American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre Presents...
Making Movie History for Over 80 Years!

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Series Curated by:

Alla Verlotsky, Robert Skotak and Dennis Bartok.

Introduction and descriptions written by Kent Jones, Robert Skotak and Dennis Bartok.

Special Thanks to: Brandon Maurice Williams, Gwen Deglise, Robert Dekker, Karen Shakhnazarov, Sergey Lazaruk, Nikolay Borodachev, Mikhail Kosirev and Chris D. Sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts.


SOLD OUT SCREENINGS: There will be a waiting line for Sold Out screenings. Tickets often become available at the door the night of an event.

Sold out programs will be indicated here if sold out 24 hours in advance of screening date.



All guests are subject to availability. The Cinematheque will offer a refund due to guest cancellations only IF the refund transaction is complete PRIOR to the start of the show.

Tickets available 30 days in advance. Tickets are $9 general admission unless noted otherwise.
SCHEDULE (by series)
SCHEDULE (by date)
24-Hour Information: 323.466.FILM
Contact Us
The American Cinematheque is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization.
The Film Programs of the American Cinematheque are presented at the magnificently renovated, historic 1922 Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.
Photo Credit: Randall Michelson. Detail of Egyptian Theatre Ceiling.

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<<< October 19 - 25, 2006 >>>

From The Tsars To The Stars: A Journey Through Russian Fantastik Cinema


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This series is an Egyptian Theatre Exclusive!


Wind demons and crystal palaces … Shimmering aquatic gill-men and limitless vistas of outer space … For over eight decades Russian cinema has had an inspired tradition of filmmaking that encompasses Science Fiction, Folkloric Fantasy and Horror, producing stunningly beautiful and wildly entertaining movies which are only now being seen by American audiences in their original form. Beginning with the pioneering animation of Ladislas Starewitch, through the silent classics AELITA: QUEEN OF MARS and A SPECTRE HAUNTS EUROPE and on to the astonishing visions of master filmmakers Alexander Ptushko and Pavel Klushantsev in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Russian genre cinema was amazingly colorful, technologically advanced and thematically ambitious. During the Cold War, sci-fi elements dominated, in keeping with the Sputnik era space race between Russia and the U.S. More than a decade before 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, visual-effects pioneers Pavel Klushantsev and Mikhail Koryukov created breathtaking visions of man's voyage to outer space in such films as THE HEAVENS CALL and PLANET OF STORMS, drawing upon the latest technical advances to present a highly detailed and optimistic view of space exploration. And in 1962, Kazansky and Chebotarev’s charming THE AMPHIBIAN MAN, a cross between Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen, became one of the biggest smash hits in Soviet history. Ironically, many of these astonishing works did end up on Western screens -- albeit almost mauled beyond recognition. At the height of the Cold War, enterprising U.S. producers like Roger Corman purchased Soviet sci-fi films at bargain prices and gave them to up-and-coming American directors including Francis Ford Coppola, Curtis Harrington and Peter Bogdanovich to re-fashion via newly shot footage. With added scenes of space vampires and tentacled monsters, the Russian films were released in American drive-ins with titles like VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN and QUEEN OF BLOOD - ! This series will feature prints of the legendary Russian originals (with English subtitles), seen for the very first time in the U.S.

This series examines the history of Russian Fantastika with rare screenings of many of the aforementioned films as well as Alexander Ptushko’s delightful RUSLAN AND LUDMILA in a brand new print, Aleksandr Rou’s classic adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s Christmas story, EVENINGS ON A FARM NEAR DIKANKA, a newly restored print of Richard Viktorov’s TO THE STARS BY HARD WAYS, and Karen Shakhnazarov’s remarkable, black comic meditation on Soviet history during the Perestroika era, ZERO CITY. It’ll be revelatory, it’ll be mind-expanding, and it’ll be fun. This series is presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Seagull Films and the American Cinematheque in collaboration with Concern Mosfilm, Russian State Archive Gosfilmofond and M-Film Studio. Generous support is provided by the Russian State Agency for Culture and Cinematography, George Gund III and Iara Lee and Titra California Inc.



Thursday, October 19 - 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

RUSLAN AND LUDMILA (RUSLAN I LYUDMILA), 1972, 159 min. Dir. Alexander Ptushko. A mad, enchanted combination of THE WIZARD OF OZ, DIE NIEBELUNGEN and THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T, this is quite possibly Ptushko's greatest masterpiece, an epic two-part fantasy packed with surreal, grotesque characters - a sorcerous midget with a 50-foot beard, a demonic, hunchbacked witch - and jaw-dropping set pieces such as the midget’s shimmering crystal palace, tormented figures chained inside a cavern, and a decapitated giant’s head rising up like a statue on Easter Island. Based on a poem by Pushkin, Ptushko’s final film as director follows the epic adventures of Ruslan (Valery Kosints) as he struggles to recover the feisty, resourceful bride (Natalia Petrova) kidnapped on their wedding night by the impish sorcerer Tchernomor.

