- Doppelgänger (1969 film)
Film poster for the U.S. release title of Journey to the Far Side of the Sun.
Directed by Robert Parrish Produced by Gerry Anderson
Written by Story:
Starring Roy Thinnes
Music by Barry Gray Cinematography John Read Editing by Len Walter Studio Century 21 Cinema Distributed by United Kingdom:
Release date(s) United Kingdom:
8 October 1969
27 August 1969
Running time 101 minutes Country United Kingdom Language English
Doppelgänger is a 1969 British science-fiction film directed by Robert Parrish and starring Roy Thinnes, Ian Hendry, Lynn Loring and Patrick Wymark. Outside Europe, it is known as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, which is now the more popular title. In the film, a joint European-NASA mission to investigate a planet in a position parallel to Earth behind the Sun ends in disaster with the death of one astronaut (Hendry). His colleague (Thinnes) realises that the planet is a mirror image of Earth, on which all aspects of life run in reverse.
The first major live-action film of Century 21 writers-producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, noted for Thunderbirds and other 1960s "Supermarionation" puppet television series, shooting for Doppelgänger ran from July to October 1968. With Pinewood Studios as the principal production base, Parrish filmed on location in both England and Portugal. The professional relationship between the Andersons and their director became strained as the shooting progressed, while creative disagreements with cinematographer John Read resulted in his resignation from Century 21.
The film premiered in August 1969 in the United States and October 1969 in the United Kingdom. Criticism has been directed at the parallel Earth premise, which has been considered clichéd and uninspired in comparison to standing precedent in science fiction. Doppelgänger has been interpreted as a partial pastiche of major science-fiction films of the 1960s, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, plot devices and images perceived as emulating such films have been considered poor adaptations of their originals. It has been viewed as a cult film.
Actors and props from Doppelgänger re-appear in another Anderson television series, UFO. Although the Andersons added adult themes to the script in an attempt to distinguish Doppelgänger from their earlier child-orientated productions, cuts removed more explicit content to permit an A and, later, PG certificate from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). The film has had a limited run on DVD.
Travelling through the Solar System in 2069, the unmanned Sun Probe locates a planet that lies on the same orbital path as Earth but is positioned on the opposite side of the Sun. Dr Kurt Hassler (Herbert Lom) of the EUROpean Space Exploration Council (EUROSEC) has been transmitting Sun Probe flight data to a rival power in the East, but Security Chief Mark Neuman (George Sewell) uncovers the betrayal and shoots Hassler dead in his laboratory. EUROSEC director Jason Webb (Patrick Wymark) convinces NASA representative David Poulson (Ed Bishop) that the West must launch astronauts to investigate the planet before Hassler's allies in the East. With EUROSEC member states France and Germany unwilling to offer financial support, Webb obtains majority funding from NASA. American astronaut Colonel Glenn Ross (Roy Thinnes) and British astrophysicist Dr John Kane (Ian Hendry), head of the Sun Probe project, are assigned to the mission.
Launched from the EUROSEC Space Centre in Portugal in the Phoenix spacecraft, Ross and Kane pass the first half of their six-week round trip in stasis, with "Heart Lung Kidney" machines managing their life functions. Three weeks after launch, the astronauts are revived in the orbit of the planet. Scans for the existence of extraterrestrial life prove to be inconclusive, and Ross and Kane decide to perform a surface landing. While the astronauts descend through the atmosphere, an electrical storm damages their Dove lander shuttle, which crashes in a mountainous region that is revealed to be Ulan Bator, Mongolia. When an air-sea rescue unit returns Ross and Kane, the latter fighting serious injuries, to the EUROSEC Space Centre in Portugal, it is apparent that the Phoenix mission has been terminated after three weeks and that the astronauts have arrived back on Earth.
Neuman and EUROSEC official Lise Hartman (Loni von Friedl) interrogate Ross, who denies that he aborted the mission. Shortly after, Kane dies from the injuries that he sustained in the crash. Eventually, Ross assembles a series of clues that point him to the conclusion that he is not on Earth, but indeed on the unknown planet — a Counter-Earth that is a mirror image of his. Many, including his wife, Sharon (Lynn Loring), are baffled by his claims that all aspects of life on the planet — from the print in books to the plan of his apartment — are reversed. However, Webb is convinced of the truth when Ross demonstrates the ability to read aloud from a book, without hesitation, when its pages are reflected in a mirror. Later, X-rays from Kane's post-mortem examination reveal that his internal organs are located on the wrong side of his body. Ross conjectures that the two Earths lie parallel, which would mean that the Ross from the Counter-Earth is living through similar experiences on the far side of the Sun.
