Film (1977). Pentagrama/Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Written and directed by Rainer Erler. Cast includes Horst Frank, Uwe Friedrichsen, Claud Theo Gaestner, Dieter Laser, Jurgen Prochnow and Vicky Roskilly. 126 minutes, cut to 120 minutes. Colour.
This grim German film emerges as a realist response to fantasies like Planet of the Apes (1968). On their return to Earth, five survivors of a three-ship, 21-man mission to Ganymede crashland off the Gulf of Mexico and, lost in the desert, turn to madness, murder, cannibalism and guilt-ridden introspection as they wonder whether humanity has been wiped out by a nuclear war. During the mission, as we discover in flashbacks, the astronauts discovered Alien microorganisms which caused a plague among them, but it turns out that Earth is the harshest environment of all, as the final survivor straggles back to an unchanged, uncaring civilization. Concerned with the ethical issues of space travel – whether the expenditure results in an improved earthly standard of living or not – this is a talky and melodramatic film, but intermittently powerful. Erler's other sf films, mainly for the German television company ZDF which cofinanced this one, include Das Genie ["The Genius"] (1974), Plutonium (1978) and Fleisch ["Flesh"] (1979). [KN]
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