Sunday, 13 January 2013

Amphibian Man (1962)

I've seen a lot of strange films in my time yet I have to say that Amphibian Man is one of the strangest. It's not a laughably bad or puzzlingly incoherent movie, don't get me wrong, but it takes the concept that the title promises to viewer (it's called Amphibian Man and I want an amphibian man, dammit) and uses it to show a sweet love story amidst a look at exploitation of the poor workers.

The titular amphibian man is named Ichtyandr (played by Vladimir Korenev) and he's no Creature From The Black Lagoon, as you might expect. When he was a young boy he had some life-threatening problems and so his father (Prof. Salvator, played by Nikolai Simonov) successfully transplanted a set of shark gills into his body. This saved his life, but also meant that he would always have to divide his time between the land and the sea. When he is sighted by sailors they think that he is a sea devil, but when the truth comes out it's not long until some greedy men want to use Ichtyandar to collect valuable goodies from the ocean. Love is in the air when Ichtyandar spies Gutiere (Anastasiya Vertinskaya) but it soon becomes apparent that the two will not be allowed to develop their relationship further.

Based on the novel by Aleksandr Belyaev, the story was adapted for the screen by Akiba Golburt, Aleksei Kapler and Aleksandr Ksenofontov and directed by Vladimir Chebotaryov and Gennadi Kazansky. They all did a good job, which is why I just spent five minutes flicking back and forth between internet tabs, making sure that I spelled their names correctly.

Korenev and Vertinskaya make an attractive central couple and everyone else does just fine in their roles. Nikolai Simonov isn't a typical mad scientist, even though that's what viewers may expect when he first starts talking about his work, but Mikhail Kozakov IS a typical baddie who wants to get the girl and spoil everything for our amphibious hero.

The social comment is easy enough to read, but it's also not too heavy-handed because, well, the heart of the film is about an amphibian man and a woman he falls in love with. Viewers can choose to enjoy one aspect or the other, or both. They can also enjoy some lovely music (I'm serious, I enjoyed the music) and beautiful, sun-soaked locations. I didn't love the film, and I may not revisit it any time in the near future, but I enjoyed it for the quirky delight it is.


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