov (Larionov) and his eight-year-old daughter Alice (Gromova) leave Earth to collect rare Alien animals for the Moscow Zoo. The professor's archaeologist friend Gromozeka (Livanov), a friendly six-armed alien of disturbing appearance, suggests the log-books of the famous and heroic Captains Kim (Druzhnikov) and Buran (Grabbe) may contain the location of many exotic specimens. The trio assume the Captains' museum has them, but its curator, Doctor Verkhoftsev (Vishnyakov), is unhelpful.

They travel to another planet to collect one of the birdlike Chatterers, but are told these have been wiped out: the locals show them a picture of the man responsible, Verkhoftsev. However, one survived and they leave with it – but not before Alice is given an Invisibility cap. The Chatterer (Larionov) belonged to Captain Kim and it repeats his distress call, stating he is trapped in the Medusa system. After a brief diversion to assist a Robot planet punished by Verkhoftsev for helping Kim's Chatterer, they head there.

Eventually they land on the system's third planet, whose surface recalls the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (1460-1516). They are captured by Verkhoftsev, who has imprisoned Captain Kim in an attempt to force him to reveal the Absolute Fuel formula (see Power Sources). Alice's invisibility cap helps her escape: Captain Buran and the true Doctor Verkhoftsev now arrive, the villainous version being Shapeshifting pirate Glot from Planet Cutrook. They had met the true Doctor at the Museum, but Seleznyov's enquiries had followed a recent break-in (by Glot), making him wary, and so he had contacted Captain Buran. Alice leads the pair to Glot, who is defeated. Gromozeka appears, his hands waving an assortment of Weapons, demanding that his friends be released, and has to be assured that everyone is safe.

The story relies on too many coincidences to be satisfactory, even for one targeting children (the most egregious being that the surviving Chatterer is actually the one the villains wanted dead). Characterization is a little flat; of the main characters, only the pessimistic Zelyony and the odd Thunderzeka really stand out: what impresses is the colourful, psychedelic animation and incidental invention: a mirror flower whose skin records everything it sees,so as its layers evaporate the viewer sees events running backwards; or the alien Indicator, a box on legs which "understands everything, but can't speak – it only changes colour". There are also some nice moments of Humour. This is a very good film that deserves its cult status.

Two Videogames based on this film were released in 2005. Other adaptions of Bulychev's Alice stories include the animated film Alice's Birthday (2009) and the Russian live-action Television series Guest from the Future (1985; original title Gostya iz budushchego; vt Visitor from the Future); both involve Time Travel. [SP]

links

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.