The Star Inspector [Zvyozdny inspektor ] (1980)

(Spoilers ahead!)

By the end of the Soviet Union, no one believed in Communism anymore.

I have a certain weakness for Soviet SF, partly because it has obviously been aimed at a more intelligent audience than most American efforts, and partly because it often has jarring moments when it tramples all over our expected cliches.

Mind you, those moments are often because we just don’t understand the official Soviet mindset.  Don’t expect the hero to rush in and save a day in a culture that despises individualism.  Instead (as in The Silent Star) expect him to get thrown into space by a sudden reversal of gravity

In the fifties, sixties and even into the seventies, SF was a convenient refuge for those who wanted to make non-ideological films, but somewhere along the way it became a safe way to criticize Soviet life.

At first glance The Star Inspector looks like mere escapist fare, but a closer look reveals something different:  at the beginning of the film, for example, the crew of a space police ship do not take even the smallest actions without explicit instructions from their boss at Central.  However, by the end, the Captain is forced to ignore his orders and make his own decisions.  One of the crew, in a moment of forbidden individualism, saves the others by sacrificing his life.  Not only does he ignore the Captain’s explicit orders to do this, but he acts because of his friendship with the others in his crew and not for the officially approved motive of supporting their noble cause.

These seemingly minor variations take on more importance when one looks at the menace the star cops face:  a strange influence that has robbed people of their memories, enslaved them to its will, dressed them in strange clothes and is using them to spread its dire influence to the stars.  Hmmm…now where have we heard that before?

Curiously, the film doesn’t really look like it was made in the eighties.  Instead it looks at least a decade older, with some very cool psychedelic visuals, a cocktail lounge modern interior in the star cops’ ship and what sounds like a Seventies rock score.

However, many will find it a bit slow and talky.

After all, it is a Soviet era SF film.

(English subtitles available here.)

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