Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)
One of the nice things about reviewing B-movies as a hobby is that you never run out of material. There are more bad movies out there than I would have thought possible before I actively started looking for them. Today it was Nate who found this little jewel. It's called Journey to the Seventh Planet, and as I bet you've figured out, it's about a rocket flight to Uranus. It was released in 1962. This was a low-budget movie, as most of the movies MMT reviews are, and according to IMDb, only $75,000 was spent on it. It was made in Denmark with mostly Danish actors, and the only actors they bothered to list on the credits were the only two you may possibly have heard of, John Agar and Greta Thyssen.
Denmark is mostly known for the candy-pop band Aqua.
And for that they will be punished by a vengeful God.
John Agar started out in movies just after World War II, and at first appeared to have a promising career ahead of him. This may have been due to his first wife, who was none other than Shirley Temple. They married in September 1945 and shortly afterward John Agar became an actor, although the Internet sources I checked out were mum on whether his new wife had anything to do with it. They did not live happily ever after. Although at first he was cast in some good movies, he developed a drinking problem, Shirley divorced him in 1950, and shortly thereafter the quality of the movies he was cast in took a nosedive, although he continued acting until a few years before he died in 2002. He was fairly good-looking, but I can't really see what Shirley Temple saw in him. She was only seventeen when she married him, maybe that had something to do with it.
Cute couple, in a shotgun-wedding sorta way.
Greta Thyssen is an actress that probably only real film buffs or hardcore Three Stooges fans will be familiar with. After being crowned Miss Denmark, she came to Hollywood in 1952, bleached her hair, and tried to break into movies. She was a busty blonde in the Jayne Mansfield/Mamie van Doren mold and made a few movies, including three with the Three Stooges, but stopped acting for good in 1967. She won't appear onscreen for the first third of this movie, and when she does I'll let Nate describe her, because as a woman I don't think I can fully appreciate her "talents." The rest of the actors in this movie were Danish (the movie was made in Denmark), and their voices were dubbed in to make it appear that the astronauts were from all over the world. Judging from their IMDb credits, the actors acted mostly only in Danish movies and TV shows.
Oh my, "talents" indeed!
Our story opens in the far-distant year of 2001. We are told this by that scourge of B-movies, a voice-over, and it remains to be seen whether this movie can manage to rise above it. In addition, we are told that the entire Earth is governed by the United Nations (Wonder how that happened? The movie never says.) and now that mankind is free of war and can concentrate on increasing its knowledge, all the planets out to Saturn have been explored. It also appears that with the United Nations in charge, fashions and style in general remain static, since all the haircuts, clothing, uniforms, and appearance of all equipment seem identical to those of 1962. Maybe in 2001 mankind has risen above the need for constant novelty?
Bland, style-less worker drones? Perhaps they are all Rooskies? Did Russia win WWIII when we weren't looking?
The United Nations space force is proceeding to extend its knowledge of the solar system a little farther, and we see a rocket blasting off for Uranus, the planet beyond Saturn. The filmmakers were no doubt aware of the possibilities for humor in the name "Uranus," and throughout the movie it's carefully pronounced as "Your-ANN-us," or sometimes "Your-AWN-us." The spaceship seems a little cramped for its crew of five: we see only a large open area with two levels, with the upper level containing bunks and the lower level containing work stations and controls. For a low-budget movie, the spaceship interior looks pretty good. There's a small lift to carry the crew from the upper to the lower level, which seems unnecessary for such a small ship but looks cool. On the lower level, there are many instruments and dials, most of which appear to be oscilloscopes and voltmeters, but the camera doesn't linger on them and they look sort of convincing, if you don't look too closely. There's one oddity, a screen resembling a TV set positioned near the floor. All it does is show colored light, and nobody pays any attention to it, but it may serve some purpose which will be explained later. Like the Enterprise, the spaceship doesn't seem to have any bathrooms.
It seems their "spaceship" has laminate wood floors. Hope they didn't pay full price for that at Lowe's.
The crew is now introduced, and to my surprise, John Agar doesn't play the commander but is the second-in-command, Don Goodwin. We learn right away that he's a womanizer, as he hangs a pinup photo on his locker, and he'll confirm that he's a womanizer many other times during the movie. The other crewmembers don't have much in the way of personalities, although there's a good mix of nationalities. Svend is Scandinavian, Barry O'Sullivan is from Ireland, Karl is from Germany, and Eric, the commander, is Danish, although whoever dubbed him has a standard American accent. For some reason, only Don and Barry are given last names.
