Voyage to the
Prehistoric Planet

Dir: "John Sebastian" [Curtis Harrington]
Star: Basil Rathbone, Gennadi Vernov, Vladimir Yemelyanov, Faith Domergue

Wow. Simply, wow. The main thing you realize watching this is, what a fine movie Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women was. No, really: both movies use the same Soviet film, Planeta Bur as their source, splicing in additional footage of American actors [here, Rathbone as Mission Contro and Domergue, pilot of the Venusian orbiter], who never appear with the Russian cast. But the results here are excruciatingly tedious. Chris had bailed to bed, pleading the 'flu; by the time I'd got through this, a dose of H1N1 would have come as welcome relief. For obvious reasons, the central core is the same - a mission to Venus, with the crew of one craft trying to rescue another. However, in Women, the presence of the Venusians and their reaction to the explorers provided an element of conflict. Here, there's nothing much for them to, ah, conflict with, except for the ropey-looking flying reptile, and a stream of lava which looks like chocolate brownie [memo to self: buy chocolate brownie mix on way home].

It doesn't help that the inserted footage is almost irrelevant, and the scientific inaccuracies seem far more glaring. For instance Rathbone, on a lunar-base, has a real-time conversation with Domergue, orbiting Venus, even though they're at least twenty million miles apart, so radio communications would take over three minutes to go back and forth. We also need to discount the fact that the surface of Venus has a temperature above 400 Centigrade and atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth. S'funny: somehow, it seems easier to ignore such things when you're looking at Mamie Van Doren in a seashell bikini. In its defense, being watched second doesn't help: the dubbing of the Russian footage is exactly the same as in Women, so half the film is absolutely identical. Less than a week later is probably a bit soon for my psyche to be asked to endure it all over again. While you have to respect producer Roger Corman's skill at getting the maximum bang for his exported dollars, modern viewers will likely wish this one had not got past the Iron Curtain.

[November 2009]

Will have you Russian
from the room
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