by Special BMR Space Correspondent
had a strange fascination with space travel back in the 50s. This
fact is obviously supported by the large number of films made
during that time which dealt with space travel. And what a place
outer space was - brain-exposed aliens with long tongues, references
to Frank Baum, legions of shapely, feminist ETs and Ray Corrigan
in a dumpy suit. Strangely enough, America seemed to be the only
country making these kind of films at the time (perhaps due to
its major advances in the Space Race at the time). Japan was busy
with kinetic monster bashes, Italy had its hands full with sword
and sandal fiascos, Mexico had its mind set on creating the ultimate
crime fighting wrestlers, Germany was obsessed with penis films,
and so on.
America wasn't entirely alone in its assembly-line creation of
such films. In fact, it was its competitor in the space race,
Russia, who was the other major in space travel films. And granted,
the Russian space missions, according to these films, were as
goofy as their American counterparts. Dull, yes, but still goofy.
Spaceship on Venus begins with the event of the irrigation
of the Gobi desert which, as everyone knows, took place in 1985.
As we are told by the helpful narrator, a strange rock has been
discovered that contains a spool with a strange message inside.
Tests on this rock reveal it to be extraterrestrial in origin.
"somebody remembered" (I'm not kidding, the narrator actually
says this!) the explosion in Tunguska which was thought to be
a meteor. Perhaps it's something else, hm?
enough, the two scientists tasked with translating the message,
Dr. Tchen Yu (Tang Hua-Ta) and the awful Dr. Orloff (Ignacy Machowski)
find that has a message composing of the elements on Earth, while
another scientist, Dr. Hemingway (Oldrich Lukes) confirms the
fact the rock originated from Venus. Further analysis by another
scientist, Dr. Durand (Michail N. Postnikow ) reveals that it
must've been launched from a craft that was about to crash and
was, in fact, the real reason for the Tunguska blast.
I guess there's no other choice than to go to Venus, correct?
Right you are, my friends. So they assemble the scientists mentioned
earlier along with a few new ones: French engineer Dr. Sikarna
(Kurt Rackelmann), seasoned astronaut (and "First American Spaceman
on the moon", I might add) Robert Brinkman (Gunther Simon), radio
operator Talua (Julius Ongewe), and the female surgeon and Odious
Love Interest, Sumiko Ogimura (Yoko Tani).
the spaceship designed for the trip, Cosmo Strata (which is hilariously
pronounced Cosmos - Traitor in the dubbed version, so I guess
I'll refer to it as that) is in the preliminary testing stage.
The crew goes about its business - Brinkman and Sumiko have the
pedestrian "Why won't you come back to me?" speech, and Sikarna
shows off a hideously annoying robot named Omega. It is probably
noteful that I point out that at first I thought this was a re-issue
of Planeta Burg, which featured a team of scientists landing
on Venus and a robot which saved the lives of the crew members
during a storm. I now know better, and the rest of you will soon
find out why.
the crew has settled their affairs on earth, they are put to sleep.
The scene depicting this features probably the only exploitative
shot, that of Sumiko taking off her lab coat before getting into
bed, revealing that she wears nothing but panties underneath.
Now tell me, how many scientists do you know who wear nothing
but their underwear beneath their lab coat? Strange indeed.
the moment comes. The Cosmos-Traitor is ready for takeoff. The
ship blasts off into space and signals the moon base as it passes.
This leads Sumiko to reminisce about her husband, who apparently
died on the moon.
it's time for the wacky on-board antics of the crew members, like
Durand and Tchen Yu engaging in some anti-gravity frolicking (you
can obviously see the hanging harnesses) and Durand whining because
he can't beat Omega at chess. At least HAL-9000 had the decency
to thank Dave for a valuable game. So the crew members engage
in some horse hockey about giving Omega a heart. Sikarna, of course,
while this engrossing argument continues, a meteorite shower hits
and the ship is temporarily disabled. Hemingway figures that they
didn't anticipate it because the computer couldn't register a
shower that small. However, that was only the preliminary one,
and the next one is powerful enough to destroy the Cosmos-Traitor.
Fortunately, Sikarna is able to fix the ship's rockets enough
that they could blast out of the path of the shower. But that's
not the worst news - Tchen Yu and the Awful Dr. Orloff discovered
what the spool's message is (yes, they brought it along.) Turns
out the Venusians intend to subject us to radiation and take over
once the ill effects have faded away. Talua tries to contact the
Earth and tell them this Earth-shattering information, but interference
from Venus (?) Stops them. The crew, arguing over whether to turn
back or go on, unanimously decides to head for Venus.
days later, the Cosmos-Traitor finally reaches the outskirts of
Venus's atmosphere. Brinkman is sent down because, as Hemingway
puts it, "they don't want to take off or land more than once."
Brinkman takes of in a Wonka-esque vehicle called the Krollo-Copter *
and brings along Omega, for the viewer's explicit suffering. But
as Brinkman lands and leaves the Krollo-Copter, it explodes, sending
him and Omega running. Brinkman slips and falls into a cave full
of what appears to be flying Cooties. He grabs one, climbs out
of the hole and runs into the other crew members, who tell him
that the explosion was due to the fact that he landed on a power
line which may lead to the alien's base. Oh, those coincidental
Americans aren't bad for everything, huh?
the studies of Venus are made. Tchen Yu discovers that the little
Cootie toy is actually a sort of audio record of the alien's record.