Pictured: Random interchangeable dudes spouting incomprehensible technobabble.
As I mentioned, the spaceship is very small, but it doesn't have to be large, since the crew won't need to be on it for long. According to Don, the ship takes less than an hour to go from the Moon to Mars, which means the ship travels around 50,000,000 miles per hour! At this rate, it'll take about 60 hours to go from the Earth to Uranus. Having a unified world government sure has been good for aerospace technology.
That's .07% light speed, that's a helluva lot faster than that decimal point would suggest. Fortunately there's an unmarked toggle switch for that.
In the little time remaining before they get to Uranus, Don opens a letter (!) which is sealed with red sealing wax (!) and learns what their mission is to be. It seems that it's not just idle curiosity which led the UN to send a spaceship to explore Uranus. A mysterious radiation signal has been detected, and this expedition has been sent to find out what it is. They have only ten days to do it before they "lose their trajectory," although with a spaceship that travels this fast, there seems no need to time their takeoff for the period when Uranus and the Earth are at their closest. Maybe by 2001 the situation is like commercial air traffic today, and space traffic through the Solar System has become so heavy that space flights have to be carefully scheduled so there won't be mid-space collisions and there'll be a landing pad at a spaceport available. And as we see when the crew contacts Earth, the UN hasn't only produced very fast spaceships, they've also invented radios that can transmit from Uranus to Earth with no time lapse.
"Christ, have you read this script? Maybe I should just make anus jokes, instead.".
In less time than it takes to tell, literally, the spaceship reaches Uranus and begins to orbit. They turn off its artificial gravity, which is shown by Barry's apple slowly rising into the air. Note that everybody's hair stays in place, but since it appears that all the men are using industrial-strength hair gel, I guess that doesn't mean much. We also see a few papers remaining solidly in place on one of the control boards, but a society that can produce spaceships that travel 50,000,000 miles per hour can surely figure out an invisible method to keep paper from moving under weightless conditions, wouldn't you say? Just then, everybody stops moving and freezes into place, although it takes the Commander a few seconds longer than the others. What's happening? Are they all afraid they'll float out of their chairs if they move a muscle? No, we're helpfully enlightened by glowing yellow lights that appear and move around the control room, accompanied by an echoing voice that announces itself as the entity that controls Uranus and intends to control them. Totally. In fact, it intends to take possession of Earth and control it.
That blurry superimposed optical effect is supposed to be an omnipresent alien life form. Sure.
Now I'm angry at whoever made this movie. It hasn't been spectacular so far, with no outstanding personalities or events, but it was shaping up to be a decent little science fiction movie, almost on the level of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode. Instead, this stupid voice has just given everything away. If there hadn't been a mysterious voice, if the crew had just blacked out and woken up, there would have been some real suspense when they landed on Uranus and odd things began happening. But nooo, whoever made this movie must have thought its audience would be too dumb to figure out anything and would have such a short attention span they'd walk out of the theater unless the entire plot was laid out for them in advance. If you've ever seen Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, or Cat-Women of the Moon for that matter, there's no need to watch this movie any further, you already know what's going to happen. However, I'll proceed with the review, Nate gets testy and loads more weight on my ball and chain when I try to bail.
Don't make me sic Hunky German Guy on you...
Apparently the mysterious voice speaks very slowly. Once it shuts up, the crew blinks and wakes up, not sure of what just happened to them but knowing they were unconscious for a while. Barry is more than a little surprised to find that his apple is now dry and shriveled and wants to know just how long the blank period lasted. The chronometer shows that only two hours have passed, but Barry points out that it would have taken much longer than two hours for his apple to decay so much. They discuss this a little, but the Commander says firmly that they'll land first and worry about the missing time later. I don't want to be indelicate here, but if they've really been out of it long enough for a fresh apple to rot, wouldn't they have a very urgent need to make a visit to the little boys' room? But nobody moves from his chair, possibly because they're complete professionals, but possibly also because, as I pointed out earlier, there don't seem to be any bathrooms aboard and so they're in a real hurry to land.
