Pavel Klushantsev's PLANET OF STORMS (Planeta Bur)
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
I watched this amazing Soviet film from 1962 for the first time the day before I watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I found both films impressive but in very different ways.
Luc Besson's Valerian, of course, has spectacular state of the art special effects and amazing production values. Few films of any genre can match its eye candy. Unfortunately, it suffers from a weak cast and an even weaker story line. Even Rihanna's "pole dance" cannot rescue it from tedium.
Planet of Storms suffers from occasionally humdrum special effects, childish pandering to the need for monsters, and dramatic pacing that at times moves in fits and starts. Yet, some of the production details and underlying ideas of Planet of Storms, even when viewed from the vantage point of the 21st Century, remain impressive:
- The land vehicle the cosmonauts traverse the Venusian surface in is really neat. It looks and operates impressively and compares favorably to Luke Skywalker's Land Speeder from A New Hope.
- The space suits and helmets worn by the cosmonauts on the Venusian surface are very impressive. We won't see suits this good again till 2001 and Alien.
- The robot, even though it looks more like the classic concept of the "mechanical man," is remarkably mobile and has some real tricks up its sleeve. Watch the long shot as it plays music (!) while crossing a huge Venusian gorge on foot with the cosmonauts.
- The discussion among the cosmonauts about the evolution of life on Venus is, to say the least, thought provoking.
Little wonder that the Soviet people around this time, exposed to entertainment like this, were so enthralled by that nation's progress in space travel!
There also exist some dramatic and scientific subtleties that are interspersed with the action; what to do when only two of the three original expedition ships go into orbit around Venus and the expedition crew faces a shortage of supplies?
- Land now and hope they can get back, assuming a backup ship from Earth arrives eventually?
- Wait till the backup ship arrives while all that tantalizing exploration potential rotates below Venus' cloud cover?
The discussions are interesting to follow despite the rudimentary nature of the English subtitles, partly because the actors are really quite good.
Granted, Western science fiction films during this period also occasionally reached the level of sophistication we have here; Destination Moon and Forbidden Planet are examples. Planet of Storms, I believe, also deserves a place of honor along side them in the pantheon of good pre-2001 science fiction movies.
Review copyright (c) 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald