I’ve seen tonight’s feature a couple of times before, and
it’s not bad. The dubbing is
terrible and the prints tend to be over-saturated, but the ideas are cool and
there’s a hefty dose of imagination.
Unless I’m thinking of some other film entirely, in which case I may be cruising for heartbreak. Shall we start anyway?
We get some tense music, and we’re told that this production is made in “Totalvision” and “Technicolor” so we should feel pretty privileged right about now. And we see footage of the spaceship lifting off, and some viewscreen stuff, and a starfield, then our title, with the words floating away from us in turn. Written by James Fethke and directed by Kurt Maetzig. I thought I read somewhere that this was based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem, the well-known Polish science fiction writer (and not Charles Dikkens with two ks, the well-known Dutch author).
Music by Gordon Zahler (uh oh), “Executive Supervision” by Hugo Grimaldi (double uh oh). And done with our credits, we cut to some enormous mining machines. A narrator tells us that in the far-flung future year of 1985, while undertaking the irrigation of the Gobi Desert, some folks found a strange rock that began intriguing all the local scientists.
The rock was found to contain “a small spool.” And while some footage continues of folks in laboratories studying this rock, the narrator tells us that the spool was found to be of non-human origin. “Where did it come from?” he asks. I don’t know, sir. Sorry.
We switch to a view of snowy mountains and folks searching through rocky steppes. “Then, somebody remembered that in June, 1908 in Siberia, an explosion had occurred, equivalent in force to a hydrogen bomb.” (This is an actual historical occurrence, as all you “X-Files” fans know.) “An explosion visible within a radius of three hundred and fifty miles. At the time, it was thought to have been caused by a giant meteor. Seventy-seven years later, an international expedition,” we see some old guy who does not want to be on camera, “tried to determine the trajectory and the point of impact, and to find some debris of what was called the Tong-Goo Meteor.”
I don’t think it was actually called that in real life, but no matter, we cut to some obvious futuristic lecture hall where some guy is lecturing some folks. You should see the weird thing right at the front of the stage—it’s a tripod with a model of the solar system sticking out from it. The narrator tells us that after the exciting meteor expedition, the world’s scientists are congratulating themselves and others about the anniversary of the space station. But some scientist (a Doctor Harrington, from America) is going to talk about the meteor.
He says, based on various double-dome theorizing, that the meteor from Siberia was actually a spaceship, and he has egghead-confirmations from other scientists, including some on the Moon. Well, this is such stunning news that class immediately dismisses itself to form discussion groups.
And the press gangs up on one Professor Orloff, asking him if this is a hoax and what about that spool? He thinks that the UFO is sure genuine, and when the retro-rockets failed, the captain of this alien craft decided to jettison his flight recorder (the spool) so that scientists would have something to gab about.
And we cut to several scientists trying to decipher the spool. There’s a big computer screen with wiggly lines on it, so obviously they’re working hard. I didn’t catch the Japanese scientist’s name (there was a splice), but he’s not only a whiz at languages, he also developed a method to make food out of non-food, so he’s pretty much a total brainiac. There’s also an Indian scientist, Professor Sukarna, working on this, and his “work rivals even that of Einstein.”
Back with Dr. Harrington, he takes a long, long time to say they’ve determined the spaceship came from Venus. And we cut back to the language lab, where the patterns on the big screen have changed, and suddenly they get electronic noises and what sounds like speech. I couldn’t make any of it out, but Dr. Japan says what he heard were the names of elements that exist on Earth. Dr. Sukarna agrees that this is some kind of analysis of Earth’s atmosphere, and then the spool starts up again and says (to my ears) more incomprehensible stuff.
Everyone’s really excited about it, though, being the first talk from another intelligent species. No one translates it for us, so I suspect it’s just as alien to them as it is to us. Me. Whatever. Dr. Sukarna says it’s too bad the spool was garbled just when it was getting interesting, and he mentions why it was garbled and how it can be ungarbled. Dr. Japan agrees that this course is a good one, and isn’t it cool that there’s intelligent life out there. Though, he wonders why Venus hasn’t tried any communication since. Dr. Sukarna suggests that all the world’s governments try sending signals to Venus like, “Breaker breaker, this is the Dirt Ball requesting parley with the Goddess of Love. Ten-four good buddy, come back,” and we see giant radio antennae being set to do just that. Though probably not in those words.
And all over the world, people are taking readings and stuff, and even on the Moon folks are trying to call Venus but it sure seems like Venus didn’t pay its cell phone bill or something, because no one from there answers.