The spaceship lands tail first, as a good 1960s spaceship ought to, and as it comes in for a landing we see something that the crew doesn't, because they're strapped into their chairs and can't see out of the viewports. The terrain they're about to land on turns from barren rocks into a dense forest as the spaceship approaches it. They do notice the trees once they unstrap and get to a viewport, and they find them as hard to believe as an apple that rots in two hours. They also find the Earth-type atmosphere hard to believe, and they don't know what to make of the airlock that opens on its own, but they're on a mission and they leave the ship without spacesuits, showing more faith in the ship's instruments than I would care to. I'd like to point out here that their mission was stated to be to find that odd source of radiation whose location on the planet was unknown, and walking around outside without any means to detect radiation isn't going to help accomplish that, but I suppose that trees and an Earthly atmosphere on Uranus are worth some investigation, at that. I wonder why they didn't radio their discovery to Earth before leaving the ship? Maybe it's the thing about the bathroom or lack thereof...
From orbit, Uranus looks a lot like one of Kelby's hairballs.
They paused long enough to take guns with them and they hold them ready as they walk through the woods. Svend speaks up and says this area looks awfully familiar and predicts that they'll find a stream with a large rock in it, which they do. This doesn't seem like that much foreknowledge to me, but the crew seems impressed. However, they don't linger at the stream to admire Svend's foresight but keep on walking through the woods. Somewhere along the line they notice that there aren't any living things in the forest. Oh, and the plants don't have any roots, and Barry found an apple tree where there hadn't been one a minute before. Instead of connecting these strange occurrences with their recent blackout and wondering if they're losing their minds, they proceed, curious to know what they'll come across next.
"That reminds me, I forgot to turn off the coffeepot."
A few minutes brings them to a spooky-looking black barrier behind some trees. It's solid but gives a little when the Commander pushes his hand against it. Svend reports that it surrounds the entire area. The Commander takes a stick and manages to push it through the barrier easily, despite the fact that he said just a minute ago that it was solid. He pulls the stick back to find that it's frozen. Karl, who seems to be something of a slow learner, decides that it would be a good idea to stick his arm into the whatever-it-is, and he shrieks in pain as he pulls out his arm to reveal that it's also frozen.
Eric is quite perplexed, as he should be.
Cut to a scene of the Commander, Svend, and Don sitting around a fire. The Commander insists that they must go through the barrier, since their mission is to explore Uranus and find the source of the unexplained radiation. He seems undeterred by the fact that anyone going through the barrier will likely turn into a popsicle, not to mention suffocate once he's out in the real Uranus. (Surely they can't imagine that Uranus really contains a breathable atmosphere?) Come to think of it, don't they have spacesuits? There's no sign of any. Don wants to know why the radiation source couldn't be in the area where they are, but the commander has finally realized that the trees, rocks, blue sky, etc. can't possibly be real, so he deduces that therefore nothing is real, and concludes that the radiation source, which you'll recall was real enough to be detected, also can't be in this area of unreality. I don't follow his logic, and to me it seems as though this radiation source might be what's causing all the weirdness, but he's the commander, and he insists they must explore outside the area. While they're arguing, Barry walks up and gives them the good news that Karl's arm is now completely healed. I don't understand how frozen flesh can heal itself, but what I really don't understand is why Barry sits down and snuggles his head into Don's lap. I guess five guys can get pretty friendly when their bunks are about two feet apart, eh?
Well, you know, it's Denmark...
This argument isn't going anywhere, but fortunately Barry distracts the Commander into reminiscing about his childhood. As the Commander recalls the birch trees, farmhouse, and windmill he grew up around, they obediently appear behind his back. When they're called to his attention, he not surprisingly wants to investigate. He sends Svend back to the ship to take care of Karl, and he, Don, and Barry light torches from the fire (!!!) and set off. First no spacesuits, then no flashlights? What kind of scientific expedition is this? I'm going to turn the review over to Nate, maybe he can think of a reason why the astronauts seem so poorly equipped.
Those are actually fusion-powered gzillion-gigawat ultramegatorches, really.
