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A fully-restored DVD version of THE SILENT STAR was released in 2005 by
First Run Features, under the auspices of the DEFA Film Library at The
University of Masschusetts in Amherst. It's an excellent widescreen
transfer with some very insightful extras. If you thought you'd already
seen this movie because you saw the old dubbed American version called
FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS...think again!
My interest in the movie is chiefly as a fan of the books of Stanislaw Lem; THE SILENT STAR was based on his early novel THE ASTRONAUTS. Although Lem later disowned that book, disavowing its naive socialist optimism, THE SILENT STAR features numerous motifs that will resonate with any fan of Lem's fiction (inexplicable phenomena, the impossibility of making contact with alien intelligence, etc.) and is truer in spirit to his vision than the later attempts to film SOLARIS, neither of which made any effort to convey the planetary phenomena which Lem so vividly described.
Now, if only some mad filmmaker would dare to attempt a movie of Lem's masterpiece, the novel FIASCO...
Wow, this is movie is nothing short of amazing! How could it be rated so low? OK, this movie being made in a communist country in itself is amazing. IMO the director seems like the equivalent of Gene Rodenberry. His film (keep in mind this is the only one I have seen so I am just assuming) seems to see all people of different races and cultures working together in the future. This concept (not just the impressive for its time special effects) was WAY before it's time. Just like Rodenberry and his Star Trek legacy. The movie had not one but multiple characters of color (Black, Asian, Indian, etc) and most of them had more than one line and played a none stereotypical character in the film. That in itself is unheard of being that this movie was filmed in (or before) 1960; a time where racial injustices were done in America. Heck even now we still have films with people of color in unfair, stereotypical roles. This film really brought the humanity and fellowship of man out. I had to give this film a 10 star rating.
An interracial cast!!! How often did you see THAT in 1960? And none of
the characters were tokens either. They all were experts at the jobs
they did. And since this was Originally an East German/Soviet
film...one wonders if the Bloc nations didn't do some things right.
Politics aside, it's an excellent film.
The FX are better than most films of the time or even later. The cinematography makes it look futuristic even by todays standards. Despite the lack of budget (maybe) it all worked.
Obviously fans of vintage Sci-Fi notice the music getting ripped off from other films. But this happened a lot back then. Bloc country films got bought, re-edited, and re-scored constantly. Remember 'Planeta Burg?' If you can find the uncut version, add it to your permanent collection. It's worth it.
Rarely a rating was so unfair.At my time of writing,the film only gets
a poor 4,1.Something has to be done,it's all the more revolting as the
users generally wrote favorable reviews.
"Der schweigende Stern" is an adult responsible movie closer to "forbidden planet" or "planet of the apes" than to "close encounters of the third kind".Its special effects might seem laughable to some ;if the first part has not worn well,as far as these effects are concerned,the second one and Venus landscapes retain a strange charm.
But the main thing is somewhere else.The movie was made in 1960,when WW2 was not far behind.Culpability hangs over the whole work.After all,it's a German movie ,and hints at Hiroshima and the building of the bomb abound.Like Charton Heston and his mate riding along the sea,the astronauts will meet their fate on "der schweigende Stern",Venus.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When this movie was being made - 1960 - there was an attempt to make a fairly decent film. Discerning individuals will pick this up right away. There wasn't a astronomical amount of money being spent to create this slightly tarnished gem, but that which was available appears to have used quite efficiently. The costuming and the sets are essentially not bad. The casting was a bit of a surprise. Star Trek likes to tout their use of multiple ethnicities in their cast commanding significant roles. This movie predates them by over half a decade. I wonder whether Roddenberry didn't use this movie as a partial inspiration? On the other hand this movie isn't a U.S. product so that may account for much of the laxity. Meanwhile, the story, while not on a razor's edge by today's standards, must have been top-notch sci-fi (a nod to Forry Ackerman here) in 1960. The story is a good and still credible idea that would hold together well today if remakes are in order. There are the obvious science blunders in the script ('meteorites' being used when 'meteors' is more accurate - 'asteroids' would probably be even more accurate) but these flaws don't damage the final presentation. The premise is simple enough. We find an artifact on Earth and somehow determine it came from Venus. It is discovered to contain a message of destruction for our planet and we decide to go to Venus and see if we can prevent the promised Venusian attack. What awaits on the Venus is the point of this movie. The Venus sets though inexpensive are handled nicely through lighting, forced perspective, some matte work, superb direction and editing, etc. It seems to work and the effect is frequently nightmarish. There is a message buried in the story which is obvious and, as noted, not unknown in today's sci-fi goulash, but it doesn't hit you over the head. It has its say and comes to an end as they return to Earth (whether they like it or not). I believe this movie deserves better than the dismal rating given by those who have already voted. The story alone is worthwhile and the fact that an attempt was made to create a good movie despite finances is worth a 6. I was reminded of 'Forbidden Planet' when watching this. Another movie which also had a decent script as well as a better budget. One thing I will opine is that the sound effects were better in this movie than 'FP'.
