Monstervision's Joe Bob Briggs Looks At

Solaris (1972)

The Russian answer to "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In" for 9/6/91
By Joe Bob Briggs
Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas

This doctor in La Jolla, California, has found the part of your brain that makes you a homosexual. It's called the anterior hypothalamus, and it's basically the size of a mosquito's toe.
Actually, I'm saying it wrong. If you're a heterosexual, it's the size of a mosquito's toe. If you're a homosexual or a woman, it's the size of a gnat's toenail.
In other words, the bigger the hypothalamus, the more your brain sends out signals like, "Get a load of the hematomas on that one!" And the SMALLER the hypothalamus, the more likely you're gonna be thinking "Do my shoes match my purse?" or "I just LOVE Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music.'"
And there's NOTHING you can do about it.
This makes perfect sense to me, except I can already see problems, now that we know this. For one thing, guys are gonna be calling up brain surgeons demanding to have their hypothalami measured. And then we'll do brain scans and find out that Warren Beatty has a hypothalamus the size of a hippopotamus, but Harvey Fierstein's hypothalamus looks like a smudge of vegetable soup on the linoleum. And the guys with the well-developed hypothalami will start having X-ray pictures taken and advertising in magazines:
"With a brain stem like this, I'll NEVER get sick of having sex with you.
Call 970-HYPO."
"Wanna pick my brain? It's a handful!"
"Do you like long walks in the park? So do I. That's because, as you can see, my hypothalamus is so undeveloped that I'd rather walk around talking than have sex. Look how small it is. We could get married and you could manipulate me for the rest of your life."
You see what I'm talking about?
There's another problem here, though, because this same doctor says that the hypothalamus is formed while you're still a fetus, so it's something the parents could argue about later.
"You just HAD to have a pack of Winstons that night you were pregnant with little Timmy. I'm telling you, the boy's NOT RIGHT."
"It's just a stage. A lot of little boys dress up in women's clothes."
"The kid is fourteen and he's dressing up like Marilyn Chambers! I don't think so!"
"Well, it must be something from YOUR hillbilly gene pool then!"
Then you've got the matter of defense attorneys.
"Your honor, there's a perfectly good reason why my client would rape 370 women in a three-day period. Look at the size of this hypothalamus."
And the judge would have to say, "Well, if he can't control it, he needs to have a hypothalamotomy."
And then you would have mental hospitals all over the country opening up brain stems so you could bring the hypothalamus down to the level of "acceptable community standards."

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I hope the guy's a quack. Because, let's face it, if your hypothalamus can control you that much, then we're not HUMAN BEINGS, we're MACHINES that can be MANIPULATED by our mere biological needs and every time we think of a blond bimbo wearing tight Spandex and spiked high heels, or stuffing herself into one of those underwire support bras, or . . . I gotta hurry up and review this movie so I can go find Wanda Bodine.

And, in honor of the total victory of the Russkies over the Commies, this week's movie is "Solaris," the greatest Russian sci-fi flick ever made, now available on video for the first time. The flick is dang near three hours long, with these weirdbeard vodka-drinking cosmonauts wandering all over a space station trying to keep one another from going bonkers. Everybody back in Russia has lost interest in their mission, which was to study what's going on in this huge outer-space ocean where, whenever you get close to it, you start having hallucinations and seeing giant nekkid babies floating in space.

So a cosmonaut named Chris Kelvin goes up there to decide whether they should just blow up the ocean with a nuclear bomb and bring everybody back home, and he goes into this "Twilight Zone" sort of deal where the Ocean puts a whammy on him, and all his most intense dreams MATERIALIZE. It gets worse: his dead ex-wife shows up. He kills her, she comes back. She kills herself, she comes back again. All your dreams and memories get formed into neutrinos that become REAL and then you can't get rid of em. And it's a REAL intense thing, because Chris is always saying things like, "Honey, I need to go down the hall for a minute and talk to someone," and the Neutrino Ex-Wife says "I have to see you all the time! Don't leave me! What's wrong with me, Chris?"

In other words, life in outer space is like life on Earth, except there's no football.
This movie was originally made as Russia's answer to "2001: A Space Odyssey." They only had one problem. Stanley Kubrick had about 97 million bucks to make his movie. In Russia, they had about, oh, 97 rubles. And so, when they do a "weightless" sequence in "Solaris," they just sort of set the actors on chairs, and guys get under blankets and hold up the chairs and walk around with em while books fly by that are hanging by wires. It's kind of an early version of MTV.

Three dead bodies.
Two breasts.
Yellow space ooze.
Outer-space zombies.
Coagulating ocean brain.
Gratuitous midget.
Ex-wife Fu.
Hypodermic Fu.
Vodka Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Natalya Bondarchuk, as the outer space zombie ex-wife, for saying "I have a feeling someone's deceiving us";
Donatas Banionis, as the cosmonaut who loves a zombie, for saying "You mean more to me than any scientific truth";
and Andrei Tarkovsky, the writer/director, for having the crazed scientist say "We don't want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don't want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek Contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn't want. Man needs Man!"
I kinda like the sound of that.
Four stars.
Joe Bob says check it out before George Clooney buys the rights and does a lame remake.


Republican Alert! Only about half the screen at the Green River Drive-In in Green Springs, Utah, is still intact, and the rest of the place has reverted to desert scrubland. The concession stand is used as an organic-fruit store. L. Otness of Ashland, Ore., reminds us that, without eternal vigilance, it can happen here. To discuss the meaning of life with Joe Bob, or to get free junk in the mail and the world-famous "We Are the Weird" newsletter, write P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221. Joe Bob's Fax line is 214-368-2310.