Thanks, Pam. Well, it seems that the UN Space Command has been cutting some corners lately, trimming expenses in mission supplies and such. Luckily they still have enough EuroDollaRoubles in the budget to buy razors and shaving cream for the guys. Anyway, they warily explore the farmhouse (mirage made solid, don't forget) and after a few jumping-cat scares and some spooky music cues, they come across a simply beautiful young woman named Ingrid, who is an alien-created manifestation of someone Eric once knew. At first I thought that this strikingly pretty girl was the aforementioned Greta Thyssen, but it's not, it's Ann Smyrner, a young Danish b-movie scream queen (who knew Denmark had such things?). Whoever dubbed her, however, needs to be shot in the head. When they recorded the ADR loop for the English release they clearly did so in the bathroom of a Motel 6 on a crappy K-Mart cassette player. Throughout this movie the spoken dialogue sounds tinny and muffled and, in a way, disconnected from the characters to the point that it's distracting.
Love that dress, best prom ever.
Anyway, Eric is smart enough to realize that she's "not real", but Don still wants to maul her because he's a serial rapist. Why the UN would let someone who is clearly a sexual predator be on their high-profile space exploration mission is beyond me. Maybe they didn't have psychological screening tests back in 2001, or maybe Don's uncle is some bigwig in the UN, but either way he shouldn't be here (he should be in a cell on medication). To prove this further, back on the ship, Don dreams up a couple of luscious and loose-moraled babes from his past, a sexy brunette with Gidget hair and a blonde with cleavage like the Grand Canyon (that's Greta Thyssen, by the way). He proceeds to fondle and slobber on the girls, rudely mashing his face against theirs in what was apparently considered proper kissing form in 1962. I actually feel bad for those two actresses, I hope they got paid well.
Don and Miss Thyssen enjoy an unsurprisingly awkward moment of unwanted physical contact.
Of course, even Don knows that the women aren't real, which should have us, the audience, confused and excited to know more. But none of this matters a lick because, as Pam already raged about, we know what's happening thanks to that dumbass reveal-all voice-over from before. We know that none of this is real, that it's all figments of their imagination, brought into being by some alien thingie using Spooky Jedi Mind Tricks, no mystery for us to figure out at all. Seriously, did whoever cut this movie not realize that giving up the game before anyone even steps on the court sucks all the dramatic tension and excitement out of the film? What could have been an engrossing nail-biter of "What the hell is going on?!?" instead is just "Meh, maybe I should open up Pintrest in a new window while I watch this movie...". Of course, that voice-over reeks more of a "studio decision", made by some bean-counter in an ill-fitting suit and a comb-over watching the final edit and saying, "Derrr...I confused, brain hurt. Better add a voice-over right here or I won't write any more checks." Still annoys me.
Talk, talk, talk, all day long.
Back on the ship they have a crew round-table meeting (this is a very informal group of civilians, clearly not a military unit in any sense of the term). Eric still wants to go through the barrier to explore the "other side", despite very real fears that they will all be instantly killed. After some pointless chatting, it's decided that Eric will suit up and take Don the Rapist and Karl the German with him through the barrier. Their "hazmat/space suits" are the worst example of lazy prop-master work I've ever seen, being little more than high-pressure pilot coveralls topped with motorcycle helmets with clear plastic faceplates screwed on. It's like my son's fifth grade art class was tasked to design an environmental protection suit based on little more than Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.
The barrier is easily breached, in an anticlimactic sort of way, and the three of them are now outside the alien's "created space". Onto the "real" surface of Uranus now, which looks like a cheap ice planet Hoth soundstage with frozen, spiky trees and frosted rocks scattered about. Chilly down there, but nothing they can't handle with a quarter-inch of vinyl and some leather boots (technology of 2001...). Karl's crackerjack box radiation meter is pegging at 700 Roentgens per hour, which is crazy-high and surely wildly inaccurate considering the thickness of Uranus's atmosphere, but they don't seem too worried about that either. But as Voyager 2 was still on the drawing board at the time, just what did they know about Uranus in 1962 when this movie was filmed? Well, not much other than it was cold and distant and hostile (like my first ex-wife, zing!). Did they even realize it's a gas giant?
Uranian flora seems to have adapted well to the intense radiation and freezing temperatures, perhaps we could learn a few things from studying its biology. Or not.