Webb suggests that Ross recover the flight recorder from Phoenix, and then return to his Earth. EUROSEC constructs a replacement for Dove that is designed to be compatible with the reversed technologies of Phoenix. Modifications include the reverse-polarisation of electric circuits, although neither Ross nor the scientists can be certain that the differences between the two Earths extend to the direction of electric current. The shuttle is re-christened Doppelganger, a term denoting a duplicate of a person or object in the original German. Lifting off and entering orbit, Ross attempts to dock with Phoenix. However, Doppelganger experiences a technical malfunction, indicating that current is constant after all. The shuttle detaches from Phoenix and loses contact with EUROSEC, plunging through the atmosphere towards the Space Centre with Ross struggling to disengage automatic landing control. EUROSEC is unable to repair the fault from the ground, and Doppelganger crashes into a parked spacecraft. Ross is incinerated in the collision and a chain reaction obliterates the Space Centre, killing personnel and destroying all records of Ross's presence on the Counter-Earth.
Decades later, a bitter Jason Webb, long since dismissed from EUROSEC, has been admitted to a nursing home. In his dementia, the old man spies his reflection in a mirror. Rolling forwards in his wheelchair, and reaching out to touch his image, Webb dies when he crashes into the mirror.
For his first contribution to live-action film, Gerry Anderson had directed Crossroads to Crime, a 1960 B movie, for distributor Anglo-Amalgamated. Although talent agent Leslie Grade had since approached Anderson with a proposal for a film starring actor Arthur Haynes, discussions between Grade and Anderson had not resulted in a commission. In the summer of 1967, during the production of Anderson's Supermarionation television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Universal Pictures executive Jay Kanter arrived in London from the United States. Planning to establish a European production office, Kanter expressed his willingness to provide funding for promising film ideas. Lew Grade, brother to Leslie and Anderson's financier at his TV distributor ITC Entertainment, arranged a meeting with Kanter for Anderson to pitch a story concept concerning the hypothesis of a "replicated" or "mirror" Earth. According to Anderson, he "thought, rather naïvely, what if there was another planet the other side of the Sun, orbiting at exactly the same speed and the same size as Earth? That idea then developed into the planet being a replicated Earth and that's how it ended up, a mirrored planet ... We were perfectly poised — I was Lew Grade's golden boy and the [Century 21] studio was a big success story."
With the assistance of scriptwriter Tony Williamson, Anderson and his wife, Sylvia, had drafted a 194-page treatment long before the initial meeting with Kanter. The Andersons had originally intended to film the script as a one-hour drama for Associated Television; Sylvia has explained that since the concept "was too good for a television play, I suggested to Gerry that we try to develop it as a movie." Responding to claims that Doppelgänger has "dark" scripting, Gerry has stated that he wanted the film to have an interesting premise to entertain audiences. He has also discussed the significance of the title, which was suggested to him by Century 21 co-director John Read: "that's a German word which means 'a copy of oneself', and the legend goes that if you meet your doppelganger, it is the point of your death. Following that legend, clearly, I had to steer the film so that I could end it illustrating the meaning of that word."
When Kanter expressed dissatisfaction with the draft, Gerry hired Donald James, a novelist whom he considered "a classy writer with a good reputation", to strengthen the characterisation. Although the setting of the film remained 2069, the scenes set on the Counter-Earth underwent significant changes as James completed his revisions. Fundamentally, the characters of Ross and Kane switched roles: in the Andersons' draft, it is Ross who is injured in the Dove crash and Kane who is interrogated at the EUROSEC Space Centre. In scenes absent from the completed film, Kane is diagnosed with brain damage as a result of his apparent insanity, while Ross regains consciousness to find that the accident has made him blind. The return mission to Phoenix fails due not to an electrical fault, but to a structural defect in the second Dove module, which disintegrates in the atmosphere of the Counter-Earth with Kane trapped inside. The EUROSEC Headquarters is left intact, and the attendants at Kane's funeral are his wife (named Susan), the Rosses and Jason Webb.
