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Pavel Klushantsev, who directed more Russian SF films than he's credited
with here, found himself propelled from obscurity into sudden demand by the
Soviet authorities when the production of his 1958 SF debut, 'Road to the
Stars' coincided with the launch of Sputnik. Although he languished in
almost total obscurity in the West, his films were enormously popular in the
USSR, and, as a recent documentary noted, many of his cinematic innovations
were 'borrowed' 10 years later by Kubrick in '2001'.
Planet of Storms is not a great movie, but compared with most of the SF which the USA was churning up to this time, it's positively stellar. It's weakest points are its sketchy characterisations, and rather poor pacing, but hard SF luminaries like Gernsback and John Campbell would probably have admired its attention to detail, and relative lack of sensationalism. The film actually begins with the disclaimer "Venus may well be entirely different to this" (or somesuch), and what follows is a serious attempt to depict a Venusian expedition - marred perhaps by the odd dinosaur, but surprisingly free of Soviet chest-thumping.
Planet of Storms won't blow your mind, but you'll find yourself being charmed by the ingenious photography, sets, creatures, etc. There's also a straight out hilarious scene where the Robot gets rained on, and goes off his head. While his two human companions are lying on the ground, dangerously ill from fever, he's babbling on about building a concrete highway to reach the other half of the expedition, who are are about 20 miles away. Contacting him via radio, they are somewhat alarmed to hear him tell them "According to quotes from the Smith corporation, the cost of building a highway to the Sirius is 37 million dollars". I don't know if this was a dig at capitalism, but it cracked me up anyway.
Now - some bloke wanted a translation of the lyrics to the song. These are courtesy of SBS TV Australia (translated by Elena Mikrailik and Brendan Doyle)
Planet of Storms, we thank you for your lessons / We enjoyed our stay, but now we must be gone / Our ship awaits; our way is clear and straight / Our hearts are calling, "home, home home" / Yes, home, dear Comrades //
It's time to calculate the points of bearing / It's time to place our courage at the helm / She waits for us, the planet of our birth / Our dear home; our one and only Earth / Yes, Earth / Earth, dear Comrades //
(end of movie version)
Planet of Storms, we'll see you soon, don't worry / And in your harbour, our ships will gladly berth / For not in vain are we the sons of Earth / For not in vain are we the sons of Earth / Earth, dear Comrades
If one wants to learn some Russian (which I would like to do if I could
find the time), then this film would give some insights.
I bought the version from Sinister Cinema which seems to be missing the first half and so it starts with the cosmonauts discussing a tragic collision in space as they prepare to embark on a trip to Venus. It is in Russian with English subtitles and the special effects and the background music are both awesome. The story is pretty straight forward about a Russian expedition to the planet Venus, their encounter with dinosaurs and other strange life forms, philosophical discussions about the role of man in space, speculation about extraterrestrial intelligent life, and an ironic ending in which intelligent humanoid life is shown to exist on Venus, yet there is no contact between them and earth-born humans. Perhaps the writers intended a sequel.
Just like a lot of the German films from the 1930s, there is very little or no ideological propaganda, even though there is one reference to the Communist Party, Government, and the Soviet Union (thankfully a thing of the past). But aside from that single sentence, there is no reference to anything political. The story centers around a group of cosmonauts that represent not just Russia, but all of humanity as a whole as the crew embarks on an exploratory mission of the planet Venus. Recommended highly.
The russian language version is rare, but well worth seeing.
If you're really curious, you can see the American version
which was retitled "Voyage to the prehistoric planet" and released in
Back in the early 1960s, when this film was made, the Soviets
had focused thier space program on Venus.
In fact, they were the first to send probes into the atmosphere,
land successfully, and return pictures from the surface.
It's no wonder they were inspired to produce an extravagant adventure,
on the promise of thier exploration.
The story is basic and straight forward, about an expedition to the planet
Venus, but the science is flawed.
They encounter oceans, flooding rains, and animal life.
When this film was produced, we were just beginning to discover the truth
A surface temperature at the melting point of lead.
A poisinous atmospere, with crushing pressure hundreds of times as heavy as
No water, or oxygen, and sulfuric acid in the clouds.
If you're lucky enough to run across this film,
forget all that, suspend you disbelief, and enjoy this rare classic gem.
