Film Review

Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy

todayFebruary 29, 2024 47

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By – Gareth Jones

For fans of strange science fiction, Croatian/Eastern European cinema, weddings from Hell

One of our favorite things on Sleep In Cinema (the weekly radio show I co-host with Craig Ceravolo on Substrate Radio) is when we ask our guests what they have been watching lately.  This was especially true when we had one of our favorite duos on the show, Greg Lowry and Bert Lipscomb to chat about Eraserhead. We knew that Greg was going to tell us about something that would be a deep cut, something we probably had not heard of.  Well, we were not prepared for the Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy.

Released upon the world in 1981, Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy feels like it is from a completely different era.  It is pulling from so many different influences.  The most obvious to me are Buck Rogers, Metropolis (in the design of the robot woman) and even Pippi Longstocking. It is also distinctly a product of its own country Croatia (Yugoslavia at the time of the release) with the Eastern European science fiction literary world of Stanislav Lem and the science fiction film world of Andrei Tarkovsky. Yet, tonally it feels like a combination of the classic Japanese gonzo horror film House and at the same time the children’s Russian film The Amphibian Man.

Visitors is directed by noted Yugoslav/Croatian-Montenegrin animator Dušan Vukotić, who made many famous and successful animated films in the 1960’s but then went on to make three live-action films with his last being Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy.  The story follows a frustrated author, Robert (who works in a hotel as a check-in clerk) who writes science fiction with his friends as his true passion.  His girlfriend Biba, is growing impatient and wants him to focus on her. Unbeknownst to him, his passion for writing has manifested what he has written into reality.  Here, it is the characters of sibling aliens children Targo and Ulu, joined by their caretaker robot woman, Andra.  Mirroring what he has written, they have traveled to Earth and are living on an island off the coast of the resort town Robert and Biba live in.  It gets absolutely bonkers from there and this plot has many twists and turns including a wedding celebration that is one of the most bizarre and delightful things I have ever witnessed on film.

I need to focus on a few specific details here.  Targo is the naughty alien child and repeatedly puts what looks like a toy alien (called Mumu) into play. When activated Mumu grows into a towering monster with tentacles and teeth that are reminiscent of kaiju from Japan.  However, here Mumu is designed by the master Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer.  This creature in all forms is something to behold and what it does at the wedding dinner is disturbing and delightful.

The special effects across the board are inventive and imaginative using what was available at the time.  I am nostalgic for this pre-CGI era, but truly some of these are incredible, such as the floating orb that the alien trio travel in.  Seeing the influence of Hollywood but also the independence of Hollywood is heartwarming.

Now, at times this film seems like it is for all audiences, but there are a couple of moments that make it more appropriate for adults.  I will leave it at that.

I am so grateful that Greg and Bert recommended this film to us.  I will now have to get a physical copy of it from Deaf Crocodile, the amazing boutique label that gave us the opportunity to see this piece of Eastern European film history.

Available now on TUBI!

Written by: jamric

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