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|Index||60 reviews in total|
Despite the lavish sets and fair acting, I just couldn't get into this film. It was way to choppy for me, with too many plot holes. I've heard that the original ran 130 min., and the version I saw ran some 78 min., giving me an idea of how much has been cut out.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 or MST3K has won awards and ran for 11
years, but for my money and time, it's not only a complete waste but
also a big negative. I prefer the original movies as is, without part
of them being blocked out and without wisecracks. If these movies were
shown and experienced as intended, their impact and value would be felt
and maintained. One of the negative results of MST3K is that IMDb
viewers, like sheep, routinely rate a good many sci-fi films too low.
"First Spaceship on Venus" is one of these movies.
The movie was produced by an East German and Polish combo. The cast would be mostly unknown to American viewers, but Yoko Tani, its female lead, might be known for she has appeared in a good many international and American films. She lends a combination of striking beauty, strength, and empathetic emotion to this picture.
The story and special effects are original and imaginative, in a true sci-fi vein. Venus is shown as very different, hostile and alien, both the planet itself and its former inhabitants, who had mastered gravity and nuclear energy and planned to conquer earth.
We are entering an era where you can talk to your computer and it can take instruction verbally. Combine that with robotics and you have the capacity to instruct mobile robots. This is shown in the film, 50 years ahead of its time. The movie has an anti-nuclear weapon and nuclear war message, and it presents the challenge of space exploration as a destiny of the whole world's peoples, not as a competition among rival states for power. But first and foremost, the film shows a few handfuls of courageous, thoughtful and adventurous human beings who are willing to risk their lives to gain knowledge of a forbidding environment. And it depicts the strange encounters they have on the world of Venus.
I first saw this on TV in the mid 60s in black and white. It was spooky
and scary at that young age. Recently I have seen it in colour but only
the cut down version. I will try to find the longer version as the
editing of the 79 minute version seems quite harsh and very rushed.
When they reach the planet, things happen in rapid succession. Some
build up and more interaction among the characters would definitely
help. Maybe some of that is there in the full version.
The visuals are definitely there with the imaginative sets (with the 50s modern art flavour that could have come from the Jetson's) and there is a basis for a good enough story. The very multinational crew is a good idea and refreshing. Yoko Tani always looks great to me.
But even with the editing problems fixed, there are clearly some unnecessary, cheap diversions such as the inevitable threatening meteor shower and the goofy robot (where is Robby when you need him?). Those were common in American B grade science fiction. If taken out of this, this film could rise well above those. It certainly has the potential for that. Other Warsaw Pact science fiction films of that era, though flawed, come across better. Then again, this seems to be the first one.
I loved this movie! And you can love it too, IF you ignore a few
problems. One, I can't think of anything more idiotic than having to
break glass to turn something on in a spaceship. 2, what could look
more ridiculous than the "Crawlicopter?" Krollikopter? whatever it was.
3, Professor Sikarna was such a grouch it's hard to imagine someone
didn't throw him off the ship. 4, it drove me nuts the way they kept
mispronouncing "Omega". 5, the vitrified forest really did look a lot
more like petrified seaweed than a mechanism for directing
radio-activity toward Earth. 6, it is a little amazing that on a planet
slightly larger than Earth, they managed to land pretty close to the
Venusian command bunker. 7, when they looked down into the command
center...what the heck was that? 8,kicking a rock into the "slime" made
it attack them? 9, the whole planet's gravity reversed itself? 10, if
the gravity pushed them all away from Venus, why didn't they just pick
everybody up in space? 12, why did they pitch a tent? 13, it made no
sense whatever that the Venusians made those jumping, metallic bugs to
store information. Those problems and a lot more were a little hard to
get around, but I managed.
I did notice though, that there seemed to be a lot of ideas there that "Star Trek" borrowed just a few years later. The ship vaguely resembled the Enterprise, (although I admit, the Enterprise looked a lot cooler). Even the control console on the bridge vaguely resembled the bright red console on the Enterprise. And an internationally diverse crew? "Star Trek" gets a little too much credit for being the first to do that.
Maybe I'm too forgiving, but I still liked it, and I could well imagine looking out a porthole at those storms that occurred throughout the "long Venusian nights".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The poorly dubbed and sometimes corny science fiction movie has both
great and awful scenes. Before "2001: A Space Odyssey" this movie
attempted some real science in its depiction, particularly when the
sound effect of outer space is silence. This is one of the few science
fiction movies ever made that uses silence during the emergency space
repair, duplicating the actual physics of sound in outer space. This
movie also revealed liquid food before it was displayed in 70 mm in
"2001." Using what science they had at the time, this serious movie
also contained some awful, dumb scenes with colorful number
cheerleader-like, ground space crew workers. The acting was poor but
the script plotpoints were particularly telling especially as to who
lives and dies. An American hero dies, creating a romantic tragedy in
its wake. What is particularly great about this movie is its visual
depiction of an alien planet and the set up for the invasion of earth,
the use of an alien crystal used as a message device, as well as some
of the eerie techno-music. The alien landscape is some the most strange
and creative set pieces in science fiction film so far. There is both
brilliance and almost idiotic terrible in this movie. On balance this
is a five out of ten star movie.