And a group of scientists, led by Dr. Harrington, show up at an outdoor place and announce to the waiting press that they’ve got something awesome to relate…later this afternoon. But he does say that the vessel that was going to go to Mars will now be launched…at Venus! He calls the ship the “Cosmos Traitor” but I think I’m going to call it the CT. He gets a couple of questions about whether Venus has responded, and he says that she sure hasn’t. He then decides to introduce the crew of the CT, and we see some familiar faces (Dr. Sukarna and Dr. Japan, for example).
Then we cut to the Cosmos Traitor herself, and she’s a pretty cool looking fifties-type spaceship, with fins and secondary pointy things. And she does a test with her rockets and passes with very high marks indeed. Dr. Harrington is pleased with this, and he congrats some other science types who will be on board with us when she takes off for real.
And some chick we only see from the back says, “This is Intervision calling the world.” She notes the successful test and also notes the arrival of some guy (Brinkman) who was the first American spaceman to land on the Moon. We see footage of a two-person plane landing, and I guess one of these is Captain America. And we cut to Intervision Chick (now seen from the front) saying they’re going to give the world minute-by-minute coverage of the launch because that’s what everyone’s been clamoring for. This takes longer than what I typed.
She then introduces the folks who will be going on the mission. First is Durant, who is French but knows a bunch about robots. And apparently this tired her out, as we switch to Durant getting some information and meeting Captain America. He calls to his latest robotic creation, Omega, who shows up. He is a small tank with a face. And he gets comedy music. Also, his name is pronounced Oh-MI-gah, almost like “Oh my gosh.” Durant asks for the weather report and Omega duly honks out some weather facts (like the Daleks, he’s so slow in speech that everyone ignores him after he shows he can talk even though he goes on with more fun facts).
Everyone present seems to agree that Omega is pretty great, but Durant is modest about it all. And we cut back to the Intervision newslady, saying that everyone is all ready to go, including the expedition’s lone female, Dr. Sumika (a physician). Captain America greets her, obviously they have some history here. They banter a bit, and some nobody tells Captain America he forgot something; she light-heartedly notes that he is “Robert Brinkman, the man who is always forgetting something,” and he says that there are some things he’ll never forget. And she looks uncomfortable at this.
”No Brinkman. On a voyage of this kind, there’ll be no room for excess baggage.” And luckily she’s called away before he can respond.
Intervision Lady says that thirty hours from now, the ship will launch. And Intervision is going to go on to other news, while the crew of the CT will be put into suspended animation. So it’s too boring for them to broadcast now, despite their earlier promise.
And we see folks lying on gurneys covered in sheets. Yes, this spells suspended animation to me. Anyone else? Sumika moves among them and tells Captain America (still awake) that he’ll be asleep soon. “You’ll be able to see and hear your heart,” she mentions, which would have creeped-out a wuss like me, but Brinkman sits right up. He tells Sumika he’s glad she’ll be around. He tries to get all romantic and she’ll have none of it. Though not without regret. And she goes to lie on her cot, stripping off her robe (no, we don’t see anything). Fade to black.
Fade in on some spinning equipment, and “Intervision calling the world” again. She notes how tension is high as the launch is awaited, everyone is just waiting for the crew to show up. And they do! Um…not in suspended animation. Perfectly awake and waving, even. So, what were they doing in that previous scene?
The crew gets a big rousing cheer as they get into their crew car and trundle off to the ship. There are car horns that drown out Intervision Lady. And on board, everyone is ready for blastoff. Sumika tells them to breathe calmly. And they count down, and the rocket takes off into the sky. A pretty obvious miniature, but not a bad one, and we see clouds rush through the viewscope, finally clearing to a field of stars.
The Moon is tracking the rocket, and all appears well. On board, Sumika asks if everyone is okay, and everyone seems to be. One guy (they’re all dressed in hooded jumpsuits) says his belt is uncomfortable so he’s going to loosen it. This leads to a zero gravity sequence. Soon, everyone decides to join in the zero G fun, laughing all the while. Some spoilsport decides the artificial gravity ought to be switched on, but the laughers keep laughing. In space!
Soon, everyone is laughing anyway, because after all the opposite of gravity is comedy.
We cut to some communications folk trying to contract the CT. They are very earnest about it all. They get through. Whew! They talk about how the course has to be exactly parabolic or there’ll be trouble. And the Moon looms in the viewport, and Sumika turns away in anguish. Captain America tells Dr. Orloff that the Moon colony was where Sumika’s husband met his end. “I carried him back to the camp, but he was already dead,” the Captain notes. “We were friends." Appropo of nothing, he adds, "You know, Sumika is a wonderful woman.”