Although Kanter remained unenthusiastic with the script, he agreed to commission it as a film on the condition that he reserve the right to select a "bankable" (trusted) director. Anderson would have selected David Lane, who had directed the two Thunderbirds films, Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968). After a ten-week delay to filming, Robert Parrish, an American director whose latest project had been shelved, accepted the role. An expatriate in the United Kingdom, Parrish's film career up to 1968 had included co-editing Body and Soul (for which he had received the 1947 Academy Award for Best Film Editing) and co-directing the 1967 James Bond spoof, Casino Royale. Anderson has remembered Parrish as "very ingratiating", stating that he "told us he loved the script and said it would be an honour to work with us. Jay Kanter gave Bob the thumbs up and we were in business." Although the box office failure of Casino Royale had prompted Anderson to question Parrish's ability, he has said that Doppelgänger could not have been made without his recruitment: "It wasn't a question of, 'Will we get on with him?' or, 'Is he the right man?' He was a name director, so we signed him up immediately."
Supporting cast Actor Character Keith Alexander Flight Director Peter Burton Medical Technician 1 Anthony Chinn Air-Sea Rescue Operator Nicholas Courtney Medical Technician 2 John Clifford Gantry Technician Peter van Dissel Bonn Delegate Mallory Cy Grant Dr Gordon Alan Harris Public Relations Photographer Jon Kelley Male Nurse Annette Kerr Female Nurse Martin King Dove Service Technician Herbert Lom Dr Kurt Hassler Philip Madoc Dr Pontini George Mikell Paris Delegate Clavel Basil Moss Monitoring Station Technician Norma Ronald Secretary Pam Kirby Vladek Sheybal Psychologist Dr Beauville John Stone London Delegate Jeremy Wilkin Launch Control Technician
Heading the cast of Doppelgänger is Roy Thinnes in the role of Colonel Glenn Ross of NASA. Anderson, who perceived a likeness to fellow American actor Paul Newman, cast Thinnes as the male lead after viewing his performance in the television series The Invaders (1967-68). In the Andersons' draft script, Ross's first name is Stewart, and he is said to have bee the first man to walk on Mars. In a 2008 interview, Thinnes said, "I thought [Doppelgänger] was an interesting premise, although now we know that there isn't another planet on the other side of the Sun, through our space exploration and telescopic abilities. But at that time it was conceivable, and it could have been scary." To conform to the script's characterisation of Ross, and to the detriment of his respiratory health, Thinnes ended up smoking many packets' worth of cigarettes in the course of the production. Reporting on Thinnes' intention to demand a non-smoking clause in his next film contract, in September 1969 Australian newspaper The Age stated, "He smokes about two packets a day, but the perpetual lighting up of new cigarettes for continuity purposes was too much."
Ian Hendry stars as Dr John Kane, British astrophysicist and head of the Phoenix project. Hendry, who had appeared in the television series The Avengers (1961-69) and, according to Anderson, "was always drinking", performed the stunt sequence depicting the aftermath of the Dove crash while drunk: "... he was pissed as a newt, and it was as much as he could do to stagger away. Despite all that, it looked exactly as it was supposed to on-screen!" In the draft script, Kane's first name is Philip, and his wife is Susan. In scenes deleted from the completed film, a romance between Kane and Lise Hartman, a EUROSEC official portrayed by Austrian actress Loni von Friedl, is played out at Kane's villa and a beach in Portugal.
Lynn Loring stars as Sharon Ross, the Colonel's wife. The role of the female lead had first been offered to fellow American actress Gayle Hunnicutt, who quit at the start of the filming after unexpectedly falling ill. Hunnicutt's withdrawal resulted in the casting of Loring, Thinnes' wife since 1967 and star of the television series The F.B.I. (1965-74). Had she remained in the role, Hunnicutt would have appeared in a nude scene scripted to distance the tone of Doppelgänger from that of earlier Anderson productions. In a 1968 interview in the Daily Mail newspaper, Anderson expressed his intention to change the public's perception of Century 21, who, according to him, had been "typecast as makers of children's films". On rumours that Doppelgänger would receive an X certificate from the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) for adult content, he replied, "We want to work with live artists doing subjects unsuitable for children." For the final cut of the film, the original nude shots were replaced with soft alternatives depicting Sharon stepping into and out of a shower.