Don, surely distracted by daydreams of frightened women and restraining orders, bumbles off the path and falls into a puddle of ammonia snow quicksand and there's some drama as they have to pull his lunk-ass out. This entire scene seems like a throwback from ye olde jungle explorer days, if you ask me. A lot of these early "space exploration" b-movies were like this, with scripts seemingly written by guys who were still stuck in the well-established rainforest/desert/wilderness exploration movie mindset. And rarely does quicksand (or quicksnow) work in any movie, having long ago become a hoary cliche best left behind with the pith helmets and stock footage howler monkeys.
Just let him go, he'll only cost you a fortune in retainer fees.
They then enter a spray-painted Styrofoam cave that looks like it was recycled from the lamest episode of Space: 1999 ever, filled with multi-colored lights and dry-ice fog (seriously, yawn). They find down at the bottom of a pit what can only be described as a greenish wad of chewing gum (that pulsates). Since we were told earlier that no life at all had yet been discovered in the Solar System, this right here is the first tangible proof of extraterrestrial sentient life, a cosmos-shattering discovery that should shake the very foundations of our belief in our place in the universe. But, because they are humans in a 1960s b-movie, our guys just throw rocks at it like drunken frat boys on the pier. That "alien voice-over" booms out now, telling us in a most dramatic way that this beast is going to fight back against these "evil men" who have come to "destroy me". As so far the humans have pretty much stuck to harmless investigation, the adolescent rock throwing aside, it seems like the alien has a chip on his shoulder and is itching for a fight just for the sake of a fight. Perhaps back when he was just a wee small alien boy he was bullied in school and now that he's all grown up he's looking for some validation?
This proto-disco swirly affair, stolen from the old Batman serials, is supposed to represent alien mind-control rays. Or something.
Suddenly the alien reaches into Karl's mind and creates a manifestation of one of his phobias against rats. Realized in shoddy stop-motion and murky back-projection, a huge one-eyed toothy/clawed rat-mole-cyclops-beastie thingie shambles jerkily up to the three men and means to do them harm. Cornered, they shoot back with their laser guns, blinding the monster long enough to flee the cave unharmed. Here, and in other places, the background sound effects are dead ringers for those heard in every episode of the original Star Trek. One wonders if Star Trek stole from this movie (please god no) or perhaps our movie was re-edited years later, after Star Trek was aired and similar sound cues were inserted to mimic that spacey feel. Or maybe a reverbing electronica "bwoop" has been around a lot longer than I think.
"Raahh!! I have no depth perception!"
Anyway, they all escape back through barrier and reboard the ship to talk about what just happened. For some reason the alien brain just lets them go, despite its stated intention to kill/maul them to death back in the cave. If it really wanted to kill them it could just keep pulling monstrosities out of their minds to hunt them down, which it doesn't do, probably because the director thought we needed yet another scene of five oily-haired white guys standing around talking. So they discuss the alien's motivations (such that they are) and how it seems to be trying to figure out "how they tick" and what a jerkfaceloser it has been so far. Eric decides the best course of action would be for him to abandon his crew in their time of desperate need with a killer alien mind-reader on the loose and go back and find that hot blonde chick from the farmhouse for some "one-on-one personal interrogation". Pam, what does the lovely Ingrid have to say?
Eric looks much more commanding in blue.
Glad to tell you, Nate, but before I start, doesn't anybody recognize the one-eyed alien? He's obviously of the same species that came to Earth in The Atomic Submarine! After that one was annihilated, his fellow Cyclops probably took refuge on Uranus. Now the Earthlings have come, and I'm afraid for our gallant astronauts, because the Cyclops are sure to be thirsting for revenge...
The alien eye/brain from a later scene, complete with brain-warming doily.
But to get back to Ingrid and Eric. I can only guess why he thinks a hallucination can give him any useful information, but Ingrid's pretty, and I suppose he can't think of anything else to do. She informs him that there's a being on the planet, which he already knew, and that this being comes from space and time itself, whatever that means. Eric comes up with a good question, which is that if the being could take over their minds out in space, why can't it take over their minds now that they're on Uranus? Ingrid counters with some babble about how conditions aren't right on the planet, but out in space their minds were free. Eric concludes that the weightless conditions were what enabled the creature to take over, so he decides the best thing to do is leave the planet. However, the creature makes its presence known with another light show and the statement that he's gonna get 'em. Like the alien who menaced The Atomic Submarine, this alien just can't keep its mouth shut. Don't threaten, just do, dummy! By the way, both Ingrid and the being inject some forced suspense by uttering their matter-of-fact statements in tones of the highest melodrama, and although it's hokey, it does help add some drama to a predictable plot.
