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(a.k.a. Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet)

A Review by Mike Bogue

Released by American International Pictures (AIP) in 1965



Direction: John Sebastion (a.k.a. Curtis Harrington)

Screenplay:  John Sebastion (a.k.a. Curtis Harrington)

Music: Ronald Stein

Producer:  George Edwards

Executive Producer:  Roger Corman


 

Once upon a time, AIP bought up several 1960's Russian SFantasy films and Americanized them for domestic consumption. Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) is a prime example of this quaint cannibalization procedure.

Similar to Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the American footage in Voyage was shot separately long after the original film's overseas debut (1962's Russian-made Planeta Burg). Instead of Raymond Burr, Voyage employed two other recognizable Western stars (Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue) to act as the narrative glue to hold the jigsaw pieces of the original Russian sci-fi film together.

Does it work? Yes and no.

First and foremost, the cheapness of the American scenes is glaringly evident. No real effort is made to match up the Western scenes with those of the Russian original. In addition, the pacing often crawls at the speed of sloth. But there's enough of Planeta Burg left to make it worth your while to catch this American/Russian hybrid at least once.

Poor Basil Rathbone hated being in these low-budget movies during the twilight of his career, but he gives Voyage his professional all; Rathbone is best known for his definitive portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in a series of pre-1950 Holmes films. Faith Domergue, who in 1955 had appeared in a trio of genre efforts (This Island Earth, Cult of the Cobra, and It Came from Beneath the Sea), fares well as astronaut Marsha. However, at first I didn't recognize Domergue in that B-52's beehive hairdo, but her warm almond voice is unmistakable.

The movie concerns the exploration of the planet Venus in the 21st century. There, earth astronauts and "Robot John" discover lizard men, carnivorous plants, volcanic eruptions, and dinosaurs -- in short, what you might expect to find on your standard cinematic "lost island." Kaiju eiga fans won't be put off by the men-in-suit lizard folk; the dinosaurs are likewise fun. However, the flying dinosaur is actually less convincing than the original Rodan.

The space effects are first-rate for their day, and don't look too shabby even by today's standards. However, in addition to using outer space scenes from Planeta Burg, Voyage also purloined a few space station scenes from 1960's Russian-made Nebo Zoyvot.

Meanwhile, Ronald Stein's music score includes Stein's reworked "giantess" theme for 1958's Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman. No giant women n this one, alas -- just a feminine but vague water reflection of an enigmatic Venusian.

Released long before the era of videos and DVDs, Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet is the sort of nostalgic Grade-B oddity that used to pop up routinely on late-night TV stations across the land. If seen in that spirit, Voyage is apt to wring a wistful smile or two.

 



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