The draft script describes Sharon as the daughter of a United States Senator, and she is said to be in a romantic affair with EUROSEC public relations officer Carlo Monetti. In the completed film, Italian actor Franco De Rosa briefly stars as Paulo Landi. The affair is implied in one scene but not explored further, prompting Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn, authors of What Made Thunderbirds Go! The Authorised Biography of Gerry Anderson, to suggest that De Rosa starred in a role "all but cut from Doppelgänger". In a deleted scene, Glenn finds Paolo and Sharon in bed together at the Ross's villa, angrily ejects the couple from the room and throws them both into a swimming pool. Archer and Hearn note an additional subplot concerning the Rosses' attempts to conceive a child and the deceit of Sharon, who has been using birth control pills to prevent pregnancy without Glenn's knowledge.
Completing the main cast, Patrick Wymark stars as Jason Webb, director of EUROSEC. Having selected him on the basis of his performance as John Wilder in the television series The Plane Makers (1963-65) and The Power Game (1965-70), Anderson has stated that Wymark's acting impressed him as much as Hendry's, but also that his similar drinking habits resulted in slurred lines on set. During the filming of one scene, Wymark "had to list these explanations ... and on take after take he couldn't remember that 'two' followed 'one'. We had to do it over and over again." Archer and Hearn identify Wymark's portrayal of Webb, a character described as "John Wilder (2069 model)" in publicity material, as the dominant performance of the film. The draft script describes Webb as a former British Minister of Technology, who is now romantically involved with his secretary, Pam Kirby.
Among the supporting cast, George Sewell stars as Mark Neuman, a German Operations Chief in EUROSEC who uncovers Dr Hassler's dealing with Communist China and whose parallel self heads the interrogation of Ross after the Dove crash. His surname in the draft script is Hallam. Finally, Ed Bishop stars as David Poulson, a NASA official. Bishop replaced English actor Peter Dyneley, who had voiced characters for Thunderbirds (1965-66), after the producers decided that Dyneley bore too much of a resemblance to Wymark and that scenes with the characters of both Poulson and Webb would confuse audiences.
Fifteen weeks of principal photography started at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, on 1 July 1968, ending on 16 October and running alongside filming for Joe 90. In September, location shooting in Albufeira, Portugal, had to be completed in a shorter timeframe of two weeks as opposed to a whole month when politician Marcello Caetano deposed incapacitated Prime Minister Antonio Salazar, leaving Parrish concerned that the coup d'état would cause the production of Doppelgänger to fall behind schedule. Location filming in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, used the exterior of Neptune House (now part of the BBC Elstree Studios) to double for the EUROSEC Headquarters in Portugal. Heatherden Hall (a building at Pinewood Studios) features as the nursing home that is seen to be the residence of the old Jason Webb at the end of the film.
To create the illusion of the parallel Earth — which is apparent in images such as reversed text — quickly and cheaply, the production team inverted the film negatives in an optical process known as "flop-over". This technique saved the time and money that would otherwise needed to have been spent building sets and props with specially reversed elements, or organising road closures to film cars driving on the "wrong" side of the road. However, the scenes set in or around the parallel EUROSEC Headquarters required careful rehearsal and co-ordination with cast and crew prior to filming. The incorporation of the flop-over technique results in some continuity errors: for example, the terminals of the Heart Lung Kidney machines onboard Phoenix are initially seen connected to Ross and Kane's left wrists, but this later changes to their right wrists.
The production staff encountered difficulties in transferring from script to screen a scene that depicts an international teleconference being held on high-resolution viewing monitors. Due to both the limited use of colour images at the time of production, and the need to avoid black-and-white images to honour the futuristic setting of Doppelgänger, it was decided to have the actors playing the conference delegates positioned behind the set, and have the shapes of the monitors cut out of the set wall. Silver paper reflected light from behind the actors, producing a realistic impression of high-resolution screens. Altered eyelines strengthen the audience's perception that each delegate is facing a camera rather than the other actors in the scene, and are in different locations around the world. Archer and Hearn promote the teleconference scene as an example of how Anderson "proved once again that his productions were ahead of their time."
