In the 1960’s, America and the Soviet Union were engaged in a “space race”. Both wanted to be the first to make it to the moon. Both countries were very interested in space at this time, and popular culture was heavily influenced by this interest. This was reflected in the films and programs of the time. In the Soviet Union, one such film was made. Planeta Bur (which basically translates to Storm Planet), a 1962 film about Soviet astronauts searching for and finding life on Venus, fell into the hands of one Rodger Corman, notable film producer. The picture was re-cut, dubbed over, and re-titled to Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. All references to the Soviet Union were omitted and the Soviet actors were given American names. But this is only one half of the story.
In this version of the film, it’s the year 2020. Yup, just two years until all this crazy stuff happens. The moon has already been colonized. Now, attention is turned to finding life on Venus. In the 60’s there was speculation that Venus could support life, it being our closest neighbor after all. Very quickly that notion was dashed aside when it was descovered that the conditions on Venus are nothing short of hellish. That being said, I can forgive the filmmakers for positing that such an expedition, given what little anyone knew about Venus, could plausibly take place. All in all, the science of this science fiction is not actually too farfetched. They just undershot the decade somewhat.
Basil Rathbone is given top billing, but he is hardly in this movie at all. He was in a handful of scenes shot for American audiences in this re-edit. He and actress Faith Domergue were hired to provide a little commentary and sell the film to western audiences. This very similar to the American re-cut of Godzilla with Raymond Burr serving a similar role. This is less intrusive. Most of the film is carried by the Russian actors. I’m unsure how faithful this film is to the original as I have not seen it. I’ll definitely put it on my list.
Our intrepid astronauts and Automaton John, yes they named their robot John, make their landing on Venus after what felt like an eternity of setup. There were so many stagnant scenes of talking, I began to feel the isolation and boredom that I’m sure astronauts must feel in real life. So, I guess the film was effective in making me feel like I was that was an isolated part of the film. Once they arrive at the surface they are accosted by man-eating plants and dinosaur-like, bipedal aliens. After that, the movie devolves back into a bunch of walking and talking. I was bored to tears by the end.
Unlike the other films I have subjected myself to for this series, this one was competently made. It may have been an utter drag, but it was a decently directed drag. There is just no intrigue. The astronauts just try to survive on Venus with very little dinosaur encounters to be had. Disappointing. Then, they just leave. The only sense of mystery was the insinuation that some humanoid woman might be living there based on an ethereal voice that seems to belong to a human female. Sure enough, we’re given a glimpse of this woman just as the astronauts are leaving. Just a glimpse. But maybe this was foreshadowing for what was to come.
I can’t recommend this one. It just isn’t interesting. However, it may make a good double feature with another film that I will be reviewing next. The other half of the story. What if I told you that Rodger Corman didn’t produce one re-cut of Planeta Bur, but two.