- Directed by Robert Parrish
- August 27, 1969 (US) / October 8, 1969 (UK)
After a mission to study a newly discovered planet apparently ends in apparent failure, one astronaut begins to believe things have taken a very strange turn.
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (known in Europe as Doppelgänger) is that rare older science fiction film which is also well produced. They were aiming for serious rather than falling into the thinking of the time that science fiction was for children. The costuming is great though at times the sets can be rather minimal. There is heavy use of miniatures in this owing to the involvement of the legendary Gerry Anderson.
The story feels like it is a classic Twilight Zone story. The premise of the story revolves around the discovery of a mirror Earth. As a kid I used to have a real issue with the characters on the mirror Earth not talking backwards. It comes from watching one too many cheesy science-fiction cartoons where they would go to a parallel reality/mirror reality and the characters would do that. Not that such a thing makes much sense. However the backwards writing in this film as an adult bothers me because there’s no real logical reason for it.
The story isn’t bad. Just a parallel universe film but in our own universe. As a kid I really enjoyed this despite my erroneous issues with no backwards talking but as an adult I would have been able to swallow the concept a little more if there was a space anomaly for the ship to pass through. What works easily in The Twilight Zone does not go down as easy in a feature film.
Roy Thinnes stars as Colonel Glenn Ross through whom we experience the vast majority of the film. While he is not necessarily portrayed as a saint, some of his more negative aspect do get glossed over. For example he is not too concerned about striking his wife Sharon (Lynn Loring) who despite saying that she wanted to get pregnant but blaming their lack of success on Glenn has been taking birth control pills the whole time. A plot point that is very soap opera but goes nowhere.
I especially enjoyed the space suit costumes. They were not some shiny metallic fabric but rather detailed and appeared quite functional. I could believe that these were something that actually was used.
In Journey to the Far Side of the Sun there is a rather impressive composite shot. Until I watched this on Blu-ray, I assumed it was something filmed on location but on my Blu-ray copy you could see the little errors in all the special effects that showed it was a composite shot. I’m not sure if the casual viewer would pick up on it but someone who enjoys spotting these things might. I’m not complaining about it. It’s still a rather good shot and I didn’t quite catch it until a few moments in. That is amazing craftsmanship.
Glenn and his boss Jason Webb (Patrick Wymark) are standing in front of a rocket and talking. It looks amazing and realistic yet the rocket in the background is a miniature and the two shots are merged together. Just great special effects. They used them in innovative and realistic ways to create a believable world. They were not used for a big “Wow!” Their goal was to make a believable world.
And that’s this film’s strongest point. The special effects and the heavy use of miniatures married with live action create a very believable and detailed world. This is one of those films that is very good to watch just for the visuals.
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun has what amounts to two endings in my opinion. There is the one where things end rather disastrously for Glenn as he seeks to prove the truth by having more than strong circumstantial evidence. It’s an ending that essentially prevents any real proof. However there is also the ending where EUROSEC (European Space Exploration Council) Director Webb in his later years sees his reflection in a mirror and charges towards it and dies. He was a secondary character and I’m not sure why he needed such an ending. Maybe something with his younger self lamenting that he’ll never be able to prove what he knew or something but regardless the ending improperly made him a central character rather than a supporting character.
And something is just missing in all this despite the potential. Journey to the Far Side of the Sun is an interesting idea with good direction that just never finds its groove. Something is missing despite a good script and fine performances. I am not sure what it is. I enjoyed myself but this did not feel as good as it should have been.
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun is a visual feast in a not too bad story that misses the mark by the end. The general film fan might not get into this, but the connoisseur of filmed science fiction might just like it.
4 thoughts on “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (Doppelgänger)”
This film scared me witless as a kid. Like the best episodes of UFO (there are obvious links between the two Gerry Anderson productions), there was a darkness to it that could disturb young viewers more used to bright stuff like re-runs of 1960s Star Trek. As you say, it hasn’t aged so well, but I keep meaning to buy the Blu-ray for old-times sake.
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What scared you about it? I am unfamiliar with UFO so I am missing the reference.
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UFO was a Gerry Anderson TV show around the same time that almost shared the same universe, it certainly borrowed some of the art direction and miniatures, costumes, same music composer etc. So it looks and sounds much like this movie. It was dark though, used to scare me as a kid. We’re talking voiceless aliens abducting humans to harvest their body parts/organs in order to keep their dying race from the edge of extinction. When people got abducted, they didn’t come back, unless alien autopsies identified that this kidney once belonged to Mrs Smith from Bolton, and SHADOW (the organisation battling the UFOs) had to keep the alien threat secret to avoid humanity panicking and society collapsing.
So there’s lots of paranoia, secrecy, gadgets and visual effects. It was a great show ahead of its time. Can’t believe no-one has rebooted it, although maybe its just too dark to get away with now. Even The X-Files didn’t go as far as UFO did.
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Haven’t they tried to reboot a few Anderson things and they did not perform well? Might explain that.