We turn to Russia for the next entry on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list. Although technically, I wouldn’t call this a science fiction film, I’d call of it more of a fantasy romance adventure…
The film is based on a popular novel written in 1928 by Aleksandr Belyayev and the two able directors, Vladmir Chebotaryov and Gennadi Kazansky have turned it into a gorgeously lush production, filmed on the Crimean sea, the story revolves around Ichthyander (meaning fish man in Greek) played by Vladimir Koenev.
It seems his father, the brilliant scientist and surgeon Dr. Salvatore (Nikolai Simonov), who also happens to have a home/laboratory with a wicked bubble elevator, monkeys, hidden doorways and personal submarine, had to implant hills into his son’s body to save his life.
Now, Ichthyander cavorts about the sea in a spangled costume, goggles and a really bad hat.
Stories arise about a Sea Devil, and Don Pedro (Mikhail Kozakov) is intent on two things… capturing the Sea Devil to exploit his abilities to move from rich to fantastically rich, and marry the lovely Gutiere (Anastasiya Vertinskaya) – mainly to have her as a possession.
Learning of Pedro’s intention while aboard his ship, Gutiere jumps into the water to make for shore, calling to her father (who is equally interested in giving his daughter to Pedro – he’ll be well off) tp send her things ashore.
She doesn’t get very far before she is stalked by a shark. Pedro clambers aboard a rowboat to save her, but it is Ichthyander who saves her, vanquishing the shark, and recovering her from the ocean floor.
It’s love at first sight for fish boy, and he decides to head into town, something his father has sought to keep him separated from since he was a child, in search of Gutiere.
The film, as mentioned, is lush to look at, and the underwater photography is top-notch. It has all the production value of a Hollywood feature made at the same time, but, it also decides not to go for the Hollywood ending, which works to its benefit.
The end of the movie leaves questions in the ar about Salvatore’s fate, not to mention Ichthyander’s lonely fate.
I quite like seeing Ichthyander and Gutiere together, they make a very likable couple trapped in circumstances seemingly beyond their control, both emotional and physical.
Almost halfway through the film, poor Gutiere is married to Pedro, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, as the film shows a scene of her barricading herself in their bedroom, moving the dresser to block the door, and piling it high with any furniture she can get her hands on, to keep Pedro away from her.
There are a number of fun moments – Ichthyander wandering about town looking for his love and diving into a fountain, giving away a fish seller’s wares because he doesn’t understand why he is so greedy to keep them all for himself.
That’s been the beauty of watching some of these older science fiction films, a number of them just wouldn’t work today, even if they were updated for the time, but they are still good fun all the same.
Have you seen this one? It’s kind of like a Russian version of Aquaman crossed with The Little Mermaid! I hadn’t even heard of it until I came across it on the list!