Aelita, Queen of Mars: Soviet Science Fiction film from 1924

In vintage ad archivist Paul Malon's excellent Flickr stream, I stumbled on this beautiful Soviet film poster for a film titled "Aelita."

A quick Googling revealed that this was for the motion picture Aelita, Queen of Mars, which Wikipedia describes as "a silent film directed by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov made at the Mezhrabpom-Rus film studio and released in 1924 (...) based on Alexei Tolstoy's novel of the same name."

Some describe it as the USSR's first sci-fi flick. Archive.org has the entire 80-minute film available for online viewing here, though the quality isn't great. It's also on YouTube, and here's part one.

You can also buy it in higher quality on Amazon, and here's their review:

A Soviet sensation upon its heavily publicized release in 1924, Aelita, the Queen of Mars is now a curiosity of post-revolutionary Russian silent cinema, a bit laughable in its revolutionary zeal not only on Earth but on Mars as well! Despite a cool reaction from critics, the film was such a hit with the Soviet public that many Russian babies born in '24 were named Aelita, and the Cubist designs of the Martian sets--heavily influenced by the avant-garde "constructivist" style--would in turn influence science fiction films in the years to follow (most notably the Flash Gordon serials). With costume designs performances that are truly out of this world, Aelita was the 1924 equivalent of a Spielberg spectacular; now it's a museum piece, unlikely to raise anyone's pulse, but it's startling to think that this film was even possible in 1924 Russia.

The story is almost beside the point, revolving around a married Moscow engineer who dreams of Aelita, the Queen of Mars, and is obsessed with building a spaceship that will take him to her. An alleged murder, passionate jealousy, and a bumbling detective are all part of the film's portrait of hardscrabble post-revolutionary lifestyle, but they pale in comparison to the intermittent scenes on Mars, which peak with the engineer's ultimate arrival and the eruption of a Martian slave rebellion! It's pure propaganda, but agreeably light and remarkably revealing of its time and place. Anyone expecting a Soviet Metropolis will be disappointed, but if you're fascinated by imaginative films from the silent era, Aelita is must-see viewing.

--Jeff Shannon

Still more about the film at IMDB.