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DIRECTOR: Peter Bogdanovich RELEASE DATE: 1968 RATING: Unrated
CAST: Mamie Van Doren, Gennadi Vernov (as Aldo Romani) et al.
// review by Jeff

Welcome to Venus, where women in shell bras rule the world!

If you are familiar with some of my other movie reviews, then you know very well that I get a bit of a kick from really cheesy black-and-white movies. Well, they don't get much cheesier than "Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women". To be honest, I can't understand how any movies like this can get the green light. It must have been made solely for the purpose of filling up time during an evening at the drive-in so that couples would have an excuse to have intergalactic intercourse in their cars instead of actually watching the film.

Now here's the deal with this movie: it's actually a ripoff of a ripoff. How can this be, you ask? Let me explain. In 1962, a Russian film entitled "Planeta Bur" (which roughly translates to "Planet of Storms") was produced, with Pavel Klushantsev as the director. The movie was about Russian cosmonauts arriving on Venus and soon finding themselves in sticky situations as they become prey for some of the weirdest (and lamest) creatures on the newly-traversed planet. Three years later, Curtis Harrington took the footage to make it more Americanized by adding more scenes with American actors (as well as giving Americanized names to the Russian actors to hide the fact that it's a Soviet film), dubbing the old footage into English, and changing the plot considerably so that the two new characters, Marcia and Professor Hartman, end up checking out Venus, only to be attacked by monsters on Venus and later discovering that Venus was once like Earth, but was destroyed due to a global nuclear holocaust. And it was called "Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet". And that's just great. But the story doesn't end there. Three years after that (we're at 1968 by now), Peter Bogdanovich snagged the already dubbed footage from "Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet", removed the footage with Marcia and Hartman, and added extra scenes featuring a bunch of women with conch-shell bras and tight white 60's pants as women of Venus who could only speak telepathically. The basic premise of the movie is the same, except that one team of astronauts (plus a mechanical buddy humorously named Robot John) crashes on Venus and another team of apparently braindead morons have to go find them. And thus, "Voyage To The Planet of Prehistoric Women" was born!

I doubt that "Planeta Bur" was an excellent film when it was first released six years before this one, so a butchered and horribly translated version like this clearly can't be any better. First of all, the special effects are pretty awful (after quickly adjusting to the horrible film quality with all those scratchy squiggly lines). Any parodies of lousy 60s sci-fi films were probably created after someone watched VTTPOPW. To make such matters worse, there are even borrowed special effects scenes from ANOTHER Russian film, "Nebo zovyot" ("The Sky Is Calling"), and they, too, are unimpressive! The actual scenery is mildly believable though; a few scenes on Venus look like they could be on another planet. However, there seems to be quite a lot of water and/or rainfall on Venus, much more than there actually is, beyond the water vapour in the atmosphere. There's even an ocean apparently, where the women of Venus tend to hang out and nap. Isn't that something? I also realize that volcanic plains are quite common on Venus, but the lava seemed to look more like chocolate cake batter than anything that could harm a human. Overall, the visuals seemed to be quite lacking. Also, could someone explain why the Soviet emblem is on an American space shuttle? Oh wait, we know why...

As for acting, it's rather hard to proclaim it good or bad, simply because the film is dubbed. However, what I can tell you is that the script is painful to listen to. Sometimes the characters deliver quips that are supposed to be funny (or occasionally in jest with another character), but the lines always fail. I hope this wasn't typical 1968 humour. The characters don't say a whole lot, but when they do, it's not often that the lines aren't too abstract or completely relevant. It is as though they are on Venus, but their brains were left at the launching pad back on Earth! The director also decided to throw in some extra narration; the vocal clarity of my version was quite muffled, but as far as I could tell, it was nothing but corny introspective drivel used as a time filler. As long as I'm discussing the acting portion, let me say a bit about the creatures of Venus. There are many of them, and all of them are quite unconvincing. There are mini-Godzilla-type monsters that are easily subdued, pterodactyls that are quite obviously made of rubber, a giant man-eating lotus plant whose sole mission is to snatch you up with its tentacle arms and give you a squeezing that you did not desire, and a surprising number of regular-looking fish and octopi in the weird Venusian ocean. The costume and prop work is cheap; they didn't even try to make things look real. The Venusian "prehistoric" women (who are declared prehistoric for no apparent reason), however, are real and look like Woodstock hippies with sea brasieres, but they have the power to pray to their god, Terra, and make bad things like volcanic eruptions and excessive rainstorms occur. They are led by a voluptuous one, portrayed by Mamie Van Doren, a former Playboy model and all-around oversized chestafarian. They speak telepathically, and very little at that. It's not thrilling.

All in all, I was not impressed. The other B-movies that I've reviewed were also bad, but were so bad, they were good and humorous to watch. This one lacks even that simple level of charm. There's practically no excitement to be had, and the ending of the movie is both disappointing and insulting. I won't reveal everything (in case you are masochistic enough to actually snag this film and watch it) but I'll give away one spoiler: the astronauts NEVER come in contact with the prehistoric women. Yeah, I'm dead serious. You would think that in a movie about a team of astronauts' voyage to a planet of prehistoric women, they would actually find them. But no, nothing of the sort. This is easily explained by the fact that the scenes with the women were filmed separately for this version alone. But if the women can never be met, why even include them at all? There's no point for their implementation in the movie! There's not even a point for this movie to exist at all! It's just a rehash of a rehash! Thankfully, you don't have to pay to see this movie because it's officially in the public domain now. I could recommend that you watch it just for the sake of doing so, but seriously, don't do that.


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