Original Czech poster
|Directed by||Jindřich Polák|
|Screenplay by||Pavel Juráček
|Based on||The Magellanic Cloud
by Stanislaw Lem
|Music by||Zdeněk Liška|
|Editing by||Josef Dobřichovský|
|Running time||86 min.|
Ikarie XB-1 is a 1963 Czechoslovak science fiction film directed by Jindřich Polák. It was edited and dubbed into English for release in the USA, where it is known by its alternate title, Voyage to the End of the Universe.
In the year 2163 the starship Ikarie XB-1 (Ikarus XB-1) is sent to the mysterious "White Planet" orbiting the star Alpha Centauri. Travelling at near-light speed, the journey takes around 28 months for the astronauts, although the effects of relativity mean that 15 years will have elapsed on Earth by the time they reach their destination. During the flight the 40-strong multinational crew must adjust to life in space, as well as dealing with various hazards they encounter, including a derelict 20th century spaceship armed with nuclear weapons, a deadly radioactive "dark star" and the mental breakdown of one of the crew, who threatens to destroy the spacecraft.
Ikarie XB-1 was a hit at the 1963 Trieste Science Fiction Film Festival and it is now widely regarded as one of the best Eastern Bloc science fiction films of the era, boasting impressive production design, above-average special effects, a strong ensemble cast and an intelligent screenplay (although much of the subtlety of the original is lost in the English-language version).
While it shows some influence from earlier American ventures such as Forbidden Planet, the film was also influential in its own right—critics have noted a number of similarities between Ikarie XB-1 and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey and it is believed to have been one of the many 'space' genre films that Kubrick screened while researching 2001.
Like several other high-quality Eastern Bloc sci-fi films of the era—e.g. the Soviet film Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms), aka Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet -- Ikarie XB-1 is best known internationally through an edited and English-dubbed version which was given a limited theatrical release in the USA in 1964 by American International Pictures. The AIP version also occasionally screened on television in the USA and other countries at various times over the ensuing years but, apart from its screening at Trieste, the original Czech version was rarely seen in the West until its release on DVD in 2005.
The English-language version of the film (titled Voyage to the End of the Universe), is considered inferior to the original because of the numerous alterations made by AIP. Almost 10 minutes of footage was cut, the names of the cast and staff in the opening credits were Anglicized, the ship's destination was renamed "The Green Planet", and a sub-plot involving the birth of a baby during the voyage was removed. AIP also deleted one of the major plot points of the original version—after the Ikarie crew recover from their life-threatening encounter with the radioactive 'dark star', the crew discover that the ship has been saved from its effects by a force field projected from the White Planet.
The most obvious change was AIP's re-cut of the closing scene, which created an entirely different ending from the original. In the Czech version, as the Ikarie approaches its destination its viewscreen shows the clouds around the White Planet parting to reveal a seemingly endless city of light. For the English version, however, AIP excised the last few seconds and substituted stock aerial footage of New York City. According to reviewer Glenn Erickson, AIP's edits and script changes were intended to create a gimmicky "surprise" ending which reveals that the Ikarie and its crew have come from an alien world and that the "Green Planet" is in fact Earth. Contrary to some Western citations which claim it was made in colour and reduced to monochrome for US release, the original version of the film was shot in black-and-white.
In 2005 Cesky Film released a DVD of the original Czech version of the film with English subtitles and presented in its original Techniscope 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The DVD included the footage removed by AIP from the US version, including the original ending. In 2013 UK company Second Run released a DVD of the original Czech version with English subtitles in a new transfer.
- Ikarie XB-1 at the Internet Movie Database
- Ikarie XB-1 is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Video Vista - Ikarie XB-1 - review by Richard Bowden
- DVD Talk - DVD Savant - Ikarie XB-1 review by Glenn Erickson