In the course of the production, the creative approaches of Anderson and Parrish came into conflict. Anderson remembered that, "On two or three occasions we had to go and see Jay Kanter so he could mediate between us ... [Sylvia and I] both knew how important the picture was to our careers, and we both desperately wanted to be in the big time." In one filming session, Parrish refused to follow the shooting script, deciding that some of the scenes that had been scripted did not need to appear in the film. When Anderson reminded Parrish that this would be in breach of contract, the director announced to the cast and crew, "Hell, you heard the producer. If I don't shoot these scenes which I don't really want, don't need and will cut out anyway, I'll be in breach of contract. So what we'll do is shoot those scenes next!" Anderson has discussed how the production of Doppelgänger presented new challenges, explaining, "I had worked for so many years employing directors to do what I told them ... Suddenly I came up against a Hollywood movie director who didn't want to play and we ended up extremely bad friends." In his 2002 biography, Anderson stated, "The only regret I have about the Doppelgänger situation is that I hired Bob Parrish in the first place." Of Parrish, Sylvia Anderson has said that his direction was "uninspired. We had a lot of trouble getting what we wanted from him."
One dispute among the founders of Century 21 — Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, Reg Hill and John Read — emerged from the filming of other scenes, including one in which the character of Lise Hartman washes herself in a shower. Read, the director of photography, had complied with Parrish's instructions to light the sequence in silhouette. Anderson, who had intended the scene to present actress Loni von Friedl in the nude, demanded a re-shoot, insisting that Read honour his obligations not just to Parrish as director but also to his Century 21 partners. According to Sylvia Anderson, "Gerry was very keen to show that he was part of the 'Swinging Sixties' and felt that seeing a detailed nude shot — as he visualised it — was more 'with it' than the more subdued version." Anderson clashed with Read and Parrish for a second time when special effects shots of Phoenix in space were filmed with a hand-held camera: "I was furious because I knew enough about space travel to know that in a vacuum a spacecraft will travel as straight as a die ... [Parrish] told me that people were not familiar with space travel and therefore they would expect to see this kind of movement." Refusing to re-shoot the scenes on the grounds that Parrish's instructions had precedence over Anderson's, Read resigned from both Century 21 and the production of Doppelgänger at the behest of the Andersons and Hill. Anderson has elaborated, "Clearly John was in a difficult position. I do now understand how he must have felt, but in my heart I feel he couldn't play a double role."
The production base for special effects remained the Century 21 Studios in Slough, Berkshire, which had been prepared for shooting on the final Supermarionation series, The Secret Service. Supervising director Derek Meddings supervised the completion of more than 200 shots, including the sequence presenting the destruction of the EUROSEC Headquarters at the end of the film. A six-foot (1.8 m) Phoenix scale model, which emulated the design of the NASA multi-stage Saturn V rocket, had to be rebuilt after igniting and almost injuring a technician. For authenticity, the effects staff mounted the Phoenix lift-off shots outdoors, in a section of the Century 21 car park, to film against a genuine sky backdrop. Archer and Hearn describe the sequence as "one of the most spectacular" of its sort produced at the Century 21 Studios. Sylvia Anderson, who believes that it is indistinguishable from a Cape Kennedy launch, comments that she is "still impressed by the magic of the effects. Technology has come a long way since the early Seventies, but Derek's effects have endured."
Although Century 21 had constructed a life-size Dove capsule in Slough, it could not be used for filming at Pinewood Studios due to an arrangement with the National Association of Theatrical Television and Kine Employees (NATTKE) to build and use such props exclusively on-site. Once the original had been incinerated, carpenters at Pinewood rebuilt the prop, although Anderson remains disappointed with the finished product, which he considered inferior. Reviewing the scale models of Doppelgänger, Martin Anderson of the Den of Geek website describes the Phoenix command module as "beautifully ergonomic without losing too much NASA-ness", and the Dove lander module as "a beautiful fusion of JPL gloss with classic lines". He argues that the Phoenix launch sequence remained the finest example of Meddings' effects until his work on the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker, and praises his efforts in light of the absence of computer animation in the 1960s.
Composer Barry Gray recorded his score, his favourite of all his musical contributions to the Anderson productions, in three days from 27 to 29 March 1969. Fifty-five musicians attended the first studio session, 44 the second and 28 the last. The track titled "Sleeping Astronauts", which accompanies the scenes of Ross and Kane's journey through the Solar System, features an Ondes Martenot, played by French ondiste Sylvette Allart. Archer and Hearn credit "Sleeping Astronauts" as "one of the most enchanting pieces Gray ever wrote", and state that the soundtrack, which has not been commercially released, evokes a "traditional Hollywood feel" that is in contrast to the 2069 setting of Doppelgänger. The inspiration for the title sequence came from the theme of espionage connected to Dr Hassler: a miniature camera is seen concealed inside the character's ocular prosthesis in what Archer and Hearn describe as an imitation of the style of 1960s James Bond films.
