Universe (Roman Kroitor and Colin Low, 1960) and In the Labyrinth (Roman Kroitor, Colin Low, and Hugh O’Connor, 1967)

NFBAside from being an astonishingly effective and expertly depicted journey through space, Roman Kroitor and Colin Low’s Universe (1960) is probably most celebrated for its connection to Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  This Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning short was a revelation to Kubrick, who purportedly watched nearly every space movie made to that point in preparation for 2001Universe proved that it was possible to depict outer space with complete realism, and Kubrick hired the short’s special effects technician Wally Gentleman as an uncredited special effects supervisor and cast Universe‘s narrator Douglas Rain as the voice of the HAL 9000.  Colin Low was also invited by Kubrick to work on 2001, but the director turned down the offer to work with Roman Kroitor and Hugh O’Connor on the multi-screen documentary collage film, In the Labyrinth (1967), for Expo 67 in Montreal.  In the Labyrinth served as a precursor to the IMAX format developed in part by Kroitor, and the film’s content anticipates the immersive travelogues and spectacular anthropologies of films like Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi Trilogy (1983, 1988, and 2002) and Ron Fricke’s Baraka (1992) and Samsara (2011), although Labyrinth proves even more daring in its formal construction.  A link to In the Labyrinth is included below.

As per the NFB:

A triumph of film art, creating on the screen a vast, awe-inspiring picture of the universe as it would appear to a voyager in space, this film was among the sources used in his 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Realistic animation takes you into far regions of space, beyond the reach of the strongest telescope, past Moon, Sun, and Milky Way into galaxies yet unfathomed.

Click here to watch In the Labyrinth on the NFB website!

In the LabyrinthAs per the NFB:

A film without commentary in which multiple images, sometimes complimentary, sometimes contrasting, draw the viewer through the different stages of a labyrinth.  The tone of the film moves from great joy to wrenching sorrow; from stark simplicity to ceremonial pomp.  It is life as it is lived by the people of the world, each one, as the film suggests, in a personal labyrinth.

In the Labyrinth was first released as a multi-screen presentation for Chamber III of the Labyrinth at Expo 67.  These separate images were integrated into a single strand of film, using a “five-on-one” cinematic technique.

Golden Bat (Hajime Sato, 1966)

WHERE, WHERE, WHERE DOES HE COME FROM, THE GOLDEN BAT?

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddThe strange alien menace Nazo has set the planetoid Icarus on a collision course with the Earth!  Only Doctor Yamatone (Sonny Chiba, The Street Fighter) and his team at the Pearl Research Institute can prevent humanity’s obliteration by destroying Icarus with their Super Destruction Beam Cannon, but they can’t defeat Nazo and his henchmen alone.  Thankfully they have the sworn protection of the Golden Bat, a skull-faced superhero awoken from a 10,000 year-long sleep.  With his Baton of Justice, Golden Bat laughs in the face of danger and leaps where others fear to tread, ready to save mankind from its extraterrestrial threat!

Originally created in 1931 by writer Ichiro Suzuki and illustrator Takeo Nagamatsu, Golden Bat is transported to the Space Age in this low-budget, science fiction masterpiece from Toei.  Director Hajime Sato (Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell) fills the screen with alien bad-guys, super-science laboratories, buzzing laser beams, and plenty of cool ’60s gadgetry.  This early example of tokusatsu entertainment and Toei’s prominent superhero productions is sure to please kids and adults alike!

Special Features:

  • New high definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • New interview with actor Sonny Chiba
  • Golden Bat, the First Superhero, a video essay by Eric P. Nash on the origins of Golden Bat
  • Reversible sleeve with original and commissioned artwork
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Japanese film scholar Chris D., illustrated with historical artwork of Golden Bat

Continue reading

Ikarie XB 1 (Jindrich Polak, 1963)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Ikarie XB 1.

