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Friday, August 13, 2010

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet

Roger Corman was again working behind the scenes to create another example of the dub/edit sub-genre. His dub/edit Battle Beyond the Sun brought the soviet film Nebo Zovyot to American audiences. This time, he brought the 1962 Soviet film Planeta Bur to American viewers as Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (V2PP). The title is actually a fair (if uninspired) descriptor for the film and the writing/dubbing follows the original story pretty closely. Corman added some bits of new footage with a couple stars that would have box office value in America, but otherwise left the story unchanged. The dubbing gives V2PP an inevitably B quality, but the sets and costumes still look big budget. The lack of a theater poster for V2PP suggests that American International Pictures may have aimed it at the direct-to-TV market. (hence the DVD cover art in lieu of a poster)

Quick Plot Synopsis
After a bit of new footage of some moon colony models and narrated intro about colonizing the moon, the Planeta Bur footage begins. Read the original synopsis for the overall story. Planeta Bur. Basically, a three-ship mission to Venus becomes a two-ship mission. The men land anyhow and explore, finding dinosaurs and hints of a hidden ancient civilization. The one woman crew member stays in orbit. They all eventually regroup and blast off, just as one of them finds proof of humanoids on Venus. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
The original movie was fun, (hover car, robot, etc.) so this version maintains some of that fun. The edits do tighten up the pacing a bit.

Cold War Angle
As with the original, there is less of the usual Cold War analogies. There is no mention of nukes or some shadowy "other side".

Fading Stars -- Corman shot some new footage, using two English speaking "stars", Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue. Both had some marquee value, but more so for fans of 50s movies.They didn't get new roles, but replace existing roles in the original. Basil plays Professor Harding on the moon base, as a sort of mission control voice. He replaces the disembodied speaker voice of mission control from the original. His function in the story is the same. Faith replaces the somewhat plain looking Russian actress who played Masha in the original. All the footage with Masha is cut. Some of the vital ones were reshot with Faith as Marsha (note the added R in the name). Ostensibly, she is supposed to have been a crew member with Kern and Sherman, but they are (naturally) never seen together. Both Faith and Basil are a looking a bit long in the tooth and really add little life over what the soviet actors had. In fact, without the romantic angle that Ivan & Masha had, Faith's Marsha becomes rather flat. Do, however, note her very 60s sculpted hair.

Cheap Inserts -- Viewers will note how the sets used for Faith and Basil's parts look noticeably cheap compared to the soviet originals. These cheap sets and rudimentary props give the dub/edit a distinctly 50s B-grade feel -- almost a 50s TV sets feel, ala Rocky Jones: Space Ranger.

Bottom line? If the original Plenta Bur (with subtitles) is unavailable, V2PP is a passable way to get the film. The original is a bit longer, slower, and prone to talky scenes, but plays more sincerely. For a study in film recycling, it can interesting to watch the original, then V2PP, then its "sequel" Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women ('68) This latter film also merges in some of Nebo Zovyot footage too.

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