Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
AKA: Planeta Bur (1962), Planet of the Storms (1962), Planet of Storms (1962), The Storm Planet (1962), Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968), Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet (1965)
American InternationalDirected By: Curtis Harrington & Pavel Klushantsev
Written By: Curtis Harrington
Executive Producer: Roger Corman
Runtime: 74 Minutes
The film “Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet” may be the most interesting science fiction film to be produced in the 1960s’. Although the film in itself is very well done and features some excellent special effects shots, it’s the films origin and two different Americanized versions that may be of most interest to fans of this genre. You see the film was not an American product, but a film made in the former Soviet Union. Although scenes that starred Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue filmed by Roger Corman were inserted into the film for American viewers the film is still basically “Planeta Bur” (Planet of Storms – 1962) in most respects. In this version almost all Soviet references were removed from both the film and its credits, although it was hard not to notice the Russian insignias on all the spacecraft. American International must have been very nervous about releasing a Soviet sci-fi film during the middle of the “Cold War.”
The weirdest version of the film was “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women” which was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and featured pterosaur worshiping sirens that spend endless hours lounging around on the beach in see-through togas. Not even the casting of Mamie Van Doren as Moana the leader of this blonde coven of Venusians can save these poorly intercut scenes from dragging down what is essentially “Planeta Bur” with the Corman footage removed. It can only stand to reason that Bogdanovich just needed an excuse to film attractive women on a beach. It would seem unfathomable to believe that he thought this new footage could add anything to the original material. These new scenes only make a very good sci-fi film hard to follow and effectively ruin the films pacing. Trust me even good “eye-candy” couldn’t help this one from heading straight to B-movie hell.
But I have gotten off point.
On the other hand “Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet” is a surprisingly good sci-fi film. Even with the extra American footage added it still retains the maturity and charm of the original Russian production. The acting of Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue is fairly “wooden” but those scenes are early in the film and are only used to establish an Americanized storyline. In other words they are brief enough to be ignored.
Also surprising are the quality of the films special effects. The miniature space ships and creative props are very convincing. In fact the movies human sized robot and hover-car really steal the show. It can only be fair to say that the effects are mostly on par with the quality of work seen on many American films from the same time period. Possibly better?
The story too, is very well thought out and well executed. A group of explores and scientists set out to land on Venus. A mysterious accident causes the two groups to land on two separate sides of the planet. While trying to link back up with each other they discover that Venus was once inhabited by a human-like race that destroyed itself in some form of nuclear holocaust. The planet has begun a new genesis that has reached a stage that resembles the prehistoric past of Earth complete with dinosaurs and lizard-men. All the while the adventurers are plagued by constant wails from the souls of the now extinct Venusians. Possibly trying to warn their human visitors not to follow down the same path of destruction they did. An anti-nuclear message in a Russian film in the middle of the “Cold War?” It would seem so. It would be interesting to note that fears of nuclear war were a reality on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Food for thought.