COSMIC VOYAGE (KOSMICHESKIY REIS), 1936, 70 min. Dir. Vasili Zhuravlev. The first Soviet sci-fi movie since the spectacularly popular AELITA: QUEEN OF MARS in 1924, this effects-filled film tells the story of Pavel (Sergei Komarov, who also appeared in Pudovkin’s DESERTER and Barnet’s OUTSKIRTS), a renegade space traveler. His voyage to the moon - he’s fed up with the restrictions imposed by the "Moscow Institute for Interplanetary Travel" - offers a startlingly realistic technological prophecy. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a seminal space-travel theoretician, served as the production’s science consultant (he was also the author of the film’s source novel, Outside the Earth) and drew up more than 30 detailed blueprints for the "rocketplane" featured in the film. There may be a rocket named after Stalin, but the film still reeks of anti-doctrinal individualism, doubtlessly accounting for Ukrainian-born Soviet filmmaker Zhuravlev’s sporadic post-COSMIC VOYAGE output. Silent with Russian intertitles and English translation, with pre-recorded score.



Friday, October 20 - 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

THE AMPHIBIAN MAN (CHELOVEK AMFIBIYA) 1961, 95 min. Dir. G. Kazansky & V. Chebotare. One of the most beloved of all Russian films (65 million admissions in 1962, which roughly translates into 520 million current American box-office dollars), this tall tale of a handsome, gilled mutant named Ichtyandr (Vladimir Korenov) whose father has replaced his faulty lung with the gills of a young shark, unfolds in a very oddly conceived coastal locale among pearl divers, rogues and old salts. When Ichtyandr saves a local fisherman’s daughter (Anastasiya Vertinskaya) from a shark attack, he falls in love with her and wants to give up the water for a life on land. Perhaps the ultimate product of the late 50’s-early 60’s "thaw," this enchanting hybrid of The Little Mermaid and THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON surreally brims with Latin song-and-dance numbers and Russian stars in brownface (shot on beautiful Cuban locations) that must be seen to be believed. Korenov and Vertinskaya (who went on to play Ophelia in Kozintsev’s HAMLET and the Princess in Bondarchuk’s WAR AND PEACE) both became huge Soviet stars as a result of his film’s massive success.

EVENINGS ON A FARM NEAR DIKANKA (VECHARA NA KHUTORE BLIZ DIKANKI), 1961, 69 min. Dir. Aleksandr Rou. This glorious excursion into Technicolor fantasy (with cartoon elements) is one of the most beautiful in the rich strain of Russian cinematic fantasy, and it is also very true to the spirit of the Russian/Ukrainian master Nikolai Gogol. The tale of a blacksmith (Aleksandr Khvylya) from a darkened village sent on an endless quest on Christmas Eve by his beloved Oksana (L. Myznikova), ending in St. Petersburg and with a stop along the way for a conference with the devil, has been filmed a few times throughout Russian film history, but never with so much charm and such a rich feeling for the satiric, folkloric power of the source material. A classic.



Saturday, October 21 - 6:00 PM

STALKER, 1979; 163 min. Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. A sci-fi tale that unwinds in the environs of the soul takes the form of a nightmarish quest for nothing less than truth itself. A writer (Anatoli Solonitsin) and a scientist (Nikolai Grinko) follow a shaven-headed "stalker" (Aleksandr Kadjanovsky) into forbidden territory, a dangerous wilderness known as the Zone. Tarkovsky forces - or perhaps allows - "reality" to yield up abstract images of startling originality, and his vision of landscape is nothing less than truly mystical - these are places to be found only in humankind's spiritual Baedeker. On top of everything else, Tarkovsky was a director who truly grasped the aesthetic power of color, and this unforgettable Pilgrimage is bathed in eerie sepia hues.



Saturday, October 21 - 9:30 PM

Double Feature:

PLANET OF STORMS (PLANETA BUR) 1961, 83 min. Dir. Pavel Klushantsev. Upon arrival on Venus, a team of cosmonauts finds a hostile environment filled with furious volcanoes and sundry prehistoric beasts, including a cackling, swooping pterodacyl. Working from a dullish source, director Klushantsev went his 1958 Venusian cosmonaut epic ROAD TO THE STARS one better with this Soviet classic, overpowering the party-line dialogue with excellent poetic effects. PLANET OF STORMS was subsequently bought by Roger Corman, who used Klushantsev’s footage as the basis of Curtis Harrington’s 1965 VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET and later incorporated footage from the film in Harrington’s 1966 QUEEN OF BLOOD. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Corman ran the original film through the recycling spin cycle one more time with 1968’s Mamie Van Doren vehicle VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF THE PREHISTORIC WOMEN, which was the directorial debut of Peter Bogdanovich, no less.

THE HEAVENS CALL (NEBO ZOVET) 1959, 80 min. Dir. Mikhail Karyukov and Aleksandr Kozyr. This tale of two rival space probes, headed for Mars and the moon, only to crash-land on a nearby asteroid, features spectacular space scapes, as well as a prescient visualization of the Earth’s orbit cluttered by man-made satellites. Roger Corman helped himself to the film’s plot and footage for the 1963 opus BATTLE BEYOND THE SUN, re-edited and reconfigured into a drive-in movie by an ambitious young director named Thomas Colchert. These days, he goes by the name of Francis Ford Coppola.