Eric is quite smitten.
It doesn't seem to me that Eric's really learned anything, even assuming that Ingrid actually knows something and isn't just echoing what he's already thinking. After all, even he thinks she's just a hallucination. He must have been crazy in love with the original Ingrid. He already knew the creature was a threat to them, and his expedition earlier should have shown him where it was, if he was paying attention. What has he learned that will help him fight off its power to affect their minds?
Easy, he has learned not to wear puff-ball fuzzy dresses around open flames.
But armed with his new knowledge, whatever it might be, Eric leads Don and Karl back out past the barrier. Those spacesuits are laughable, particularly the visors, and it's painfully obvious that the Uranian terrain is actually a soundstage, but the multicolored light is pretty and the jumble of rocks in the cave setup makes their expedition seem much more exciting than it would if they were just walking across a plain. The spooky background music helps, too. Some thought went into the set design, but unfortunately it's more suitable for a fairy tale than a science fiction movie. Anything to distract from the lame plot is good, though, and of course they didn't have much money to work with. Karl again announces that the radiation level is 700 Roentgens plus, which ought to send them running back to the ship as fast as they can (radiation levels are normal there, remember?), but evidently we're supposed to assume that those cotton-poly "spacesuits" can shield against radiation. I have no idea what this instrument is or what it's actually measuring; are there any Danish health physicists out there who can help?
"Siri, where is the nearest Starbucks?"
They seem to be wandering around at random, but finally they spot a pulsating blue light and go over to investigate. The pulsating blue light is, of course, produced by the creature (but why wasn't it producing it earlier?), and they finally realize that it's also producing the radiation. Hmm, it's 750 Roentgens near the creature, it was over 700 Roentgens some distance out in the cave, and it was over 700 Roentgens just after they crossed the barrier. Seems to me it should get lower the farther away from the creature you get if it's really being produced by the creature. The creature says for the 400th time it's going to kill them, and they finally fire their guns, which produce thin beams of light instead of the bullets I was expecting. The beams look too weak to do anything, and in fact they do nothing to stop the giant spider the creature that has just materialized. Why are they wasting their time on the spider anyway, when they know it has to be a hallucination? Eric orders them to aim for the rocks above the spider, and the beams manage to break off rocks, which fall on the spider, seemingly killing it. I can't understand why the beams were able to break rock easier than they could attack the spider's flesh, and it sure looks like a physical spider was destroyed. What happened to the "everything's a hallucination" business? Are we to assume that giant spiders really do infest the caves of Uranus?
Your Giant Spider prop a mess? Need to substitute a live tarantula instead? Just film it in the dark with a fuzzy mottled filter, no one will ever know what the hell they're seeing!
Unfortunately the excitement of the spider attack caused them to use up a good deal of their oxygen, so they head back to the ship, apparently just leaving the creature there, unless it ran away while the spider was attacking. Come to think of it, maybe it did run away. I was assuming it was some sort of disembodied brain, but I guess it could have some means of locomotion. Uh, maybe not. As they leave the room where they were attacked by the spider, the blue pulsating light appears again. These guys don't seem to be able to stick to their mission for very long. How long would it have taken to fire a few shots at the creature? They do seem to be quite distracted, and Eric manages to trip or impale himself on something, cutting himself right through his spacesuit. Of course explosive decompression immediately occurs, and...What? No, there's just a little blood oozing through the cut in the suit (notice how it's obviously only some fabric, and not even very thick fabric). Still, if the humans of 2001 can design a spaceship that travels from Earth to Uranus in about two-and-a-half days, they can surely make a fabric that holds air in a vacuum, and holds air in a vacuum even when it's cut.
"Oiy, it's just a flesh wound!"