Wait a minute. Would a piece of equipment that bounces about such
as the Cootie Device in such a small space really be a good place
for storing energy? The chance of it colliding with the wall
would be more than would be desirable, if you wanted to preserve
as fully the information you had. That'd be like bouncing a videotape
on a trampoline a few dozen times. Come to think about it, seeing
as how crummy the videotape transfer I have is, perhaps the distributors
have done this quite often.
search for the alien life form goes on. The task is tedious because
of the long, Venusian nights that are always preceded by storms.
Strangely enough, according to the ship's calendar they've only
been there two or three weeks, or about 21 days. I thought the
Venusian day lasted about 243 days. Whether it's an accidental
anachronism or just plain stupid I do not know. But anyhoo the
research leads to the discovery of what appears to be a huge golf
ball, the purpose of which is unknown. Tchen Yu also discovers
what may be seeds in the ground.
searched one end of the power line, the crew sets off to locate
the other end. On their way, they gaze upon, for the first time,
the Venusian cities. Although the buildings remain, all that are
left of the people are their shadows projected onto nearby rocks,
apparently from the blast of their nuclear weapons. It is not
long after this that they find the other end of the power line,
which leads to a building, most likely an operation center, with
a model of the solar system used for tactical purposes. As they
search further, Sikarna, Brinkman, Sumiko, and Omega are attacked
by a blob-like creature. Sikarna stops it with a well-placed laser
blast, but the use of the weapon has a strange effect on the giant
golf ball and the petrified forest around it.
surprise: the golf ball is an mass/energy converter while the
petrified forest is some sort of catapult which launches the energy
gathered by the golf ball towards a specific target- in this case,
Earth. Sikarna accidentally triggered the conversion when he fired
his atomic blaster and now the golf ball is transferring all the
energy into the area into a single, gigantic explosion. The crew
decides that the process must reversed from matter back into energy
before the blast becomes too great. Talua, having studied the
nerve center, volunteers to be the one to perform the task. Tchen
Yu goes along to help.
time is short - Hemingway is attacked and seriously injured by
Omega (now see how I found out this wasn't Planeta Burg?)
And must be operated upon immediately. As Sumiko operates on Hemingway,
Tchen Yu and Talua enter the nerve center. But as Tchen Yu lowers
Talua into the cave, he is hit by a swinging whatchamacallit that
punctures his space suit. Losing air quickly, he urges Talua to
go on in the crew's behalf. Brinkman heroically dashes off to
the rocket plane to get to Tchen Yu with oxygen while Sumiko rants
on to a dying Tchen Yu about the germination of the seeds he discovered.
Implausibility Time again. No, it's not the seeds, but more of
the breathing situation. I think I'll take the time to point out
that while the space suits the astronauts bear are exceptionally
cool, the air tanks on the back are a wee bit small. Imagine three
graduated cylinders about three feet tall attached together, and
you get the basic idea. Unless the future has some astonishing
way of packing oxygen into smaller spaces, this would last all
of, about, five minutes at the most. The next thing that bothers
me is that Tchen Yu isn't asphyxiated immediately by Venus's poison
air. Wouldn't that kill him instantly? Perhaps it would be better
if Brinkman brought along some sort of seal to fill in the hole.
anyway. Talua manages to reverse the process, but it is too late,
for the power released by the forest is already strong enough
to catapult the ship off the planet, leaving Tchen Yu dead, Talua
marooned, and Brinkman hurled out into space for his foolhardy
attempts for save the two. So the rest of the crew heads for Earth,
lands, delivers speeches about their lost comrades and rushing
off into the hands of characters whom were never introduced to
us in the dubbed American version. The End.
my biggest complaint about the movie involves the last part. About
2/5ths of this movie was cut for American release by Crown International
(you can just tell a film is going to be mediocre when its distributor
also released The Creeping Terror and They Saved Hitler's
Brain!), which leaves us with very little characterization
to go on referring to the secondary characters. Heck, the main
characters remain pretty ambiguous! The film perhaps might've
been less dull, even, if more back plot might've been referred
to. As this is, the jarring editing turns the film from amusing
to bemusing. And the dubbing, well, when Omega is pronounced "Ah-meh-Gaw",
you know English must not be the recording voices' first language.
The set design is probably the thing
that holds up best, with impressive Venusian smog and landscape
effects that seem to come from Krazy Kat's nightmares.
the film is too ponderous and un-involving to stimulate the viewer's
interest for long. Even the writer, Stainsaw Lem, author of such
droll stuff as Solaris, has disowned it, which leads now
to my main statement in this review: don't think that just
because something is more realistic, it's more entertaining.
Nobody sings in real life, but in musicals they do. Life doesn't
embrace the world for its macabreness, but black comedy does.
All women aren't a full DD size in real life, but in Russ Meyer
films, they sure are. So the next time you have to choose between
a trip to the moon to dump off a bunch of trash or a trip to Mars
to be attacked by a giant spider-monkey-rat, go with the monkey.
It may seem stupid, but ignorance, truly, is bliss.