Voyage to the Planet of
Prehistoric Women

Dir: "Derek Thomas" [Peter Bogdanovich]
Star: Gennadi Vernov, Vladimir Yemelyanov, Mamie Van Doren, Georgi Tejkh

If this seems like a mess, that's because it is. Quite what Bogdanovich (or, more likely, producer Roger Corman) was thinking, I don't know. They took a Soviet movie called Planeta Bur [Planet of Storms] which had already been re-edited for Americans into Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, four years before, with footage of Basil Rathbone inserted. They removed all that, but kept the dubbing and instead opted to add footage of Mamie Van Doren and her tribe of Venusian seashell-wearing lovelies (numbering a mere nine), who get upset when the Russian American astronauts kill their "god", a flying reptile, and bring down a storm of fire and water on the visitors as they search for survivors from a previous expedition. Of course, due to the disjointed nature of its creation, it's never possible for Van Doren and her harem-pants clad cohorts to be in the same frame as the astronauts - the closest they get is giving them a sense of being watched. The fact that the film is a) Soviet and b) made in 1962 does explain a lot: by the time this version came out in 1968, man was close to landing on the moon, and even by then, the technology shown here must have seemed astonishingly primitive.

It still seems like science porn, with endless shots of model rockets and their nozzles, multiple visits to a refuelling station in Earth orbit and other hi-tech gadgets such a hovercar (which resembles a wheel-less Edsel) and an "astrogun." Knowing the process involved, it doesn't suck quite as hard as it might, coming to it cold. For its time, rather than later in the decade, the large-scale effects are not too bad, though none of the monsters present on the planet's surface will provoke much beyond sniggers. And the way in which the Venusians are introduced is sublime. It happens far enough in that you've forgotten the title, and then there is a long pan across a rocky beach. The effect is something like this:

Boulder. Boulder. Boulder. Boulder. Boulder. Blonde. Boulder...
"Hang on - what the hell was that?"
Boulder. Redhead...
"Ah, must be the prehistoric women."
Boulder. Blonde. Boulder...

And so on. While the rest of the film is largely forgettable (at best), it's a wonderful B-movie moment, and one wonders what the director who'd go on to The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon might have done here, if given the chance to shoot more than inserts.

[October 2009]

One Million Years BC
[beyond credibility]
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