Uh-oh, it seems the fabric doesn't completely hold in air when it's cut. Eric's suit is slowly losing air, and he orders the others to go back to the ship without him. I assume he's afraid that the exertion of carrying him will make them use up their air too fast, otherwise they might as well carry him as fast as they're able to, since even if they don't make it to the ship before he's out of air he won't be any worse off than if they just left him. Recall, though, they said just a couple of minutes ago that they still had one-third of their air left, and recall that it took them only a short time to travel from the barrier to the cave, so more than likely Don and Karl can get Eric back to the ship before they run out of air themselves. Well, okay, maybe it really took them two hours to go from the barrier to the cave, and the audience is supposed to assume that the long walk was left out of the movie because it was too boring. If this were a more sophisticated movie, I'd speculate that the creature decided that its attacks had been too blatant and easy to fight off, and it was going to attack their minds more subtly by making them clumsy so they'd hurt themselves, and by affecting their judgment. However, in a $75,000 B-movie, this probably isn't the case.
You'd think that by the year 2001, what with their spaceships and rayguns, they'd have more accurate (ie: not hand-drawn) oxygen tank gauges.
Fortunately Don recalls that the temperature on Uranus is low enough so that the blood will freeze and seal the cut in the suit. He's right, and we next see Eric back at the ship, with Ingrid bending over him. She tells him Don and Carl are fine, which is sort of true, depending on what she means by "fine," because Karl is busy kissing the brunette girl we saw earlier, and Don is engrossed in kissing the other blonde girl. Teenage boys may disagree, but I say kissing figments of your imagination isn't a good thing. I guess Svend and Barry are left out in the cold, although based on what we saw earlier, Barry may be busy trying to convince Svend to give him a little action.
Ingrid's sheer blouse leaves little to the imagination here, ifyouknowwhatimeanwinkwink.
Eric recalls that he's still the commander and after Ingrid has vanished to who-knows-where and the rest of the crew has all straggled back to the ship from wherever they were, he reminds them that everything they see is a figment of their imagination, produced by an alien being who's trying to kill them. It would be nice if Eric could keep this more firmly in mind himself. He says that they have only 24 hours left to destroy the creature before they have to leave Uranus. After some discussion, they decide to build a really big acetylene torch to incinerate the creature. I was about to ask how they were going to do this with what they had in the spaceship, but fortunately in the village (that imaginary village they're all hallucinating) there's a blacksmith's shop that has what they need!
It's odd that the leading man is not one of the hunkier younger actors onboard, but instead this girdle-wearing snaggle-toothed old guy.
Everybody sets to and works like beavers to build the torch. The hallucinated equipment seems to work perfectly. Don is working so hard that even Greta Thyssen can't lure him away. She appears out of nowhere and seems to have as big a mouth as the creature who created her, because she tells Don that the Earth is going to be its new home. Then the creature itself pipes up to say that he's planning to take over the body of one of the men and travel to Earth in it. He says he's going to pick the weakest of the men. Who would this be? None of them seem to be able to keep a firm grasp on what around them is reality and what is hallucination. Eric decides it's best to post a guard on the torch all night long, and he appoints Karl to take the first watch. Ah, now we know who the weakest is...
Don has Determined Eyes (which have, for the moment, replaced his Rapey Eyes).
Poor Karl is looking jumpy, when we hear spooky sounds and get a flash of the light that accompanies the creature. Karl looks around nervously and who should he see but Ursula, the brunette girl. He makes a feeble effort to get her to go away, but she pays no attention, and he caves in and leans his head against his shoulder, while another brunette girl comes in and steals the torch. You know, I'm not really sure which one of these girls was the one Karl was kissing earlier and I'm too lazy to go back and check, so let's just say that Karl is being fondled by one brunette girl while another one steals the torch. In fact, she not only takes it, she causes a replica to appear in its place. A hallucination of an acetylene torch to replace an acetylene torch built with hallucinated tools...my brain hurts. Her job done, Ursula leaves.
Shoot her, Karl! Shoot her, she's not real and she's here to kill you! S-h-o-o-t h-, a screw it, you're a complete idiot.
The next morning, they pick up the torch hallucination, which seems to feel exactly as the real torch should feel, and four of them go to the cave. Eric leaves Svend at the blacksmith shop, for what reason I'm not sure. To guard the imaginary village? Once at the creature, Karl is the one chosen to torch it. As Karl approaches, the creature radiates a lot of colored light from what looks like its...eye? I thought it was a disembodied brain? Alas, just as Karl is about to open fire, the acetylene torch disappears. He tries to salvage the situation by attempting to impale the creature with the metal hose intended to couple the torch to the oxygen tank on his back, but it does no good, he -- disappears I guess, you see him, then see the colored lights, then he isn't there anymore. Hey, if the creature can disintegrate humans at will, why couldn't it have done this before instead of wasting his time creating giant spiders? Also, he's screwed up his plan of going back to Earth in Karl's body.
