First Spaceship on Venus
Movie Review by Dennis D. McDonald
This 1964 European-produced, English-dubbed movie was cutting edge when released and even now contains elements that entertain.
The story is interesting. In the year 1985 an object is found in the Gobi desert that is determined to be a data storage device left over from an explosion early in the 20th century. What is more interesting, the source of the object is determined (how? that’s never explained) to be an interplanetary spaceship from Venus.
A multinational team to decrypt the message stored in the object is assembled, and a team departs the Earth for Venus to follow the message. Along the way, the astronauts make a final translation of the message —- and the message describes a plan by Venus to irradiate the earth, wiping out all life. Still, the team proceeds, lands on Venus, and the bulk of the story describes their adventures on the surface.
The set design, special effects, art direction, and cinematography are all fascinating. The sleek, silver, multi-legged space ship is beautiful. Ground vehicles for exploring Venus are appropriately futuristic. There is even a caterpillar-tracked miniature robot equipped with artificial intelligence that predates R2D2, plays chess, and is employed by the explorers to lead the way in dangerous situations. Its return from a dangerous mission is even preceded by swelling, triumphant music that expresses relief at its survival.
Unfortunately, the acting and dubbing are stilted. This must be the director’s fault, who appears, along with the editor, to have no clue concerning how to stage even a general conversation. We constantly see set pieces where the actors make speeches to each other. Was this due to the multilingual nature of the ensemble cast? Can’t tell, but it wears on the viewer and drags down the overall effect of the film.
Still, the star of the movie is Venus itself. I’d class the surface (and atmosphere) of Venus in this movie right up there with PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and ALIENS as creating a really weird environment. Miniatures and full size sets are well integrated (given the date of the film) and you can’t help but respect whoever storyboarded complex sequences mixing live action, miniatures, and overlayed swirling atmospheric effects.
Granted, today’s fan might be bored by the dramatic lethargy here, but color and image wise, it’s a fun film.
Review copyright 2001 by Dennis D. McDonald