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VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET [1965] Movie review

VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET [1965] / VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN [1968] The year is 2020. An international mission aboard the spaceships Vega, Sirius, and Patella (I might've misheard the last one) is on its way to Venus. The narrator states that it's a 200 million-mile voyage, though the distance from Earth to Venus is really more like 26 million miles. On the planet's surface, the astronauts (and their robot, John) deal with dinosaurs, a giant flying reptile, killer plants, quicksand, an erupting volcano, a river of lava, man-sized Godzilla wannabes, and copious amounts of steam (or maybe it's fog). Never mind that the temperature on Venus is 900° Fahrenheit and could not possibly support life. Other problems with this film: the pacing is monotonous, the dialogue is wretched, the dubbing is unemotional and over-enunciated, the plant and dinosaur effects are laughable, and John the Robot is clunky as hell and speaks in a grating metallic monotone. On the plus side, most of the visual effects are well done. The dressed-up terrain simulating the surface of Venus showed imagination. I also liked the hovercraft the astronauts drove. Their space suits are pretty cool, too. There's also an underwater scene that I found reasonably convincing. If the screenwriter had put in as much effort as the effects crew, this could have been one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade. This film is really the Russian-made 1962 movie, PLANETA BUR' (“Planet of Storms”), dubbed into English and featuring new scenes with Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue (courtesy of Roger Corman). Which makes it even more ridiculous that VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN is really *this* film with new scenes featuring Mamie Van Doren! Leave it to Corman to get the maximum bang for his buck. It opens with an interminable monologue (by first-time director Peter Bogdanovich) about space travel. When Earth loses contact with a two-man (and one-robot) mission to Venus, a new trio of astronauts dispatched to find the missing ship and crew—in a “U.S.” craft that bears the red star of Russia. Living on Venus is a tribe of hot young blondes who communicate telepathically, dress in hip-hugger pants and seashell bras, and worship a pterodactyl that the astronauts kill when it attacks them. This enrages the women, who swear to avenge the murder of their god. This new footage is merged with the Russian original far more sloppily than in PREHISTORIC PLANET. In that film, Rathbone and Domergue's characters are in constant contact with the astronauts on Venus. Here, there is no contact between the space travelers and the Venusian women. It's like they're in two different films—which, come to think of it, they are. It was a good idea to create a scenario in which the events of PLANETA BUR' are witnessed through the eyes of the Venusians. Alas, it was the only good idea in either of Corman's disembowelments of what I'm told was a fine example of Soviet cinema. I'd like to see the original PLANETA BUR' with English sub-titles. Finally, PREHISTORIC WOMEN never explains how an all-female race can reproduce, much less find enough cotton on their planet's barren surface to make pants out of.

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