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Vintage Roger Corman, even though most of it isn't even his
on 4 September 2006
Making bad movies can be tiring work, especially when you're Roger Corman and make a practice of filming a second film, usually made up entirely on the spot, at each shooting location. One fateful day Roger had an epiphany - why make a completely new bad movie when he could just steal someone else's? So it was that, in 1965, Corman bought the rights to a 1962 Russian film called Planeta Burg. Add a few new scenes, mix in a lot of bad dubbing, and slap some fake credits on that puppy - and Voila! you've got yourself another Roger Corman masterpiece - and all without breaking a sweat. (Personally, I would have edited out the big CCCP logo on the main spaceship, but Corman chose not to.) Who cares if the Soviets don't like your mucking around with their movie? What are they gonna do - declare a Cold War over it? Set up missiles in Cuba? Of course, continuing his 2-for-1 moviemaking practice, Corman didn't stop there, scavenging Planeta Burg once again to make Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women in 1968. Here's what really gets my goat, though. I actually sort of enjoyed Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. I can't imagine why, but I did.
This film takes us back to the good old days, when you didn't have to worry about weightlessness in space and you could gallivant around Venus in a space suit. Watch out for those meteors, though, as one-third of the potential cast learns just after the fake opening credits. Fortunately (or not), the other ships make it to Venusian orbit and decide to head on down without waiting for the go-ahead from Professor Hartmann (Basil Rathbone) back on Lunar Base 7. The first ship apparently crashes, leaving our three burly Russian friends in the second ship to execute a rescue mission upon landing. Meanwhile, Marcia (Faith Domergue) remains alone in orbit, so that she can perform such crucial functions as forgetting to tell the search party where the lost astronauts are located on the planet.
You'll cheer as Andre (who really belongs on a short leash) is attacked by a gigantic spider-plant, but all too soon you realize that nothing is going to happen to any of these annoying characters (Andre even jabs a needle into a brontosaurus at one point, without the big guy even noticing). But what of our lost astronauts, you ask? Well, they have Robot John (obviously a cousin to Robbie the Robot) to look after their puny hides while they wait to be rescued. Personally, I would rather have the hovercar that the second crew of astronauts uses to traverse the planet. The Soviets really did a good job on the special effects for this thing, as it looks just as good as Luke's hovercar in the original theatrical version of Star Wars.
Indulge me as I insert my MST3K-inspired John! Marsha! John!! Marsha!! non sequitur here. Thanks. Well, Robot John pretty much gets the shaft toward the end of this thing, while Marsha almost ruins everything yet comes out smiling. The only reason she's even in the movie is Roger Corman, who chose to add her and an aging Basil Rathbone to the film he ripped off to make it look like his own. Neither character serves any real purpose, which is sort of sad in Rathbone's case, as he deserved better.
The only thing missing from this Corman classic is a few buxom blondes, an oversight Corman corrected in 1968 when he used the same Russian footage to show us what was on the other side of the "red city" that attracted Andre's attention in particular - Mamie Van Doren and friends. If you're going to watch Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, you might as well check out Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, too. After all, Roger would have wanted it that way.