Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965, Curtis Harrington [as 'John Sebastian'])

You've gotten hold of a bunch of really cool footage from a Russian sci-fi epic about cosmonauts exploring the surface of the planet Venus. What do you do? Why, you cannibalise and re-dub it to make at least two completely different films, that's what you do! Yes, just like "Queen of Blood", the dream team of Roger Corman, Curtis Harrington and Stephanie Rothman crank out another epic space B-feature in under a week and for about $8. And it's great fun into the bargain.

Basil Rathbone, on what looks like the same lunar base set from QoB, and playing pretty much the same character under a different name, is a scientist heading the first mission to land men (and a robot - but not women, she has to stay up in the orbiter and mind the store) on Venus. Faith Domergue, her starlet days over, is the 'astronette' stuck in orbit like a female Michael Collins - the space guy, not the Irish Republican Army one. Both of these performers appear courtesy of new footage shoehorned into the original movie, and therefore communicate only via radio with the main cast and John the Robot, a much more impressive piece of tech than the grating Robbie of "Lost in Space" fame. If only Robbie had tried to fling Will Robinson into an extraterrestrial lava flow like John attempts with two of his erstwhile friends here.

Great pulp SF fun ensues, with great spacesuit and robot design, plus a cool hover car that beats Luke Skywalker's by a mile. Our cosmonaut pals battle with lizard-men, a flying reptile something like a Ramphoryncus / pteranodon hybrid, and the previously benign John, who goes from toppling rock towers to fashion bridges for his compadres to giving up halfway through piggybacking them through magma and deciding to chuck 'em in. Mental stuff, well worth a laugh when drunk, along with the pseudo-serious meditations on survival and evolution, and the possibilities of a Venusian civilisation.

I'm a fan of these hybrid re-edit movies, cf: any Hong Kong ninja movie made by Godfrey Ho, and this one is done particularly well - even the dubbing on the Russian footage matches up with the actor's lip movements. To be honest, if i didn't already know the film's background i probably wouldn't have guessed at all. Highly recommended to those with a love for the backwaters of SF cheese and a sense of the absurd.

Next: "Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women", which uses some of the same footage but with the added incentive of Mamie van Doren in a bikini. Sounds like trash movie heaven to me. I'm in.


  1. John the Robot is pretty awesome looking!

  2. He is all kinds of proper '60s pulp SF rock and roll.

  3. Sounds like I'd've enjoyed this a lot more than The Amazing Spider-Man, which I found unwatchable.

  4. If you found TASM unwatchable, do not approach the sequel. It's a billion times worse. No, i didn't think that was possible either.

  5. You watched the sequel??? Should I be adding masochism to your list of sexual perversions?

    "Boo hoo, I'm Peter Parker, life's so hard when you're a good-looking athletic skateboarding genius."