The Russian heritage for Ridley Scott's Prometheus?
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Was the man George Lucas called 'The Godfather of Star Wars' also the grand-father of the Alien franchise..?
Over at the Prometheus Forums is an interesting post and set of picture-comparisons by the poster 'Lethal_Mutation', in which it's suggested that the space-suits in Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, released in early June of this year, derive a lot of tech-DNA from a 1962 Soviet science-fiction film called Planeta Bur (aka Planet of the Storms, Planet of Storms, Planet of Tempests, and Storm Planet, among many others).
Lethal_Mutation (those of us who don't speak Russian will have to trust him on this) has translated part of a rather aggrieved article from a popular Russian Prometheus blog...
It appears that the design of the Prometheus spacesuits is not original but based on spacesuits from the USSR developed in the early 1960's. Spacesuits of a similar design were first shown in the 1961 Soviet science fiction film, Planet of the Storms directed by Paul Klushantsev...It was purchased by the American studio, Roger Corman Productions...Corman re-edited the movie thus cutting out a large number of scenes. In 1965, Corman released the revised version under the title, Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet...
Okay, before we all acknowledge that Ridley Scott and his Prometheus art department are not only channelling the original Alien (1979) suits created by John Mollo (derived from the conceptual work of the late Moebius), but also a Forbidden Planet-style 1950s vibe, and that the etymology of 'B'-movie SF design is so complicated as to be considered a 'melting pot' from which elements of both the original Alien story and its design are hard to extricate...read on a little.
It's not just the space-suits either, as we'll see shortly. The 'Russian connection' seems to be an unusually strong strand in the DNA of the Alien franchise...and arguably that of Prometheus. The original Russian post continues...
In 1968, Corman released the film, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, which was essentially a second reedited version of Journey to the Prehistoric Planet.
Planet of the Storms director, Paul Klushantsev may not be recognizable to the (Russian) general public, but among film critics, he's known as the founder of Russian science fiction film shorts. He is also fairly well known in the west. For example, both Kubrick and Spielberg were influenced by his work. During his visit to the USSR during perestroika, George Lucas called Klushantsev, "the godfather of Star Wars".
In 1992, Robert Skotak1 (special effects director of Terminator and Aliens) specifically sought out Paul Klushantsev in St. Petersburg. Klushantsev gave Skotak descriptions, photos and drawings that illustrated dozens of his movie stunt technology. Skotak used some of Klushantxev's stunt techniques for the filming of the movie Titanic. In the photo below, you can compare costumes from Prometheus to those from Planet of the Storms. There's little doubt that [Noomi] Rapace and company are sent to conquer space in modernized Soviet spacesuits2.
Well, there's some doubt - but there's also a significant resemblance. The upper of the two above photo comparisons is the most striking. What's more interesting is how the source articles skip over the rather important interstitial Alien movies (1979-1997), since the general design is also relevant to the suits in the original movie.
The production designers on Planeta Bur were V. Aleksandrov and M. Tsybasov. The film itself deals with a stranded Russian landing party on Venus, comprised of six men, a woman and a robot - an almost identical configuration to Alien, incidentally (which had 4 men, 2 women and an android). In terms of conflict and genre, it's probably nearer to relatively recent 'pure' sci-fi films such as Contact (1997) and Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars (2000).
Going beyond space-suits, Lethal_Mutation also provides another striking visual comparison between Soviet hardware (real, this time) and that of Prometheus, in the form of the GAZ-4905 - otherwise known as the Soviet BTR-70 troop transport, developed in the late 1960s and entering active service in the Soviet military in 1972.
On the evidence of the photos, It seems that Prometheus truly is invoking the 'golden age' of sci-fi - and the cold war too. But all the talk from Ridley Scott and other pundits about the deep philosophical nature of this new and more-or-less (we are told) xenomorph-free movie are rather defused by delighted quotes from the Prometheus actors in various magazines that they actually had something 'to fight' on-set. Combine that with the currently super-critical issue of Scott's negotiations to keep Prometheus a 'hard-hitting' SF horror in the face of the need for a PG13 rating to justify the film's budget, and perhaps SF purists had better not expect anything quite as esoteric as The Day The Earth Stood Still 3.
1 Robert Skotak (along with brother Dennis) is a VFX legend from the photochemical era and beyond, and his Russian field trip seems to have been in aid of a two-part article he wrote with Lynn Barker called Klushantsev: Russia's Wizard of Fantastika, which appeared in American Cinematographer in 1994.
Skotak got his break in movies (along with Aliens director James Cameron) from above-quoted 'B'-movie king Roger Corman - who, incidentally, was within 24 hours of signing a contract in 1977 to make Alien as a low-budget SF horror when Fox, at the last minute, gave Alien creators Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusett the call they'd been waiting so long for.
2 Though this particular EVA prototype never actually made it into space, it does seem to have made it into movies, and particularly into the general style of the Alien franchise:
3 The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) is one of the few 'classic' SF films Ridley Scott is quoted by Alien producer Ivor Powell as liking - as Scott has himself admitted to being more influenced by Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) in regard to Alien than any other 'B'-level genre product
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