Disco Alien Eyeball!
What are they going to do now? Don has an idea. He announces that the creature is in the cave because the cave is heated by a volcano (the first time that was mentioned), so it must be sensitive to cold, and the thing to do is freeze it with the liquid oxygen they're carrying to fuel the torch. Wait a minute, Karl was the one who was supposed to operate the torch, why are the others carrying liquid oxygen? Don concludes the attack by hurling the empty cylinder at the creature, then they all open fire with their beam guns. This time they get the creature, who seems to have forgotten he can create hallucinations to attack the humans.
Eric and Don seem to have forgotten their lines, so they just agree to wing it.
I'm not sure if the death of the creature triggered it, but in any case the volcano has become active, and we get a couple of exciting minutes as Eric, Don, and Barry run around, dodging falling rock and bursts of steam erupting from the ground. They make it back to the ship in seconds, only to find Ingrid lying on the ground outside, still in her prom dress. She murmurs to Eric that she had to see him one last time, and he insists on picking her up and carrying her aboard. From the way he's holding her, she must be awfully heavy for a hallucination. The land around the ship turns into a frozen rocky airless waste as the ship takes off, and we see that most conveniently, all you have to do to launch a spaceship of 2001 is to push one button. I must point out that there's no guard or interlock on that button, in other words nothing to stop someone from pushing it accidentally, which seems like a very poor design.
But for every poorly-designed open push button there's a (surely very useful) disconnected reel-to-reel 8mm film spinner mounted under a panel holding a pair of 45rpm records and two gold-painted shot glasses.
They make it safely off the planet, and everything seems to be working all right. However, you might recall there's one loose end: Ingrid is still strapped into Karl's old seat. Eric unstraps her, and the two are gazing lovingly into each other's eyes, when, yes, poor Ingrid slowly fades away. I don't understand why she survived the death of the creature, and if the crew had any sense they would have been wondering if her presence meant the creature wasn't dead after all, but she's gone now. Eric looks sad as the screen fades to black. The End. And we never did find out what that TV-screen-type-thing with the colored lights was for.
Lost love blinds the scientific mind.
You know, this isn't the worst movie MMT has ever reviewed. If it hadn't been for the big giveaway earlier, it would have been a decent movie, if you can ignore the bad science. Even with knowing about the alien so early, it could still have been a good movie if it had made us wonder if what was happening to the humans was caused by the alien, or if it was occurring naturally. I suppose this approach wouldn't have permitted the introduction of Ingrid and the other babes, though, since there's no way they could have been on Uranus except as hallucinations. It looks to me as though, handed a small budget and a worn-out plot, the director, actors, and set designers did their best to make this as good a movie as possible, but it would have been much better if the crew, and the script, had been able to keep straight what was real and what was illusion. I think Nate's right and the decision to reveal the threat early in the movie was a studio decision made by someone who thought the drive-in movie audience would leave if they had to put some effort into figuring out what was going on. And maybe whoever made that decision was right. Carnival of Souls, an excellent movie also made on a small budget, did very poorly at the box office. A considerable portion of the audience at a drive-in movie wasn't paying very close attention to what happened on the screen, so I guess it made good business sense to keep the movies simple.
Nate, do you have any more comments on this vacation on Uranus?
Thanks Pam, I've decided now to cancel that cruise through the outer gas giants and go to Southern California instead. At least the women there are real (well, parts of them are real). This was another in a disturbingly long line of b-movies that were juuuuust one tiny production decision away from really being something noteworthy and memorable. If they had just axed that twenty second give-it-away voice-over back in the first act, this movie would have been 350% more watchable. Perhaps when Criterion releases their 50th Anniversary Double Platinum Deluxe Edition Five-Disc Director's Cut of Journey to the Seventh Planet, upgraded to blueray and 3-D, of course, they will snip that bit out. One can only hope.
Extra Greta Thyssen scenes would also be nice...
Written in March 2012 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...