- Introductory essays by film scholars
- Vintage newsreels
- Artwork and set design galleries
- Biographies of key cast and crew members
- DEFA sci-fi trailer gallery
The DEFA Sci-Fi Collection
DVD | Box Set
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(Aug 23, 2005)
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Newly re-mastered and packed with fascinating bonus materials, THE DEFA SCI-FI COLLECTION features three seminal works from the legendary DEFA film studio:
The Silent Star, Eolomea and In the Dust of the Stars. Always provocative, hugely influential and highly entertaining, these mind-bending stories of space exploration, alien races and utopian dreams (or nightmares) are finally available, unaltered and unedited, in all their space-age glory.
DEFA (Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft) was made up of the state-run studios of the former German Democratic Republic or East Germany. DEFA was headquartered in the legendary UFA Studios of the "film city" of Babelsberg near Berlin and was famous for the work of such artists as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder and Marlene Dietrich. Spanning from 1946 to the 1990s, this body of films represents Europe's largest cohesive national cinema collection.
THE SILENT STAR
A film by Kurt Maetzig, based on Stanislaw Lem's novel The Astronauts. In this celebrated sci-fi classic, a mysterious object from outer space is found in the Gobi desert. An international expedition, dispatched to Venus to decipher the message it contains, discovers it is a declaration of war - on Earth!
The first sci-fi film made in East Germany by the legendary DEFA film studio, The Silent Star is a masterpiece in story, art and set design, and technology and was the forerunner of 2001: A Space Odyssey and, later, Contact. Based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem (who also wrote Solaris) and made during the U.S./U.S.S.R. space race set off by the Sputnik launch, The Silent Star is now finally available unedited and unaltered in this digitally remastered version.
IN THE DUST OF THE STARS
A film by Gottfried Kolditz. After a six year voyage from Earth provoked by an urgent message for help, the spaceship Cyrno and her crew arrive on the planet TEM 4 ready for action. But the "Temers" deny having sent the message. Before departing, one of the crewman discovers something mysterious going on under the surface of TEM 4. This groovy 70's sci-fi classic, replete with space age costumes, liberal social mores, and a socialist utopian undercurrent, is an enjoyable gem from the legendary DEFA East German film studio. Newly remastered, this version presents the original, unedited film in all its glory.
A film by Hermann Zschoche. A mysterious message - "Eolomea" - is received on Earth from a sector of space. Within three days, eight cargo ships disappear from the sector, and a space station goes silent. What is Eolomea - and who on Earth knows about it?
With shades of Tarkovsky, Kubrick, and even Jess Franco, this striking sci-fi classic from the legendary DEFA film studio features a spectacular space exploration plot grounded in realism the scientists drink and swear, the bureaucrats get in the way, and the space stations are reminiscent of MIR.
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The picture is awesome. Very clear and sharp with good natural colors. I wondered sometimes about the subtitles. I don't speak German, but I do know a very little and I'm not sure if they were always correct. Maybe someone out there who is fluent in German could speak to this. However, I only assume that they must be OK since why go to all the trouble to restore and release lost movies and then fall down on the subtitles?
Anyway, I am very happy with this collection and will update as I watch the others.
Update: I have since watched the other two and am very happy with them also.
In the Dust Of The Stars in some respects fairs worse. Again the underling communist social commentary is front and center but this time some of the scenes border on Surreal if not bizarre. It's worth mentioning the dream-like soundtrack - a classic Krautrock piece complete with a hypnotic reverberating guitar pattern, and a high female voice, which I believe sings - Das licht ist schneller als die dunkle. (The light is faster than the dark).
My favorite of the three is Eolomea made in 1972. The flavor of this film is somewhat reminiscent of the Tarkovsky masterpiece Solaris of the same year. Almost a decade earlier the Czech film Ikarie XB1 achieved a similar atmosphere, like Solaris adapting a story by Stanislaw Lem. While nether Ikarie XB1 or Eolomea come close to Solaris, both have considerable charm. Eolomea does not escape the propaganda machine but has some atmospheric trimming of the time. The unfortunate robot, with the inevitable square head is a forgivable Achilles heal for the time but it is adequately compensated for by the excellent shifting between Earth and Space.
All three films are presented in German with English subtitles. The quality is quite good overall. The weakest transfer is the earliest, SILENT STAR (aka FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS). The transfer is a bit soft and there are some occasional minor color fluctuations around reel changes. It still looks much better than Image's DVD of FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS (the only other 2.35:1 transfer of this title on DVD).
The other two films were released in 1972 and 1976. I had never seen them before and found them interesting.
The SILENT STAR disc was obviously made in cooperation with UMASS, and probably contains most of the same extras that their $185 disc contains!
For fans of Euro Sci-Fi, this is a very interesting collection that I highly recommend.
My only complaint is that it's encoded wrong. The transfer is the full wonderful 2.35 : 1 super widescreen ratio, but it's encoded on the DVD as a 4:3 display with very heavy letterboxing. It's a shame, on a modern 16:9 display the image takes up less than half the screen, showing up as a small window with large black areas on top, bottom, and both sides, first due to the 4:3 format then due to the movie's original 2.35:1 format letterboxed to fit into its wrong 4:3 window. Any attempt to zoom in just shows how little of the disk's bytes are used to actually encode the video, very fuzzy, and zooming cuts off the captions. Such a nice movie so badly encoded, it deserves a nice full format transfer.