When production on Doppelgänger ended in October 1968, all 30 episodes of Joe 90 had been completed and the Andersons' upcoming television series, The Secret Service, had entered pre-production. The final cut had a mediocre reception from Universal Pictures executives, leading to the postponement of the film's release for 12 months. It received an A certificate from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) on 26 March 1969, dispelling rumours of an X rating and fulfilling the Andersons' objective that Doppelgänger would be suitable for children if viewed with adults. To obtain an A certificate, cuts trimmed some of the more explicit violence and sexual detail, shortening the running time from the original 104 minutes.
Doppelgänger opened at the London Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square on 8 October 1969, having premiered on 27 August in the United States. On 1 November, it appeared in Detroit, Michigan, starting another round of presentations in American cinemas. The film received a disappointing box office reception on general release.
British distributors Rank released the film under its original name in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. The title Journey to the Far Side of the Sun has been adopted in the United States and Australia since Universal Pictures determined that the audiences of these countries might not understand the meaning of the term "doppelganger". Simon Archer and Stan Nicholls, authors of Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Biography, argue that Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, which has superseded Doppelgänger as the more popular title, provides a clearer explanation of the plot, but suggest that it lacks the "intrigue and even poetic quality of Doppelgänger".
Two prints of Doppelgänger in its original 35 mm format, for UK release, are known to exist. While the British Film Institute (BFI) retains one, the other is in the possession of Fanderson, the official fan organisation dedicated to the Gerry Anderson productions. The original prints of Doppelgänger position Ian Hendry before Roy Thinnes in the opening credits. In the Journey to the Far Side of the Sun format, Thinnes is billed before Hendry. Certain UK prints alter the final scene featuring the old Jason Webb with the addition of a short voice-over from Thinnes in character as Ross, who is heard speaking a line that he said to Webb earlier in the film: "Jason, we were right. There are definitely two identical planets."
For broadcasts in the United Kingdom, Doppelgänger has been aired under the title Journey to the Far Side of the Sun and has been formatted accordingly. Transmissions have often contained inverted picture due to a mistake made in transferring an original print to videotape. Prior to a screening in the 1980s, a telecine operator viewed the print and, being unfamiliar with the plot, concluded that the scenes set on the parallel Earth had been reversed in error. An additional "flop-over" edit restored the image to normal, which became the standard for all broadcasts but compromised the plot: if Doppelgänger is screened in this modified form, the viewer is led to conclude that the Dove crashes witnesses the parallel Ross landing on the non-parallel Earth.
Previously available in laserdisc format, Doppelgänger has been released on NTSC Region 1 DVD in both 1998 and, in a digitally-remastered presentation, in 2008. The 2008 release included PAL Region 2 for the first time, although the film is marketed as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun rather than Doppelgänger. No additional material is present on the Region 1 releases, although the Region 2 edition contains a film trailer. While the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has certified the film G since its 1969 theatrical release, on its 2008 home release the BBFC re-rated Doppelgänger PG from the original A for "mild violence and language".
1960s and 1970s
In a review published in The Times in October 1969, John Russell Taylor praised the concept of the film as "quite ingenious" but suggested that the title and pre-release marketing had revealed too much of the plot for the film to sustain the interest of its audience. Commenting in New York magazine in November, Judith Christie introduced Doppelgänger as "a science-fiction film that comes up with a fascinating premise three-quarters of the way along and does nothing with it." She praised the production as being "nicely gadget-ridden" and raising questions on the conflict between politics and science, but also criticised the film for containing "scrappy bits of dumb sex scenes" due to poor editing.
Variety magazine cited a confusing plot, and related the crash of the Dove module to the coherence of the scriptwriting in its declaration that, "Astronauts take a pill to induce a three-week sleep during their flight. Thereafter the script falls to pieces in as many parts as their craft." Although it was argued to be better than average for its genre in The Miami News in September 1969 and The Montreal Gazette in April 1972, in December 1969 the Pittsburgh Press dismissed the film as "a churned out science-fiction yarn ... Let's hope there's only one movie like this one", and ranked it among the worst films of the year. The Montreal Gazette claimed that, although the quality deteriorates towards the end of the film, "until then it's a reasonably diverting futuristic melodrama."
