Sci-Fi Rewind: Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
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Last month, we went to Venus in Kurt Maetzig’s 1960 The First Spaceship on Venus. This month,
we return to the morning star in Curtis Harrington’s 1965 film Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet.
This film recycles the earlier Soviet movie Planeta Bur by dubbing most of the original actors and
showing Basil Rathbone in a few scenes from a space station. It’s not as disjointed as watching
the American versions of Godzilla or Gamera, but it is close.
The portrayal of its one female character is disheartening, and not just because the costumes
and hair in this movie are so very dated. Marsha is portrayed as a typical ditzy woman occupying a
glorified secretary’s position who probably should not have made it into space. At one point she
forgets to give vital information to her fellow cosmonauts because she is literally too overwhelmed
by emotion. Later, she uses her intuition to contemplate making a move that would jeopardize the
cosmonauts’ entire mission. Of course, there is also the sexualized disembodied feminine voice on
the planet’s surface, who is even less of a female character than Marsha is. It is disappointing after
watching a film like The First Spaceship on Venus, where female characters, though few, are
experts in their fields.
Venus itself shines in this movie. While it was impossible to believe the characters in The First
Spaceship on Venus were anywhere but on a set, the landing on Venus in this film transports
audiences to a realistically rocky surface. Even the creatures that are harder to believe exist (like
a giant tentacled plant) look as though they belong in their environment.
The tools the cosmonauts use are likewise impressive in their design. Beyond the convincing
interior panels of space stations and crafts, there is a fascinating robot (costume worn by an actor)
complete with whirligig receiver and believable hover cars. Special effects credits go to Art
Director V. Shchelkov and Director of Photography A. Lavrentyev, part of the original crew on
Watch Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet and delight in the not-so-terribly-surprising twist ending.
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Director: Curtis Harrington, Pavel Klushantsev
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Faith Domergue, John Bix, Chris Brand