**Subsequent reflection** Netflix provided a subtitled version of what appears to be the original release in German which also appears to avoid most of the techno-music which in some ways is both more elegant and focused on the film but also at times looses the eerie, musical thrill and haunting melody of the dubbed, English version. There are also extended deleted scenes which provide more character development and sometimes gorgeous backdrop of scenery, including Brinkman's mother, a another tender moment as well as reference to Brinkman's German background as well as the politics of the American scientist in having to go against his own scientific community to going on a Russian spaceship! Overall, understanding the context of the time, a movie released six years before 2001: A Space Odyssey, this film seems to attempt on its low budget as authentic a portrayal of space travel along with a strong plot script with dialogue that adheres relatively to the stock language of the times but also extends itself to more real dynamics than originally given credit. Some of the scenes actually rival 2001 in their out-worldliness and its strong message and action thriller is as potent as 2001. Originally rated 5/10, its more likely 8/10 even though a few scenes, more so than 2001 are dated, but not as much as say Forbidden Planet (1956). "Silent Planet" (First Spaceship on Venus) does justice as among the most daring and serious foreign sci fi attempt of the 60s.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Owning both the English dub version of this film and the original German version I feel that not too much was lost in translation. Even with the missing 20 or so minutes back in, the characters are still stock NOBLE SCIENTIST HERO types. The stalwart pilot, the grieving widow torn by her feelings for a fellow cosmonaut, the eccentric Einstein-type who seems to dismiss the trivialities of food, drink, etc. Also noteworthy is the Chinese linguist who cured famine in his spare time! THAT one takes the cake...ooh, bad pun--sorry. On the positive side, the multiracial casting (even for such stock, clichéd archetypes) is very bold for a 1960 Communist bloc film. The space visuals are also very impressive. The interior design of the KOSMOSTRATER spaceship is like a fusion of STAR TREK's Enterprise-D and an old Soviet Voshkhod capsule. Depictions of the Venusian surface are very imaginative, especially the robot insects and the intelligent, lava-like substance. Equally impressive is the idea that the would-be aggressor Venusians destroyed themselves with their own technology; an idea not too popular with 'new frontier' naiveté of the time. The film would be greatly enhanced if the crew had the moral ambiguity/complexity of Stanislaw Lem's later characters (as this was based on one of his early novels, THE ASTRONAUTS). And just WHY are the ground crew dressed like Alvin's Chimpmunks? Modern audiences might be bored with the seeming lack of action, but the film has so many intriguing little bits thrown in, it's worth the effort. One could easily argue that the clichés therein are no worse than STAR TREK, and for its time, it was just as innovative and imaginative. For fans of rare sci-fi, it's one for the vault!
"First Spaceship on Venus", or its original (and better name) "The
Silent Star"... maybe not bad for its time, and not bad with a budget
that comes with an East German-Polish joint production. But even so, I
just could not get through this picture.
I fell asleep. Even watching the "Mystery Science Theater" version, which should have been funny, I just could not make it... I missed about ten minutes to dreaming. That is pretty bad. I was also sort of irked by the complete lack of science... sure, we maybe did not go to the moon yet, but by 1960 I think we knew quite well that Venus was not hospitable to life. So, um, yeah... terrible premise.
I would still say it is okay to watch if you see it with the "Mystery Science Theater" jokes, but really, overall, I could not find a value in this film.
Unfortunately, most who see this movie today are robbed of whatever chance
there might have been to appreciate it as a serious effort at speculating
about mankind's future by it's current re-edit and the atrocious choices
made in the dubbing room. It is inconceivable that an adaption of a Stanslaw
Lem novel could be plotted so incoherently, and even more improbable that
English-speaking male astronauts would board a craft called the
`Cosmostrator' or that a robotics expert would name his creations `Automats'
in honor of the popular coin-operated cafés of the 1940's.. The heavy
contrast on the print may have been the original cinematographer's fault or
it may be a result of decay setting in, but it doesn't help at all. The one
black character in the film appears as a faceless shadow, except when his
glistening teeth or the whites of his eyes break through the
The flaws do not completely ruin the tale, however: following in the Soviet tradition of `Aelita, Queen of Mars' the filmmakers present a dazzling vision of an alien world, and combine it with a compelling argument for international cooperation. The devastated face of Venus is brilliant, as are the `data spiders' the lifeform used to store information by the Venusian culture. Unfortunately, audiences rocked by the hysterics of an `MST3K'-style viewing may have difficulty approaching its deeper philosophical insights.
There are sources (German Film archive)that list this at no more that 80 mins-and yet other sources that claim it was over 2 hours long-(Maltin, et al.) Personally, my feeling is that the E. European producers may have chosen to come in line with the American version, especailly if they recieved any funding from there, as the film does seem rather choppy... On the other hand, maybe only a couple of minutes of film were cut, but the music is changed, and the dubbing is rather comical. I wrote to Corinth Films, current owners of the film, to interest them in releasing the German version with subtitles anyway, out of pure fan interest, along with a new 16x9 transfer, and I recieved notice that they are "looking into it"
What makes this movie a fun experience to watch is the way it differs from American science fiction movies of the period. The special effects resemble "Angry Red Planet" and similar pictures, and maybe there is too much dialogue and philosophy involved to persuade contemporary viewers, but that's why Lem's book don't sell as well as for example those of Douglas Adams, although both share the same kind of anarchist humor. In one detail, the movie is quite ahead of it's time: The crew of the spaceship is derived from every continent of the world - Hollywood didn't care much about black or Asian astronauts back then.
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