Sci-Fi Rewind: The First Spaceship on Venus
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When I look for classic sci-fi, I know I’ll be watching something special if the film has obscure
actors or is badly dubbed. Poorly-executed special effects (the kind made with garbage bags and
cardboard) and adorable space creatures or robots are also a welcome bonus. Director Kurt
Maetzig’s 1960 The First Spaceship on Venus meets all these criteria. It’s a mediocre film by most
standards, but it has a timeless science fiction message.
The First Spaceship on Venus is based on Polish writer Stanislaw Lem’s 1951 novel The
Astronauts. It was produced by an East German company and later distributed by Crown
International Pictures, the go-to company for B-movie lovers everywhere.
The beginning of this film feels like a middle school documentary on outer space. There are
many voiceovers in the first half of this film contributing to that feeling. Though the film is set in
1985, everyone is dressed like it’s the early sixties; so, it looks just like most sci-fi films fans of this
era treasure. For some comic relief or at the very least to lighten the mood of the intense plot,
there’s an adorable, non-threatening robot who has a “heart” and plays chess.
However, the true value of this film is its emphasis on true international cooperation. From the
film’s first frames, diversity abounds, and it is abundantly clear that space exploration only occurs
through the efforts of multiple nations working together despite their differences. When the crew
sent to Venus discovers that the inhabitants of Venus have been destroyed by their own atomic
power, the message of impending atomic doom they must relay to the Earth becomes more hopeful
because of this cooperation. There’s an overwhelming sense in the audience that because this
diverse group can work together to make technological and scientific discoveries, the people of
Earth can work together to prevent themselves from being destroyed by an atomic blast. That’s
exceptional for a Soviet story produced by an East German company. Of course, it’s possible I
might just be being too optimistic in my thinking, but positive thinking can be a powerful force in
and of itself.
Watch The First Spaceship on Venus and appreciate the kind of sci-fi film that was pretty
much all that was available in the 1960s.
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Director: Curt Maetzig
Starring: Yoko Tani, Oldrich Lukes, Gunther Simon, Julios Ongewe, Lucyna Winnicka