The Sky Calls (1959)

Like most soviet films of the period (and I watched the original version), in has no action whatsoever. The plot is stilted as statues at the People’s Economy Achievements Exhibition in Moscow, and the story drags its feet to no end. It is a typical tableau vivant aimed at kicking imperialist America one more time, and at showing Russians (but mostly Ukrainians, as the film was done at the infamous Dovzhenko Studios, legendary for its spectacularly bad productions) at their best and foremost.

However, this propaganda poster about how Soviets and Americans tried to prove to each other whose penis extender—pardon me, phallic symbol—is better, racing each other to Mars, of all places, is nicely illustrated with analog FX. The music is abominable, and is in place only in the scene of “space madness” of the one “bad American” they let out into space. The dialogue is absurdist and as ridiculous as the gadgetry shown. More than anything else, it reminds me of the old Chapayev joke: —Pet’ka, the apparatus. —Six, Vasily Ivanovich. —Six what? —Apparatus what? In some sense, it’s just as silly as Gravity. Look how much time passed, and what has changed?

Nevertheless, content-wise, the film’s narrow-minded positivism and typical soviet jingoism is set off by one truly Pynchonian twist, and you can appreciate it if you read Gravity’s Rainbow. The film has its own Gottfried, and there is the Gottfried glorious moment there. A-and Gottfried’s name in the film is Grigory.