This German-French-Soviet film is very much like an episode of Star Trek — with all the well-meaning ham-handedness that implies — only with more grime, blood, and full frontal male nudity.
By the time filming on The Sons of Great Bear was nearing its end, Gojko Mitic, who considered the film a one-off effort on his part, had had it. The actor would later admit to some churlish onset behavior brought on by homesickness and impatience.
An expedition crew — comprised of four women and two men — heads out from the planet Cynro toward the unexplored planet Tem 4 in response to a mysterious distress call. Due to the length of the voyage, many months have passed by the time of their arrival, at which point the conveniently humanoid inhabitants of Tem 4 claim no knowledge of the signal.
It is simply a visual treat, and the amount of imagination apparent in every aspect of its design is a joy to behold, with a story that is solid and economical enough in its construction to easily survive instances of ideological lip service.
But then, Fanck goes and does something like the shot of Johannes outside, smoking a cigarette while sitting on an old wooden fence with the whole of the Alps spreading out behind him, and it pulls you right back in. Silent films trade in images, by necessity, and Fanck manages on many occasions to capture scenes of iconic beauty.
That it never received a theatrical release in America is a no-brainer; distributors would undoubtedly have hit a mental logjam trying to market a movie that looks on the surface like a family film but plays out like an angst-ridden version of The Aristocats as imagined by Eli Roth.
While many fans of B-movie and cult film tend to center their discussion of Franco on his horror and sexploitation (though one could argue that all his films fall into this latter category) output, I tend to be more familiar with his action and espionage films– and keep in mind that, when discussing Jess Franco,…