It is a bit odd having a robot named John speaking monotonic Russian, but this is a pretty interesting film. I also found it interesting that a couple of English phrases were tossed in on occasion. This is not at all what I was expecting, which was something along the lines of "OUR space program is better than YOUR space program", considering the year this was made. However, there was only one passing reference to any political/ideological struggle, and that was probably thrown in to appease whatever Soviet film board that had to give its approval to this movie. I would recommend this one for any sci-fi junkies out there who like to see what other countries did with the genre.
I saw this in my childhood and took years to track it down again since I saw it under one of its two confusing Roger Corman english-language re-edits [Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet with Basil Rathbone added, and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, with mermaids scenes directed by Peter Bogdonavich.] Finally able to track down the original Russian version recently, I was able to fully appreciate the ambitious scope and production values. The forest is truly primeval in its detailed beauty, Robot John both heroic and sad in his dedication, and the ending poetic and lyrical. Non-U.S. science fiction films are doubly exotic, and this one is classic fare.
"Planeta Bur" is about cosmonauts who are lost on Venus, attempting to return to the spaceship, and their adventures along the way, which include encounters with prehistoric reptiles, a volcano, and other perils. Like Ptushko's "Sadko", this is a true gem of fantastic film. The use of natural and artificial sets is very effective in creating an atmospheric, alien world; the monsters (an intelligent robot, a carnivorous plant, pestiferous lizard men, a pterodactyl, and some other dinosaurs) are similarly well done. Unlike American films of this kind, there is no emphasis on macho violence or digressions into "steamy" romance scenes; instead the film concentrates on the lavish visuals in an unhurried and dignified pace. My only complaints are that the introduction is too long and slow-moving, and that the subplot involving Masha's agonizing over the fate of her comrades isn't very interesting; but the scenes on Venus, which comprise the bulk of the film, more than make up for these flaws. "Planeta Bur" was drastically edited by Peter Bogdonavitch and released in the States as "Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women"; two versions exist, one with footage of Mamie Van Doren leading a tribe of telepathic Venusian women and worshipping the pterodactyl of the original film, the other without Ms. Van Doren or any of the prehistoric reptile footage.
This is the first real Russian science fiction movie. I appreciated that it includes almost no ideological trash from the cold war, despite the time of its creation. The crew even includes one English speaking person, Mr. Kern. Mr. Kern is not as perfect as other members of the crew, but he is still a positive figure. What I liked was that this is real SF, and no mainstream movie with "magic" elements: there is space flight, there is an intelligent robot, there are fights with (quite funny) dinosaurs and pterodactyles, there are Venusians aliens and there is speculation about one solar race living on various planets but with common roots. It has all a SF fan can wish. (Except for time travelling and cyberpunk).
This is beautiful story of cosmonauts landing on an alien planet, in this case Venus. Wonderful period special effects, some are truly astounding. An intelligent, engaging story dealing with the discovery of an ancient culture. Probably the best thought-out robot in screen history. While we were making Cat Women on the Moon, the Soviets were making this.
Not bad, not incredible like "Forbidden Planet" and not as colourful and tragic as "This Island Earth" and it is certainly not "Solaris". But we must give 60s Eastern bloc science fiction its due. None of it is bad. All of it respects the intelligence of the viewers and each manages to create effective atmospheres. The music and background sound were good. The robot and the "supercar" are dated but very good for the time. Naming the robot "John" is a bit of a dig at the West (one could just as easily see Westerners naming a robot Ivan or Igor). The robot is given a Western name while the crew are all self actualized socialist men except for the woman cosmonaut who is given the traditional role of minding the mothership and lamenting over the fate of the men who are off exploring the planet. If that and the song are the social commentary then it could have been much worse.
This is really an excellent film. Concerning a landing on Venus by cosmonauts( 6 men, 1 woman and a robot) and their many experiences trying to rescue stranded crew members, the film is well-written with outstanding sets depicting the Veneusian landscape. Unlike in much American Sci-Fi of the period, there are no evil aliens trying to take out our heroes, The only inhabitants they meet are carniverous plants, a peredactyl, and lizard-men( in one of the few poorly done scenes) This is is an excellent film and should be viewed by all Sci-Fi fans.
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