The last few months, I’ve been featuring Venus in my Sci-fi Rewinds. This month, we are
transported to a spaceship on its way to Venus in the 1972 film Doomsday Machine. Some of you
may notice that this film shares its title with a 1967 episode of the original Star Trek series; you’re
better off watching that episode than this wreck of a film.
The film begins with the some espionage. You know you’re watching a special piece of sci-fi
history when you get to watch a woman strangled by her own braids in the first five minutes of a
film. The great discovery for which that poor woman had to die so comically is that the Earth is
about to be obliterated by a doomsday machine that Chairman Mao is planning to detonate.
We are then taken to the launch site of a spaceship headed for Venus, and there is obviously
some correlation between this launch and the doomsday machine, but it takes at least another ten
minutes for viewers to learn that relationship. You can get similar suspense from staring at
Pacing is a major weakness of this film. During the extensive launch sequence, we get to see
the interior of the ship that will go to Venus. It is patterned in rainbow and populated by recliners.
Then, we get fifteen minutes of technical jargon and stock footage of NASA launches. The film
itself gets so bored trying to get the ship off the ground that it inexplicably changes the design of
the ship halfway through launch.
Of course, the Earth is destroyed by nuclear war, and the crew determine they need to start
life anew on Venus. The Venusians don’t want this completely messed up crew because, frankly,
no one would. Unable to land at their goal, the spaceship is sent into an uncertain future.
There’s plenty to complain about in this movie. The costumes are dated; the music choices are
bizarre; the special effects are laughable; and there’s far too much stock footage. However, it’s
always helpful to focus on the positive. The real star of this movie is the doomsday machine itself
because I suspect that most of the film’s budget went into its construction. Too bad, there’s a
whole hour and twenty minutes left after we see it.
Watch Doomsday Machine and celebrate how this dysfunctional spaceship, like the plot of this
film, aims high but never arrives at its destination.
Sci-Fi Rewind: Doomsday Machine (1972)
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Director: Lee Sholem, Harry Hope, Herbert J. Leder
Starring: Ruta Lee, Mala Powers, Boby Van, Grant Williams, Henry Wilcoxon