It is always difficult to rate or recommend an old movie. Especially for
hard SF movies, things date really quickly and special effects seem rather
silly by todays standards.
Given that, this movie was rather well made, tried to predict technological
advances reasonably (although I'd love to see that anti-anti-gravity
device!) and had potentially a good story by Stanislaw
The movie would probably have had a much better story line if it hadn't been
cut in half and might have become a classic. For now, it doesn't come beyond
the usual warnings about technological advancements such as nuclear bombs -
although I admit that was a rather new message in the time the movie was
Acting wasn't particular good, but no worse that other SF movies in that
Is it worth watching? If you like SF movies, and are not prejudiced against old "dated" effects: Yes. Not spectacular, but a good watch
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No space monsters, no death rays, no strange alien beings. Perhaps I've
been conditioned by too many cheesy sci-fi and horror films of the
1950/60's era, but "First Spaceship on Venus" is simply so boring that
it overrides the few inventive elements that it otherwise contains.
There is one humorous idea though that stands out. Filmed in 1960, the story takes place in the way distant future of 1985, when an extraterrestrial "spool" is discovered in the Gobi Desert area of Siberia. Voice-over narration states that a connection has been made between the alien artifact and a meteor explosion that took place there in 1908, some seventy eight years earlier. On the spaceflight to Venus in the Cosmostrater 1, world renowned scientists have made a breakthrough regarding the spool's information - the Venusians have targeted Earth for conquest and intend to decimate the planet's population. Frantic to warn Earth, the scientists are frustrated in their inability to break through space interference to get their warning heard. Now in thinking about this, and piecing together information from the film that places the Earth to Venus trip at about thirty one days, my question would be - "What's the rush?" The communication is almost eighty years old, wouldn't they have gotten around to it by now?
The reason the Venusians haven't gotten around to it is because their own advanced technology had already done them in. Landing on Venus, the exploratory force runs into nothing more ominous than metallic "insects" and black lava-like attacking ooze, but nothing else! Though the astronauts have set a destruct sequence into effect, they quickly find a counter measure that reverses it. One almost begs for a big goofy alien like the one from "The Phantom Planet" to appear to lighten things up a bit.
On the flip side, the movie assembles an impressive, though no name international cast, including Asians, a black, a Russian and a German. Seven men and one woman from the scientific community form the astronaut team, though why Sumiko is given a bright red jumpsuit to wear instead of the same color as the men is intriguing. She's also portrayed as the most human of the team, suggesting a heart for the robot that continuously beats Professor Orloff at chess.
I guess my main problem with the film is that it takes itself way too seriously. The constant narration in the first half of the film seems to neglect the players instead of letting them move the story along through their own interaction. With no comic relief to counteract the monotony, I found myself wanting this one to be over quick, which it was at a seventy nine minute run time, but it seemed much longer.
... and since it was made in the 1960's, what else would you expect?
This film is based on a 1951 novel called The Astronauts by Polish
science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, and it is much better than the
current rating. That low rating may be because of some things I mention
in the next paragraph. I am reviewing the dubbed version.
First some of the not so good stuff. This is unmistakably an early '60s era work and clumsily dubbed into English. By that I mean you can't escape the crudeness of some of the special effects and some of the dialogue can be a bit clunky. And besides some of the dated aspects of effects and dialogue, you have to try to forget what you already know about what Venus is really like.
Now for the good stuff. In its own right this was an ambitious movie. It's a story of pure space exploration or more particularly exploration of a strange new world. And the depiction of that world might be a touch crude but it is nonetheless imaginative and fascinating. An alien artifact is found on Earth and its origin is traced back to Venus. In the peaceful Earth of 1985(!!!) an international group of scientists and specialists man the advanced spaceship Cosmostrator to travel to Venus to investigate and possibly make contact with any alien intelligence to be found.
Some of the imaginative set designs and models could have been lifted right off the covers of some of the most romanticized scifi novels. I love the design of the Cosmostrator and the ship's control deck bears a striking conceptual similarity to the bridge of Star Trek's starship Enterprise yet the film came out six years before Star Trek aired on American television! The film also features an intelligent yet non humanoid robot called Omega. And the crew is genuinely interracial. The ship's commander is German or perhaps Polish. The communications specialist is African. The pilot is American. The ship's physician is a Japanese woman. And the two chief scientists are Indian and Chinese. Plus they all have authentic ethnic names. This is also an ensemble cast with no true prominent character. While Forbidden Planet is recognized for likely greatly influencing Gene Roddenberry in developing Star Trek, this film introduces ideas that Roddenberry couldn't have gotten from Forbidden Planet such as the interracial crew. And could Matt Jefferies have been influenced by this film when designing the Enterprise bridge? It makes you wonder.