In a 2008 review published on the website Den of Geek, Martin Anderson praised Robert Parrish's direction and Derek Meddings' special effects. However, the dialogue, which was described as "robust and prosaic", was stated to sit "ill-at-ease with the metaphysical ponderings". Anderson also expressed concern about the editing, stating that each special effects shot precedes another shot "with that 'Hornby' factor, slowing up the narrative unnecessarily". Doppelgänger is awarded a rating of three stars out of five, and is summarised as "an interesting journey with many rewards". Glenn Erickson, commenting in 2008 on the website DVD Talk, argued that Doppelgänger "takes an okay premise but does next to nothing with it. We see 100 minutes of bad drama and good special effects, and then the script opts for frustration and meaningless mystery." He complained of unappealing cinematography, comparing it to the premise of Thunderbirds in so far as "people stand and talk a lot", while defining the script as being composed of "at least 60 percent hardware-talk and exposition ... How people move about — airplane, parachute, centrifuge — is more important than what they're doing."
On the subject of effects, Erickson asserted that sequences such as the "thuddingly generic, drama-challenged main rocket launch" detract from the human factor of the film due to poor editing. Other design elements were criticised: viewing the costumes as dated, Erickson added that "at home, the actors are defeated by the Barbie doll house surroundings", and suggested that the visuals of Doppelgänger match an ethos of "the future will be a shopping mall". Although he considered Doppelgänger a "good" film (a rating higher than "fair" but lower than "excellent"), Erickson argued that the opportunities presented by the parallel Earth concept were squandered in the determination to turn the Anderson production into "an excuse to show cool rocket toys".
Doppelgänger is given a rating of two-and-a-half stars out of five in a negative review published on the Film4 website, which praises the effects work and costume design but criticises the scenes with the character of Dr Hassler for their irrelevance to the main plot, and the subtext of the Rosses' strained marriage as an unnecessary diversion from the narrative. Although Ross and Kane's mission through space is described as a "brief, trippy light show", the review questions the originality of having a parallel Earth as the focus, and the depth of the script's vision: "Anderson's has to be the cheapest alternate Earth ever. Whereas audiences might expect a world where the Roman Empire never fell or the Nazis won World War II, here the shocking discovery is that people write backwards. That's it." Doppelgänger is only recommended for fans of the Anderson productions, and is considered "an occasionally interesting failure".
Gary Westfahl of the webzine SF Site asserts that the use of a near-perfect parallel Earth is uninspired, referring to the setting as "the most boring and unimaginative alien world imaginable". Among other reviews, TV Guide magazine describes Doppelgänger as a "strange, little film" with an "overwritten script", and considers the subplot concerning Dr Hassler's treachery to be distracting. It awards a rating of two stars out of four. To Chris Bentley, writer of episode guides on the Anderson productions, Doppelgänger is a "stylish and thought-provoking science-fiction thriller".
Sylvia Anderson suggests that American audiences, who were less familiar with the Supermarionation productions of Century 21 than British viewers, received the film with greater enthusiasm. She explains, "It was all too easy to compare our real actors with our puppet characters and descriptions such as 'wooden', 'expressionless', 'no strings attached' and 'puppet-like' were cheap shots some of the UK critics could not resist ... Typecasting is the lazy man's friend, and boy, were we typecast in Britain." On her feelings about Doppelgänger, she commented in 1992, "I saw it on TV a couple of years ago and I was very pleased with it. I thought it came over quite well."
Archer and Nicholls cite among possible causes of the commercial failure of Doppelgänger its "quirky, offbeat nature" and the loss of public interest in space exploration after the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969. The subject of the Moon landing dominated a review in The Milwaukee Journal from that September, in which Bennett F. Waxse noted comparisons with Doppelgänger: "... the spacemen find a few bugs in their 'LM' and crash on the planet. And do they ever have their hands full in getting back to Earth!" Writing that the proliferation of technical dialogue hampers the acting, he concluded, "... the makers of this space exploiter may get lots of mileage at the box office, but Neil [Armstrong], Buzz [Aldrin] and Mike [Collins] did it better on TV."