Dear Joe Bob,
Thanks for your kind words about "Jakarta" (which I wrote and directed).
Two years and six tropical diseases (mostly non-female-related) later, I'm finally getting the feeling that the time I spent in Indonesia making "Jakarta" was worthwhile.
Thanks again. Receiving a favorable review from you (you also gave me kudos for "Mother's Day," a little art film I wrote and directed a few years back) is the most exciting thing that's happened in my life since I discovered that Lloyd Kaufman [co-owner of Troma Films] is my brother.
Charles Kaufman
Tower Films International
Los Angeles

Dear Charles:
"Jakarta" is the best UNSEEN drive-in movie of the last ten years. I got sick of Indonesia just WATCHING the movie. I can imagine what you went through.
You deserve some kind of medal for that chase scene alone. It's on the all-time motor-vehicle-chase top ten.

Bonjour Joe,
I had the greatest success of my life in Los Angeles only because I had a French car, a French accent, blond hair and French perfume. I really love the way you hate us!
Caroline Krener
Paris, France

Dear Caroline:
I don't hate the French.
The perfume I could live without.
And the car.
And the accent.
Keep the blond hair, though. I love that.

Dear Joe Bob,
You've been compared to Satan defiling someone's beliefs and to the grandmaster of modern thinking. That ranks you with Sam Kinison, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Rick Ducamman, Plato, and scores of others widely criticized by their peers.
Now I have two questions: Why are the people who outwardly seem to just be causing mass riots with but an ounce of brain material are then perceived to have many thought-out and insightful criticisms and solutions for society, while intellectuals (that's sarcasm) like our past few presidents are permitted to run the country only to run over the upstarts who should run the country?
And, how come fluff always seeks out your toes?
Solon Kobza
Fair Oaks, Calif.

Dear Solon:
The truly amazing thing about Plato is that he anticipated the philosophy of Bobcat Goldthwaite by 2,500 years.
Plato failed to solve the problem of toe fluff, though. It took Bobcat to get down BETWEEN the toes and boogie.

Dear Mr. Briggs,
In your interview in "Toxic Horror" you mentioned fighting the Tipper Gores to the death and if you're a horror fan and you're not helping the rest of the horror connoisseur's out, then you're going to Clive Barker hell. Well, I have written to those MPAA butchers a number of times protesting against their antics, and was wondering what else you think could be done. I've been a horror fan-atic since seven years old (I'm 18 now) and it kills me to see the MPAA, who don't have anything to do with the creative process of making a film, tell the makers to trim certain scenes if they want an R rating. I think the MPAA has swelled heads; they seem to envision themselves as the high authorities. Someone should put them in their place. The buck should stop here.
A horror freak and drive-in hermit for life,
Rich Klink
Olmstead Township, O.

Dear Rich:
Maybe we could stick incredibly long needles through their eyeballs and then hack off their arms with machetes and . . .
Naw, I guess not, huh?

Sweet savage Heathbriggs,
eternal yin to my ever-humping yang:
Joe Bobbo, Joe Bobbi, Joe Bobbae
Is a Latin verb conjugation
Meaning "I drool, you drool, we drool"
At a stud who gives instant elation.
Justine "Scooter Pie" Reed and the Greater Lubbock Literary Plaster-Casters
(Jeane Kirkpatric)
Bungus Gulch, Md.

Dear Justine or Jeane:
I'll bet Lewis Grizzard doesn't get mail like this.

© 1991 Joe Bob Briggs All Rights Reserved

For more of Joe Bob's pre-TNT reviews in Grapevine, Texas, go to his Drive-In Reviews Archive over yonder at www.Joe Bob

"Solaris" availability on video and on DVD from

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Trivia about the 2002 remake (Courtesy of the Internet Movie Database)

* James Cameron considered directing but opted to produce instead. Day-Lewis, Daniel was considered to star.

* Was originally given an R rating by the MPAA primarily due to a pair of shots of George Clooney's nude rear end. Steven Soderbergh appealed the decision, citing that similar content (and worse) had appeared on network television. Soderbergh won the appeal and the movie was granted a PG-13 rating. Apparantly Clooney's nude rear end isn't worth an R rating.

* In the final train scene, a Chicago L platform sign (Merchandise Mart) is clearly visible, though out of focus. Footage of the sign must have been looped to make the station seem much longer than it actually is: on the side of the station that's open to backlight, there are only two such signs mounted on metal balustrades, about 25 feet apart, but in the movie the train appears to pass more than a dozen.

* The verse of poetry spoken by Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) is a poem by Dylan Thomas called "And Death Shall Have no Dominion".

* There is a sign on Athena's engines stating "Dals Ed Mitt i naturen" Dals Ed is a small town in western Sweden close to the Norwegian border. The artist put it there because "Athena must have passed Dalsland sometime".

* It rains in every scene set on Earth.
* Steven Soderbergh is quoted saying that if the audience does not enjoy the first 10 minutes of the film then they might as well leave.
* One of the proposed taglines for this film was, "Love never dies". However, this same tagline had already been used for Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).

* This is over an hour shorter than Andrei Tarkovsky's original version, Solyaris (1972).

Elvis has left the building, and he took Joe Bob with him.