I'm normally not keen on films that are dubbed into English, but I have to say that this film caught my attention right off and held me to the end. Because in the final assessment the good outweighs the bad.
On further thought, considering Hollywood's current obsession with remakes, here's a film with some good ideas that could could use a good polishing. The basic story is genuine deep space, far future space adventure. Oh, and change the locale and give it a better title.
An artefact from Venus carrying a cryptic message prompts an eminent
linguistics professor to travel with a team of experts to the nearby
planet where they make a shocking discovery, making sacrifices to save
the Earth from imminent catastrophe. It's reminiscent of any number of
modern sci-fi tales that involve a group of astronauts defending the
Earth, emerging as heroes ("Mission to Mars" or "Sunshine" being more
recent exponents of this trend) and probably not as bad as it initially
While the epic idea doesn't quite receive the epic treatment, this German-language sci-fi starring Eurasian leading lady Yoko Tani does manage a watchable level of sophistication in its production values, coupled with some attempts at character development. Tani is attractive if nothing else while Gunther Simon essentially occupies the leading man role, as a friend of her late husband and now neglected romantic interlude. The rest of the cast look professional, though not aided by the clumsy English dubbing.
Intricate sets add colour and texture, while there's moments of genuine tension, action, melodrama and humour, even earnest attempts at pathos in the heroic conclusion. The 79 minute version I saw seemed to rush through the climax (though it still conveyed the essentials), although viewing the 93 minute version might possibly be a bit beyond the pale.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Der schweigende Stern (First Spaceship on Venus) is a superb science
fiction film produced behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold
War. Fortunately, communist ideology does not feature prominently in
the film though, no doubt, the producers were keen to create something
that would rival - and exceed - the Hollywood films of the era. In
this, they succeeded.
With a screenplay written by no less a science fiction luminary than the great Polish author, Stanislaw Lem, the film is relatively realistic in its depiction of space flight, giving it a grittiness that the frequently camp offerings from the United States all too often lack.
The set of the rocket ship's interior feels far more realistic than the garishly-painted plywood sets that would feature in Star Trek in just a few years' time.
Likewise, the rocket's exterior model is strikingly stylised, giving it a unique appearance.
The early realism gives way to a kind of surrealist feel when the ship lands on Venus. Special effects are used to good effect to create an atmospheric, thoroughly alien world of mists and sink-holes.
In contrast to Lem's later Solyaris, the alien culture encountered here is comprehensible to humans. A paradox is presented in that the alien artifacts indicate that they were significantly more advanced on a scientific level, yet still retain the aggressive, warlike tendencies that the humans in this utopian tale have left behind.
Indeed, the film follows the well-worn but still valid path of warning that our moral development has not kept pace with our scientific achievements. Here, the Venusians, intent on invading Earth, have unwittingly inflicted a nuclear apocalypse upon themselves.
The cry for peace and nuclear disarmament gives this film its timeless appeal. Also of interest is the fact that the rocket from earth consists of an international crew working in harmony. Again, this predates the ideas in Star Trek by several years and there seems to be a greater emphasis on true egalitarianism in this film: there is no American captain lording it over his crew, which did so much to undermine Trek's message. Unfortunately, despite these good intentions, much more character development is needed as one feels little sympathy for the crew. They are all largely interchangeable characters.
Unfortunately, the film does have weaknesses, both technical and in terms of plotting. The film stock is of poor quality, the camera work quite static and some of the acting is wooden. There are no bravura moments from the director: it is all very workmanlike.
Furthermore, some cringe-worthy moments do creep in, despite the overall feel of gritty realism. For instance, the ship's scientist gives the robot a "heart" within moments by simply plugging a few wires into the machine. The fact that the archive recordings are stored in robotic insects is never explained, nor is the gravity repulsor that pushes the rocket away from the planet at the end.
Depending on one's view, the revelation that the alien mud is in fact energy that has been converted back into matter is either very clever or ludicrous.
Pacing is a little problematic at times with the momentous nature of the discovery that the Tunguskan artifact is, in fact, Venusian in origin being very rushed.
In summary, despite its problems, this film is far superior to virtually all Hollywood science fiction, chiefly due to its realistic portrayal of space flight, grittiness and atmosphere.
Its attempt to portray a utopian future in which all nationalities can work in harmony is a heartfelt one at the height of the Cold War.
Its message of peace is also timeless and means this film is as relevant today as ever.
Without doubt then, this is one of the greatest science fiction films and one that is sadly overlooked in favour of lesser offerings from the West.
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