For the Love of Film 2015 Film Preservation Blogathon - Aelita

Ferdy on Films is again one of the hosts of the For the Love of Film preservation blogathon.  The theme this time around is sci-fi. Be sure to visit our host blogger Ferdy on Films to check out the excellent posts by some really fine film bloggers!   Blast Off! 

More importantly!  You MUST donate, $1, $5, $50, any dollar amount will do some good to help save and preserve another film.  

My contribution is a musing on Aelita Queen of Mars (1924) a Soviet-Sci-Fi extravaganza.  Sadly, life, visitors from overseas and several illnesses back to back kept me from watching the film again. This post is not at all what I initially intended!

I first saw Aelita at the Castro Theater in the 1990's during one of the film festivals.  I *think* it was the SF International Film Festival.  Dennis James played the film with his own score on the organ and a vintage theremin.  I wish I could remember the name of his percussionist, but, dammit I am old! 

It was a fabulous evening at the movies.  Dennis studied under Clara Rockmore (student and the very best artist to wield a theremin) and his score was magnificent.  A showman always, I remember the score better than I do the actual plot of the film!  

The film is entirely Soviet with enough propaganda for any commrade.  After all, the film begins with strange messages from out space and no other nation has the guts and where-with-all to make the effort by the ever glorious Soviet Republic! That and a thrwarted romance or two.  It is a must see!

This film is also a triumph of incredible expressionistic and wacky design.  With settings on Mars, angular and massive, you can spend hours ignoring the themes and stories and just wallow in the details.  The stills here do not do the film justice.  You simply MUST see the costumes in movement.

It is one of the early science fiction films to venture out in space and visit alien life.  Well, so it was 22 years after Georges Melies A Trip to the Moon (also pretty darn spectacular). 

To watch Aelita, it's not on DVD presently in the US.  It had been previously released by KINO on VHS.  Not a great way to see the film, but here is a youtube of the KINO release.  Let's hope Flicker Alley will release it anew in conjunction with David Shepard.

To further whet your appetite, here are some stills and screen grabs.  Just imagine if this were all that were left of this marvelous film?  This is why your donation to the National Film Preservation Foundation during this blogathon, or any other of the 365 days a year are needed.  If we had only stills to remind us and wonder about this film, what a loss it would be.  Sadly, so much of the world cinematic heritage is lost forever.  Every day new discoveries are made in archives across the globe.  But, it is money that drives the wheels of restoration.  Please do your part to help!


This is on my to-watch list! I've not had a chance to catch any of its local screenings, so it's great to know there are some online options. I find the design elements in the stills you shared intriguing, and I'll be prepared for the propaganda now. Thanks for the post!
Anonymous said…
A live score played on a theremin by a student of Clara Rockmore's? Incredible! I love her recordings.

Aelita is a clunky sort of film, but I have a soft spot for it. THe Mars scenes are a lot of fun.
Joe Thompson said…
Thank you, Donna. I especially enjoyed your impassioned plea for film preservation. The film, I could take or leave.

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