July 8, 2012

Movie Review: Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)

As much as I enjoy old B-grade science fiction movies from the 1950's and 1960's, I have realized I have really not seen all that many of them. As a fest step in rectifying that, I stumbled across the 1962 entry Journey to the Seventh Planet. The Sidney Pink (Angry Red Planet, Reptilicus) directed feature stars B-sci fi stalwart (and one time Mr. Shirley Temple) John Agar. With that going for it, the movie turned out to be more than a little dull.

I will say that there are a few interesting touches and a decent concept buried in the boredom. It is too bad that the good things are overshadowed by the ridiculous. I guess it also doesn't help that some of he good conceptual ideas were borrowed from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

The movie is set in the then far flung future of 2001. The world is described, via voice over, as having learned to live with itself and there is no more war. The world is run by the United Nations and the unified world endeavors for knowledge and that quest has turned toward the stars.

A team of astronauts are sent on their way to explore the seventh planet, better known as Uranus (said in this movie with a decidedly un-joke worthy pronunciation). They spend much of their journey sitting around the control room lamenting the interruption to their dating lives. A good example of their banter is John Agar's line: "I knew this UN biologist... She was biological." So, yeah, they were, uh, clever.

They arrive at their destination and as they prepare to land, are rendered unconscious. An alien entity, looking like some cheap swirly lights, comes aboard and gives a speech aout how it will read heir minds and use their thoughts against them, you know, acting all malevolent. When they awaken they figure they were only out a couple of hours, but one them was holding an apple and now it is just a moldy, rotten, mummified thing. That would indicate they were out a lot longer than two hours. Never mind that, they proceed and land on Uranus.

Instead of finding an inhospitable wasteland, they find a lush forest. One of them then goes on to say that it reminds him of the forest by his house growing up. They disembark and find they can breathe. Upon reaching the edge of the forest, hey find their way locked by a force field. The youngest member of the crew goes and shoes his arm trough it, screams, and out his freshly frozen arm.

Instead of hightailing it out of there, they build a campfire, seems logical. Their captain, Eric (Carl Ottosen) tells of his childhood and the trees, windmill, and barn that he could see from his room. As he speaks, the rest of the crew watch in amazement as the landscape changes to match what Eric is telling them. Creepy.

This encourages them to investigate. They meet women from their past, and initially just accept them as being there. Makes perfect sense to me. Well, they decide to venture beyond the force field, and this is where he alien presence makes itself known. The landscape is not very friendly and they team are hem stacked by monsters, including a fuzzy reuse of footage from Earth vs. the Spider, and a one eyed rat dinosaur thing. None of it is all that scary, more cheap Han anything else.

They ultimately have a showdown with the psychic brain thing, which has designs on hitching a ride back to Earth where it wants to take over. Not if our intrepid crew has anything to say about it.

I like the idea of the crew's minds being mined for things to use against them. I is not a new concept and would be used better a decade later in Solaris, and perhaps most memorably in 1984's Ghostbusters.

Journey to the Seventh Planet aspires to something beyond its low budget grasp. It is a movie that wants you to pay attention o it's intellectual element and try not to focus so much on the actual actions. I can respect that, it is not unusual for a low budget release to play more for the concept than the execution. The problem is that it is rather dull as a whole, leaving you time to look at the lesser elements. For example, consider the fact that the explorers are able to rough up the women to get info on the brain thing, despite them being constructs and not real. Could the alien no control what they knew better? Also, consider they are able to fashion weapons using material from the illusions. It doesn't make a lot of sense. In the end, I guess it is just not war his is about.

There is no denying that his is a cheap production. Sidney Pink shot this in Denmark on the heels of Reptilicus. I guess the thought was that he had the time and the idea. It was picked up by American International Pictures for distribution, where they did not like the effects so much that they shot and inserted the rat dinosaur thing and reused the spider footage. Makes me wonder how bad the original stuff really was.

It is certainly watchable and is not all that long, clocking in at 76 minutes. It has to be considered a lesser entry, but for fans of this type of movie, it is one that should be seen. Just keep your expectations down.

Mildly Recommended.

You also have to love the crooning of the closing title song:


Matt Paprocki said...

If you want into '50s sci-fi, I can produce a laundry list of must see flicks (and good ones, not just "so bad they're good" ones).

draven99 said...

That would be great!

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