Director: Robert Parrish

If you enjoy all of the technical jargon and button pushing that takes places hours before a shuttle launch, then the British production of JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN should find it's way to the top of your wish list without delay. If, however, you would prefer to pass over all of the mechanical terminology and skip ahead to the actual launch, you might want to get a drink and some snacks as you are going to find yourself with a significant amount of time to kill.

A EUROSEC satellite has just discovered a new planet within our own solar system, previously hidden as its orbit around the sun is parallel to that of Earth's. Anxious to man a mission to the recently discovered world, EUROSEC head honcho Jason Webb (Patrick Wymark, BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW) makes a plea to all allied nations to finance such an expedition, to the tune of one billion dollars. Initially reluctant to fit the bill, the U.S. ultimately aggress to cut a check when the existence of such a heavily body is proven to have been leaked to its potential enemies. Top American astronaut Colonel Glenn Ross (Roy Thinnes) is hired to helm the perilous mission, paired with top EUROSEC scientist John Kane (Ian Hendry, REPULSION). After weeks of rigorous training, the two men successfully launch for the new planet, a mission that is to take six weeks, with the first three to be spent in suspended animation. Revived on schedule and on course, the two astronauts make the decision to land on the new planet, as all instruments suggest an environment capable of supporting life. Crash landing on the uncharted rock, the two men are confronted with the stark reality that the duplicate world is not only inhabited but that their surroundings may be more familiar that they had originally anticipated.

Writers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson certainly had a knack for stylish adventures both on Earth and in Outer Space, their dialogue however sounds more amusing when coming from the marionettes popularized on their "Thunderbirds" television show. A fine cast goes virtually unused as the majority of the film's exchanges consist of either banal scientific chatter or unnecessary character development. One scene early on features Colonel Ross striking his wife, played by the eye-catching Lynn Loring, during an argument over the couple’s difficulty in conceiving a child. Setting up a potentially disastrous rift in the couple’s marriage, the incident is practically left for dead, forgotten in a deluge of training sequences and boring internal communications. The film generally portrays Colonel Ross as a stand-up guy, constantly defending his inexperienced co-pilot, but it is hard to like the guy when you have this spousal abuse issue floating around unresolved. Herbert Lom (MARK OF THE DEVIL) in particular is vastly underused, appearing only briefly during the film's opening in a memorable scene involving a spy camera hidden in a fake eyeball.

Apparently in the not too distant future, a major mod revival with overtake every aspect of our lives and totally encompass the aeronautical and space research fields. Bright colored outfits and sleek curved angles dominate the picture, and while it is at times hard to believe a scientist wearing a bright green turtleneck, the look is consistent and the clean shine of it all quickly becomes rather endearing. The models used throughout the picture integrate with their surroundings quite well, although the camera tends to say stagnate too long, allowing one to nitpick the effects' flaws. Several visuals take an obvious cue from its Sci-Fi predecessors though fail to pull any of the same weight. To illustrate the astronauts' stint in suspended animation, we are treated to a beautiful display of psychedelic colors that swirl together, resembling a living tie-dyed t-shirt. While beautiful, the scene falls short in comparison to the breathtaking images from a similar one found in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, released a year prior. Placed side by side, JOURNEY's visuals feel more akin to a PC screen saver.

Originally titled "Doppelgänger," a name that completely gives away the film's "Twilight Zone" twist ending to anyone familiar with the word, JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN would eventually find its way into American homes on VHS, through MCA/UNIVERSAL, and airings on basic cable. The film apparently played on one of Ted Turner's numerous channels at one point in the early 1980s, re-edited so that the story appeared to start on the alternate planet before traveling to Earth. In its intended cut (as seen here), the film is already a little too out there to completely suspend one's disbelief. If such a switch did in fact occur and found its way to broadcast, I can imagine it drove a considerable number of viewers to their medicine cabinet for an aspirin or two.

Debuting on the digital format in 1998 from Image Entertainment, Universal Studios has knocked one out of the park with this most recent presentation. While greatly lacking in supplementary features (there is not even a "scene selection"), the picture quality is pristine. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is spectacular, on hand in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with bright, bold colors and not a hint of grain or debris. English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio is just as impressive with subtitles included in both English and French. (Jason McElreath)