criterion logoJindrich Polák’s pioneering feature Ikarie XB 1 is a cornerstone of modern science fiction cinema.  Based on Stanislaw Lem’s The Magellanic Cloud, this enigmatic film follows a crew of 22nd Century space explorers to their destination, the Alpha Centauri solar system, where they hope to make contact with extraterrestrial life.  On their way, they struggle with the boredom of interstellar travel, meet the dangerous legacy of 20th Century Earth, and battle the effects of a Dark Star’s radiation.  Punctuated by Zdenek Liška’s brashly electronic score and the careful compositions of cinematographers Jan Kalis and Sasa Rasilov, Ikarie XB 1 merges high concept and high art to produce a profoundly influential and highly atmospheric vision of space travel.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored 2K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Isolated score by Zdenek Liška
  • New video tribute from director Ari Folman
  • New interview with film critic Glenn Erickson comparing the film with its American-International cut, retitled Voyage to the End of the Universe
  • Except from a documentary about Stanislaw Lem, the author of the film’s source novel
  • Plus: A booklet featuring a new essay by director Alex Cox, a 1998 interview with director Jindrich Polák by Czech science fiction magazine Ikarie, interviews with Polák’s wife Zuzana Polaková, assistant director Hynek Bocan, actor Radovan Lukavský, and Czech science fiction author and journalist Ondrej Neff.

Continue reading

The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused (George Lucas/The Man Behind the Mask, 1977/2010)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused.

criterion logoA poor orphan working on his uncle’s moisture farm on the remote desert planet Tatooine, Luke Skywalker dreams of becoming a starship pilot like his friend Biggs Darklighter, but when Luke discovers a hidden message for an old hermit, he becomes embroiled in a quest of galactic scale.  Trained in the arcane ways of a lost order of knights by the reclusive Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke, with the help of a robotic duo and a pair of greedy space pirates, must save a princess from the clutches of the maniacal Darth Vader and destroy an evil Empire’s planet-sized weapon, the Death Star.  The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused roughs up George Lucas’ sci-fi classic, using an original 16mm print, unused footage, fearsome digital effects, and other surprising additions to recast it in the spirit of 1970s exploitation cinema.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital master, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Interactive lexicon cataloging incorporated material
  • Interview with George Lucas
  • Audio commentary by faneditor The Man Behind the Mask
  • Roundtable discussion with Robot Chicken co-founder Seth Green, Robot Chicken: Star Wars cowriter Breckin Meyer, actor and faneditor Topher Grace, Slash Film writer Peter Sciretta, and Fanboys director Kyle Newman
  • Fanmixed, a new interview with legal scholar Lawrence Lessig on fanediting, copyright, and piracy

Continue reading

Double Feature Fandom: 2 Grindhouse Fanedits by The Man Behind the Mask

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Double Feature Fandom: 2 Grindhouse Fanedits by The Man Behind the Mask.

criterion logoOriginally conceived as a fan-made double feature re-imagining two classic ’70s blockbusters as B-movie exploitation cinema, The Man Behind the Mask’s JAWS: The Sharksploitation Edit and The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused are presented here as the first authorized, commercially released fanedit features.  These homemade films mix source material with unused footage, new digital effects, original and appropriated music, and audio and visual content from other films to produce a new viewing experience that elaborates on otherwise familiar content.  Considered two of the best regarded and most entertaining edits produced from within fan subculture, The Man Behind the Mask’s Grindhouse Double Feature is a thoroughly contemporary, decidedly nostalgic, assuredly postmodern tribute to 1970s cinema and to a pair of popularly beloved favorites.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital master, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray editions
  • Interactive lexicons cataloging material incorporated into each fanedit
  • Interviews with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg
  • Audio commentaries by faneditor The Man Behind the Mask
  • Roundtable discussions with Robot Chicken co-founder Seth Green, Robot Chicken: Star Wars cowriter Breckin Meyer, actor and faneditor Topher Grace, Slash Film writer Peter Sciretta, and Fanboys director Kyle Newman
  • Fanmixed, a new interview with legal scholar Lawrence Lessig on fanediting, copyright, and piracy
  • From Cornell and Conner to Fanedit.org, film scholar Michael Zryd on the found footage film tradition
  • PLUS:  A booklet of essays by cult film scholars Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton.

Continue reading