No time for that, though, Luna Three tells them they’ve picked up the number one space cliché. Yes, it’s a meteor shower. Every movie made in the fifties and sixties had one, if you didn’t, it was obvious you weren’t serious about space movies and were just making crap for kids. The folks on Luna Three have the most awkward headphones you can imagine (headphones of the future) which connect under the chin. It looks like her head is a bucket and this is the handle, but that can’t be true. “Their trajectory shows that they may cross your path, and be very dangerous.” That’s a very informative trajectory, I must say. She goes into these trajectory readings in some detail.
On board the CT, the lone black guy (I’m sorry but I missed his name) says that’s he just got some bad news from Luna Three, about a swarm of cliché’s heading their way. The vast arrays of blinking lights tell everyone the same coordinates Luna Three gave out. No one seems to be overly worried about these clichés, as they won’t encounter them for 48 hours. So I took the opportunity to look up the black guy’s name. The actor’s name is Julius Ongewe, so I’m going to call the character Dr. J and no one can stop me. Anyway, they thank the Moon for the warning and then decide to relax a bit. Captain America reads into his recorded log. He says that the computer is now running things, and will do so for the next thirty days.
He goes on and narrates how Sumika is checking everyone’s health and making sure they down the liquid food they have. Say, I have some liquid food right now! What a coincidence. Everyone seems to be enjoying the liquid food. I know I’m enjoying mine.
Next, he narrates about Durand, the robotics expert, and we see him going about and fixing robots. It’s noted how important this is, and how much work it is too.
Next, to a shot of pacing feet, we hear Captain America narrate how Dr. Sukarna and Dr. Japan are trying to decipher the damaged alien spool. We see Dr. Sukarna say “Bah!”
Next, we’re up in the cockpit, with, um, Durant and Harrington. It turns out he’s the commander. Harrington notes how the computer switched on the rocket for seventeen seconds last night, probably to avoid the cliché shower.
The Captain then narrates how Orloff has beaten everyone at chess but Omega, who beats Orloff all the time. We see this happen and get comedy music just to underscore this. Orloff laments that this is the tenth match in a row he’s lost to Omega and maybe he should just give up.
We cut to see Sumika mention to Durand that maybe he could program Omega with a heart, so it would let Orloff win every now and then. “Don’t you think you would be able to do that?” It seems like a pretty tall order to me.
Well, we don’t get to hear the answer to this, as suddenly everyone is flung around like crazy. “Meteor shower!” shouts someone, and through the viewscreen, it looks like the CT has flown into a popcorn popper. Someone suggests “the emergency gyro” which is under glass. Another person shatters the glass and turns it on. Doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference but heck, I’m not a scientist and these people are. Eventually, some dial goes back to zero and everything’s okay again.
Except for the fact that this was not the main storm, this was just some outlying punk storm, so they’re going to decelerate to avoid the biggest cliché. But they can’t slow down! One of the meteors has damaged something, so they have to deploy another cliché: the extra vehicular activity, or EVA. Durand is going to do this. He gets into his silly space suit and goes off to affect repairs.
Actually, he’s in something that looks like a giant glove. He sprays some crap on the outer hull, and suddenly the main swarm is almost there. But (offscreen) the repairs are done and Durand’s back on board, and nothing else happens. Whew, that was almost exciting if you kind of squinted a bit.
An now it’s three weeks later (there’s a counter that says “21”) and they’re ten days away from Venus. Because of radiation and such, contact with Earth is no longer possible, though they keep trying anyway. Elsewhere, Durand is making a “heart” for Omega, as “ten consecutive defeats” have made Orloff all despairing, and “I want him to enjoy his favorite game.” I guess Orloff did give up, since he’d just lost his tenth game and it’s three weeks later.
Sumika wants Durand to eat too, and he promises he won’t forget any more. “Sukarna said the same thing,” she notes, and goes off to see this very personage. He’s all gruff and rebuffing though, saying he “hasn’t a second to spare.” So she goes away, and Dr. Japan meets her and tells her that Sukarna’s all obsessed and stuff, so she shouldn’t insist.
And we cut, to more comedy music, to Orloff finally beating Omega at chess. One of the spectators notes how Omega doesn’t seem to like this. This is very un-robot-like, you all remember how HAL 9000 was very gracious when he played chess. Orloff congrats Durand on his swell robot, saying it was tough but he (Orloff) finally prevailed. “Man has defeated the machine.”
”Too much heart,” Durand notes and exits. Just then, there’s a call from Drs Japan and Sukarna. When everyone arrives, Dr. Japan says, “We have finally deciphered the last part of the spool, it gives complete meaning to the cosmic document.” The sounds we hear are someone going nuts on an analog synthesizer, with occasional muttering beneath.
When it’s over, Dr Japan says, “I will translate: We will initially subject the planet to a very intense bombardment of radiation. The conquest and occupation of the Earth will then present no difficulty. When the ionization intensity has fallen by one half, the final extermination phase can start.”
