Gosti iz galaksije; AKA Visitors from the Galaxy
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DIRECTED BY: Dusan Vukotic
FEATURING: Zarko Potocnjak, Ksenia Prohaska, Lucie Zulová
PLOT: An aspiring science fiction writer finds he has materialized the aliens from his long-gestating novel, including a space monster.
COMMENTS: Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy is a curious artifact from nowhere. Or at least, from nowhere that exists anymore: a co-production between Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, two countries that have since splintered into bits, produced under a vanished political schema.
So perhaps its not entirely surprising that Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy is like a movie that might have been itself created by aliens. The conditions that produced it—Iron Curtain envy of Western science fiction spectacles like Star Wars, and a desire to put their own Slavic spin on the genre—evaporated decades ago. But with its mishmash of tones and the reckless absurdity of its plotting, Arkana was probably still an oddball even in its own day. Let’s examine the evidence….
It begins as a sort of sitcom, sans the laughs. Robert is an aspiring science fiction author who plots endlessly, dictating into his tape recorder while wearing a toy cosmonaut helmet. His wife Biba feels neglected, and she and his relatively wacky neighbors—a photographer, his overbearing mother, and their furball dog—constantly interrupt his attempts to work. He’s also obliged to spend time with Biba’s similarly wacky family, including a headphone-wearing pop-music obsessed little sister-in-law and a blind accordion playing grandpa. It’s not funny, but the setup does establish a tone as a gentle, G-rated comedy before the first plot development: the characters from Robert’s long-gestating novel, a female android named Andra (who looks a little like a sexy C3PO) and two blond space children, contact their author via tape recorder. You see, from childhood Robert has been able to materialize the things he imagines in his mind, an ability which barely surprises his physician (who diagnoses him with “tellurgy” after Robert explains how, as an infant, he gave his widowed father big boobs so he could breastfeed to his heart’s content).
From that revelation onward, Arkana accelerates the crazy: villagers decide the safest way to approach the aliens is for everyone to approach them in the nude. Robert and Andra engage in some weird android/human sex stuff in front of psychedelic green screens. A space brat uses his eye lasers to turns Biba into a pocket-sized metal cube, a development which does not seem to amaze or upset anyone as much as it probably should. Finally, the large-snouted, slithery-tongued, slime-and-flame-spewing alien space monster (designed by none other than Jan Svankmajer!) shows up at Biba’s family dinner and massacres most of the party while grandpa plays the accordion!
So there it is: a light, kid-friendly sci-fi satire with lots of gratuitous nudity and decapitated heads thrown into soup bowls. The effects are simple but abundant, with lots of glowing blue space balls and fingers shooting lime-green laser beams, scored to synthesizer noises the subtitle track helpfully describes as “science fiction sounds.” They resemble American TV shows of the period like “Battlestar Galactica” or “Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century.”
Despite all of this apparent madness, Arkana is not seriously weird; it’s not serious at all. There are no consequences, since anything bad that happens can be reversed by the push of a robotic panel accompanied by some helpful science fiction sounds. With its mixture of innocence, spectacle, and a little taste of naughtiness, it seems aimed at teenage boys: something that, with a little cultural translation, could have fit into the catalogues American B-movie outfits of the period likeNew World Pictures or ‘s Full Moon Pictures. Instead, it plays like a sci-fi sitcom made by actual aliens.
Deaf Crocodile’s 2023 Blu-ray release includes a commentary track by Samm Deighan and five fairly surreal animated shorts from director : Dusan Vukotic, including “Surogat,” which won the Short Animated Film Oscar in 1962.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
(This movie was nominated for review by Devon, who called it “a bizarro sci-fi comedy.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)