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People living in a seaside town are frightened by reports about an unknown creature in the ocean. Nobody knows what it is, but it's really the son of Doctor Salvator. The doctor performed surgery on his son and now young Ichtiandr can live underwater. This gives him certain advantages, but creates a lot of problems. Written by
Boris Shafir <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Based upon the novel of the same name by Soviet science-fiction writer Alexander Beliaev, Amphibian Man tells the somewhat tragic tale of Ichtyander (Vladimir Korenev), a young, handsome man that has been given the use of gills by his father (Nikolai Simonov). Various sightings have led to him being dubbed a sea-devil, a monster of the sea who has attacked various boats. Rich fisherman Pedro (Mikhail Kozakov) is trying to win the affections of the beautiful Gutiere (Anastasiya Vertinskaya), but when she is attacked by a shark in the sea, Ichtyander rescues her and falls in love with her. She mistakenly thinks it was Pedro who saved her, and so Ichtyander must come onto land in search of his new love.
What is really on the surface a rather silly sci-fi movie that evokes the traditions of the U.S.'s B-movie output of the 1950's, it is actually a well-told fairytale love-story, giving most of its attentions to the doomed affair between Ichtyander and Gutiere. The loathsome Pedro is always on hand to scupper their attempts, with Gutiere trapped in a betrothal arranged by her father (Anatoliy Smiranin), who would rather see her marry into money than for true love. Themes of greed are ever- present throughout the film, reflecting the socialist realist attitudes of the time - a biting social commentary that the Soviet's were so good at (Soviet giants such as Eisenstein and Dovzhenko made their careers on propaganda) and helps add a gravitas to what might have been a straight forward B-movie.
Amphibian Man is also technically impressive. Directors Vladimir Chebotayrov and Gennadi Kazansky used a seaside community in Azerbaijan to film, and this results in some nice photography. One of the stand-out scenes follows the POV of Ichtyander as he searches the streets for Gutiere, with the hand-held photography adding a desperation to his quest. There are also moments that evoke the techniques of the silent greats, using tilted, close-up photography that heightens the psychological torment of the character, more prominently used in the climactic scenes with Pedro, as his lust for power and his alpha-male dominance over Gutiere reaches breaking point. I was surprised to learn after watching the film that it was a massive commercial success in 1962, as the film has since faded into obscurity. Although it's hardly a great film, there is enough in Amphibian Man to justify a re-discovery of the wealth of Societ sci-fi's from this era.
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