Preceded by the short: "The Cameraman’s Revenge" (Mest kinematograficheskogo operatora), 1912, 12 min. Silent. Dir. Ladislas Starewitch. An early fantastic classic from the great animation pioneer, about adultery in the insect kingdom - a married beetle is filmed in a compromising situation by a jealous grasshopper; the beetle is later compromised when he takes his (also adulterous!) wife to the movies and sees the final results!



Sunday, October 22 - 4:00 PM

A SPECTRE HAUNTS EUROPE (PRIZRAK BRODIT PO YEVROPE) 1922, 94 min. Silent with live piano accompaniment. Dir. Vladimir Gardin. The emperor of an imaginary nation goes for a stroll and meets a shepherdess. He finds love, but he also finds torment at the hands of those he’s oppressed. The title may come from the opening line of "The Communist Manifesto," but SPECTRE is in fact one of the earliest adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Masque of the Red Death," preceded only by Fritz Lang and Otto Riepert’s THE PLAGUE IN FLORENCE made three years earlier. This beautifully atmospheric film was shot in Crimean locations by the great cameraman Boris Savalyev, who would later shoot Dovzhenko’s ZVENIGORA. With Vasili Kovrigin (co-star of DESERTER by Pudovkin).

Preceded by the short: "Interplanetary Revolution" (Mezhplanetnaya Revolutsiya), 1924; silent; 9 min. (fragment). Dirs. Z. Komissarenko, U. Merkulov and N. Hodataev. So successful was AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS upon its release that it earned its own cartoon spoof in the same year! It doesn’t just capitalize on AELITA’s popularity, however - it serves as a mild political corrective. In 1924, the year of Lenin’s death, the Communist Party began to distance itself from the "world revolution" doctrine; therefore the notion of the rising Martian proletariat was just past due, and safe to ridicule.



Sunday, October 22 - 6:30 PM

SOLARIS (SOLYARIS) 1972, 165 min. Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. Scientist Chris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to a space station whose inhabitants have been performing a series of experiments in an attempt to make contact with the strange planet known as Solaris. When he arrives, he believes that most of the crew has gone mad, until he’s visited by an apparition: his former lover Hari (Natalia Bondarchuk), who had committed suicide long ago. Thus he learns the secret of Solaris and its ocean, which creates "copies" of real people, "simulacra made not of ordinary matter but of neutrinos which are modelled by the thinking ocean out of the human subconscious. They are a physical embodiment of all the temptations, desires and suppressed guilt that torment the human mind" (Maya Turovskaya). Recently remade by Steven Soderbergh with George Clooney as Kelvin, this original version of SOLARIS was judged harshly by its own creator. But then Tarkovsky judged every film he ever made harshly. This may be the most emotionally devastating science fiction film ever made. Based on the novel by the great Stanislaw Lem, who died this March at the age of 84 and to whom we pay tribute with these screenings.



Wednesday, October 25 - 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

TO THE STARS BY HARD WAYS (CHEREZ TERNII K ZVEZDAM) 1985/2001, 118 min. Dir. Richard Viktorov. The Starship Pushkin, boldly going where no man has gone before, finds an abandoned vessel in deep space filled with the decaying bodies of humanoids. There is, however, one surviving member of the crew, a gynoid named Niya (an eye-popping performance by Yelena Metyolkina), who seeks the help of earthlings to restore her now severely polluted home planet of Dessa to its natural splendor. Richard Viktorov’s collaboration with sci-fi writer Kir Bulychyov has undeniable camp appeal, with its abundance of mod leisure-wear outfits, cosmic mercenaries and bionic women (not to mention a humanoid midget capitalist, the villain responsible for running Dessa into the ground), and it was pitched to the 1982 Soviet teen audience as skillfully as the STAR TREK film series was pitched to its American counterpart. However, this deliriously emotional movie (known to Mystery Science Theater fans in its HUMANOID WOMAN form) is also visually ravishing and, in its own unique way, deeply affecting. We will be screening Viktorov’s original version.

ZERO CITY (GOROD ZERO), 1988, 103 Min. Dir. Karen Shakhnazarov.One of the key films of the Perestroika era. A Moscow engineer named Varakin (beautifully played, in an increasingly bewildered deadpan performance, by Leonid Filatov) arrives in a small town, with instructions to change the size of a locally manufactured air conditioner part. At the company office he is welcomed by a naked secretary. Soon, he finds himself sitting down to lunch. The dessert arrives, a cake that strongly resembles his own head, baked by a chef who soon shoots himself in the head. With every new encounter, Varakin is sucked into the vortex of a new identity and a strange, new reality. With its images of a burdensome past (Soviet history is crammed into an elaborate diorama exposition thousands of feet below ground, to which Varakin is shepherded) and an indeterminate future, and with its roots in both the folk tale and more modern forms of absurdism, Shakhnazarov’s very funny and very poignantly disorienting film is a real historical touchstone.