It has also been suggested that the appearance in 1968 of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes established an unattainable standard for other films of the science-fiction genre. Erickson argued that the film is inferior to 2001: A Space Odyssey for its depiction of a realistic "working future" in which humans remain attached to commercialism. Comparing the visual style of Doppelgänger to that used by film director Stanley Kubrick, he noted similarities in the use of close-up eye shots and various "psychedelic" images, but regretted that "all these borrowings are fluff without any deeper meaning." In the Film4 review, the final scenes featuring the character of Jason Webb are described as "hell-bent on recreating the enigmatic finale of 2001 by using a mirror, a wheelchair and a tartan blanket." Martin Anderson discusses connections between Doppelgänger and other science-fiction films of the 1960s and 70s, such as Solaris, noting a "lyrical" tone in the dialogue. However, ultimately Doppelgänger "doesn't bear comparison with Kubrick or [Solaris director Andrei] Tarkovsky."
Erickson contrasts perceived failures on the part of the script with the efforts of Nigel Kneale for the 1958 BBC serial Quatermass and the Pit and the 1964 film adaptation of the 1901 H.G. Wells novel The First Men in the Moon. Both Douglas Pratt and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London liken the concept of the alternative Earth to the plot of "The Parallel", a 1963 episode of the American television series The Twilight Zone. In the episode, astronaut Major Robert Gaines returns to Earth to find that his world has undergone many changes, some trivial and some drastic, concluding that he has arrived in a parallel universe. Critic S. T. Joshi compares the theme of duplication in Doppelgänger to the premise of the 1956 Don Siegel film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which characters' fears that their relatives have been abducted and replaced with alien impostors are justified with the appearance of the Pod People, an extraterrestrial species with the power to form doppelgangers that are almost indistinguishable from real humans.
Despite the polarised critical reception and commercial failure of Doppelgänger, Lew Grade offered the Andersons further opportunities to film in live action. Their first television series not based on puppetry was UFO, which commenced broadcast in the United Kingdom in September 1970. Doppelgänger is considered an immediate precursor to UFO, and has also been described as a "trial run" for the second Anderson live-action series, Space: 1999. UFO featured actors, costumes, props, locations and music that had appeared in Doppelgänger. Of the film cast, Ed Bishop, Keith Alexander, Cy Grant, Martin King and Jeremy Wilkin had had an association with the Andersons from earlier productions: all had provided voices for Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons with the exception of Alexander, who had voiced characters for the penultimate Supermarionation series, Joe 90. With 11 other cast members, all but Grant and King appeared in at least one episode of UFO, a series in which Bishop appeared in the lead role of SHADO Commander Ed Straker.
Special effects elements from Doppelgänger that re-appeared in UFO included the scale models of the Phoenix spacecraft and Dove shuttle. Futuristic cars (which consultants from the Ford corporation based on the chassis of the Zephyr Zodiac) and jeeps (adapted from British Leyland Mini Mokes) were also re-cycled. Neptune House, one of the filming locations for Doppelgänger, became the face of the Harlington-Straker Film Studios home to SHADO. Tracks from Barry Gray's Doppelgänger score that are heard in UFO include "Sleeping Astronauts" and "Strange Planet", the latter serving as the ending theme music. The teleprinter images that appeared in the Doppelgänger titles formed a creative element that was imitated for the opening credits of UFO.
In a retrospective of Anderson's career published on the IGN website, it is stated that the discussion of politics and economics in Doppelgänger contrast with the conventions of 1960s science fiction. Furthermore, such aspects are reflected in the atmosphere of UFO in so far as the characters "were constantly having to deal with the pressures of having to show progress under the scrutiny of accountants and elected officials, much the same way NASA was starting to in the US." Commenting on the parallels between the film and the television series, Anderson makes another connection to Kubrick: turning his attention to scripting, he argues, "the most interesting common ground between the two projects remains the bleak ending(s) and the slight flirtation with the acid-induced imagery and mind fucks of 2001 [: A Space Odyssey]."
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- Doppelgänger at the Internet Movie Database
- Doppelgänger at AllRovi
- Doppelgänger at Rotten Tomatoes
- Doppelgänger at the TCM Movie Database
- Trailer at TVGuide.com
Gerry Anderson Television1950s-1960s1970s-1980s1990s-2000s Film Companies Techniques Other media Notable peopleSylvia Anderson · Tony Barwick · Martin Bower · David Elliott · Alan Fennell · Christine Glanville · Lew Grade · Barry Gray · Reg Hill · Donald James · Brian Johnson · David Lane · Roberta Leigh · Derek Meddings · David Mitton · Arthur Provis · John Read · Shane Rimmer · Desmond Saunders · Dennis Spooner · Mike Trim · Ken Turner · Derek Wadsworth · Keith Wilson
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