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Friday, January 8, 2010

Journey to the Seventh Planet

Searching for new ways to produce B movies as cheaply as possible, AIP outsourced Journey to the Seventh Planet (JSP) to Denmark. JSP is not a Danish movie dubbed into english, but an American movie produced in Denmark. It is partly a traditional low-budget 50s rocket mission film, but has elements which look to the next generation of sci-fi. The 1950s was obsessed with the moon and Mars. The 60s began to look farther out into the solar system.

Quick Plot Synopsis
A utopian post-nuclear Earth is exploring the solar system. Strange radiation signals are detected coming from Uranus, the seventh planet. A five-man mission is sent to investigate. When they arrive, strange things begin to happen. They land on the supposedly frozen surface, but find a lush evergreen forest, exactly as Sven recalled from childhood. Eric reminisces about his childhood village, and it magically appears behind him. In the village is Ingrid, whom he was keen on. Don (Agar) the highly libidinous, remembers past girlfriends, and they magically appear. They don space suits and explore outside the energy barrier to see who is behind all the recreations. They find something deep in a cave. Via voice-overs and overlaid light effects, we learn that an alien lives in the cave, and can read minds and make them see or experience whatever it wants. It is, at first, intrigued with the newcomers, eventually planning to travel to earth for greater fun and comfort. The earth men plot to kill the creature, and it fights back with nightmare beasts. The men devise a torch gun, but the brain-thing sabotages it. With the liquid oxygen, the men freeze part of the brain, such that their laser rifles cause damage. Thus distracted, the brain-thing cannot prevent their take-off. Erik decides to bring Ingrid with him, though when they're far away from the planet, she fades away to nothing. Sad Erik. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
The plot is so quirky that it is hard not to be entertained. The idealized dream-babes make for fine eye-candy. The whole film has a very 50s feel to it.

Cold War Angle
This more of a psycho-drama than Cold War analogy. Only the prologue offers the customary moral overtones. The narrator intones about how "Now in the year 2001,the world is no longer threatened by wars of annihilation. Man has conquered space. Man has learned to live with himself."

Agar's Brains -- An amusing co-incidence in JSP, is that the evil alien turns out to be a giant brain with one large eye. John Agar had to battle a giant brain alien a few years earlier in The Brain from Planet Arous (1957). Fate?

Space Jerk -- Agar plays the role of a womanizing playboy astronaut who, handily enough, has fond memories of many prime babes for the brain-thing to conjure up. Agar plays the role with his usual smug smile. With this, he does not come across as suave or a ladies man (as Dean Martin or James Bond could). Instead, he comes across as a total jerk. He is so bent on his own gratification, that it really didn't matter to him if the babes were actual women or only illusions.

Trek Fodder -- The key trope in JSP (using men's thoughts to create a 'reality') was reused in a first season episode entitled "Shore Leave." In the Star Trek adaptation, the dream builder was benign.

Babes In Space -- As shallow as it is, JSP carries on the traditional trope that outer space is populated with beautiful women. Ever since Flight To Mars in 1951, sci-fi movies have usually pictured other planets to be well stocked with lovely twenty-somethings in very short skirts.

Spiders In Space -- A careful observer will notice recycled footage of a tarantula in a cave, (now tinted blue) from Earth vs. The Spider ('58). These bits of footage are said to have been included when the American producers disliked (and discarded) the Danish special effects for the spider attack. A quick eye will note that what comes out of the alien's eye is a thing with more of a skull with crab legs. It is hard not to wonder what that deleted scene looked like.

Lights Ahead -- Note the 'psychedelic' lighting effect (double exposure) to indicate when the brain-thing was "speaking" to the men's minds. This has more of a 60s feel to it, foreshadowing the orgy of colored lighting effects in 2001.

Bottom line? JSP has the usual shortcomings of a low-budget film, but with an unusual story line. It is just right for a fan of 50s B sci-fi.

1 comment:

hurricane51 said...

The powers that be finally recognized this film for the classic it is and released it on Blu-Ray. Along with Fire Maidens of Outer Space, they are much more deserving than hundreds of other movies and TV shows.

I can't say that it improved on the quality, having only a bad .avi render of the DVD to compare it to. At least Fire Maidens of Outer Space greatly improved the video quality.