This long unseen Cold War thriller comes during a heartbreaking event.
The news of Russia launching attacks on Ukraine has left the world in shock. This war began in 2014, and continues with this current invasion. I’m sure we all hope that Vladimir Putin will get his comeuppance sooner or later, and I’m not sorry for mentioning this. It’s horrifying to be reliving history when countries have to kill each other just to prove a point. But what is that point? There are those who never will learn, but there are those who want to learn. So let’s hope there’s hope.
Just as political correctness is shaping the way we see society and entertainment, a 1967 Swiss film named “The Unknown Man of Shandigor,” is finally showing its face in public. It takes place during the Cold War, and involves a madman, who plans to sterilize nuclear weapons. Shot in black and white and inside a desolate period, I went back to look at Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” released in 1964. I know these films are of different genres, but they both involve deadly weapons for the same nations and humanity must endure, and they aren’t afraid to attack their target audience.
The madman is known as Herbert Von Krantz (Daniel Emilfork), and his project is known as “Canceler.” His assistant is the white-haired and dark glasses-wearing Yvan (Michael Imoff), who knows where Von Krantz hides his plans, and his daughter is Sylvaine (Marie-France Boyer), who knows about her father’s plans. She even tells the man of her dreams Manuel (Ben Carruthers) with the quote: “I didn’t want to die before seeing you again. And here I am.” But there’s something about him that her father doesn’t approve of.
The scientist has some enemies, who plan to stop him. Respective groups kidnap Sylvaine and Yvan. It’s all about getting answers about the deadly weapon.
“The Unknown Man of Shandigor,” written and directed by Jean-Louis Roy, doesn’t have every interesting character. In fact, some of them just scurry about and dish on the same things. But there are compelling ones, like how Von Krantz loses his mind, and has a sea creature in his pool, which only brows bubbles. His final scene has him descending into madness, and Emilfork is unbelievably perfect in the role. I also admire Imoff’s style and low key personality. These two have an interesting connection, and have their own comeuppances. It’s not often I get to see somebody attacked by toxic foam.
The look and feel of this movie seems like something that Wes Anderson or Jean-Pierre Jeunet would adore. Roger Bimpage’s cinematography allows the black and white scenery to represent the evils of the madman’s plans for world domination. This year, the movie is being released fully restored, and it looks absolutely stupendous. Now you can really tell today’s talented independent filmmakers would admire the film’s appearance.
But looks aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The real issue is how history has a way of repeating itself, when it comes to war. What Russia did to Ukraine was unforgivable, and I want to show as much respect as I can. “Dr. Strangelove” came out during the Cold War, while “The Unknown Man of Shandigor” comes out during a sad period. Both periods are sad. War is not a game.
Why would I recommend this movie given the circumstances? As a movie, you get your time’s worth, because of the performances, appearance, and atmosphere. But mostly because of how good Emilfork is.
Streaming on VOD Tomorrow