Well, as you can imagine, there are a lot of very worried faces at this. One would imagine the phrase “major bummer” was coined just for such an occasion, maybe even while watching this very movie.
”This can only mean,” Orloff says, “an attack—against our planet! An invasion by the inhabitants of Venus.”
”The cosmic document was not intended for us to read,” Dr. Sukarna pronounces. “It’s a cold-blooded blueprint of destruction!”
”We must inform the Earth!” Dr. J says, going for the ladder. “I’ll try and make contact.”
There’s some discussion about whether this is wise, as some feel that the news would cause a world-wide panic; others feel the Earth should be warned anyway. It’s noted that the danger to the Earth has not changed, but then no one knows how the Venusians calculate time. The fact that Earth faced the threat of atomic war, and overcame this through knowledge, convinces everyone that every effort should be made to inform the Earth. Knowledge is better than fear is the reason.
But there’s too much interference from Venus itself to contact Earth. Now, the question is whether the CT should turn back to deliver the warning in person, or go on to try to convince these warmongering Venusians that they should like peace as much as we do, or we’ll punch them. The vote is unanimous to continue on, and in three days, they’ll be at Venus. We see this very Venus itself through the viewport.
And fade to sometime later, they’re getting ready to land. Captain America is talking into his diary, mentioning that they’ll descend by means of rocket engines. That sounds like a fine idea. Not sure what else you’d use, unless you had really long ladders or had someone on board who was good at jumping.
Captain America also notes how they’re trying to call the Venusians as well ("Hi! We're Earth people you hate, can we come visit?"), but so far no answer. Dr. Japan comes up to note that the atmosphere, near as they can tell, is poisonous to life. So they have to decide if it’s even worth going down there, as it’s all poisonous and stuff.
Captain America says he’ll take the “crawler copter” down and find a suitable landing spot for the main ship. The others will stay in orbit until they hear good news from him.
And everyone gets ready for this launch. The main ship enters the outer atmosphere, and we see swirling clouds in the viewport. And there is more getting ready for the crawler copter launch and assorted fun facts about their orbit. Did you know they’re going more than four miles a second? I didn’t know that! The number they give is “four point three” which, if I could go that fast, would get me to work in about two seconds! I would have time to surf the web before the boss came in then. You would bet I would have fun!
Anyway, while these fun facts are given to us we see Orloff waving at the copter and also looking concerned. And Captain America, on board the Crawler Copter, is released into the Venusian atmosphere. All we see is his face in a window, almost like this is some kind of space phone booth or something, and as he descends through the atmosphere, it sort of looks like he is floating down through the snow storm that hides Santa Claus’ planet. However, there’s no law that says Santa Claus can’t be a Venusian who has learned about being nice. You find me a law that says otherwise!
On the CT, Dr. Harrington tries to contact Captain America but he can’t get through the static. Well…duh. The response from the copter is just fine, but Dr. J says there’s heavy electrical interference blocking communication.
So, in other words, the whole idea of going down first to find a good landing spot was entirely pointless.
Oh well. It was a nice idea, though considering the fact that communications with Earth were swamped, I’m not sure it was more than wishful thinking.
Captain America continues to broadcast anyway, saying that the surface is extremely mountainous but he can’t see much because of fog. He finally sees some surface clearly (doesn’t look very alien to us) and decided to land. “Here she goes!” he yells.
In the meantime, the CT is 2400 feet from the surface, which to my admittedly non-scientific ears, sounds like they might as well land anyway.
At the copter, Captain America steps out onto the Venusian surface, which looks like very shiny blacktop. He tells Omega to take the lead. We pan up and see that there are a lot of very strange tree-like structures all around, and superimposed animated fog. He follows behind Omega.
On board the CT, Dr. Harrington notes the strange flashes he keeps seeing in the viewport. Orloff thinks this is because the atmosphere is ionized. This alarms everyone, because this sort of thing comes from atomic radiation, which means the Venusians are attacking the ship (and Captain America)! But they decide to keep going down anyway, in an attempt to reestablish contact with the copter.
Speaking of which, Captain America and Omega are still on their walking tour of Venus. Omega warns of intense radiation. It’s so intense, in fact, that they can only stay out another eight minutes! The Captain tells Omega they need to get back to the ship, and in real time we see Omega turn around and head back…and then the crawler copter explodes! And we never even got to see it crawl. Actually, we didn’t see much of any of it, other than the window.
On board the CT, they see the flash from the explosion but don’t know what it was. This doesn’t stop the fruitless speculation, though. They decide to land.
On the surface, Captain America runs until he falls through a trap door. He lands near a small pool of water, and he’s immediately surrounded by a crowd of tiny creatures made out of tinkertoys. He captures one and puts it in his satchel, and tries to crawl back up to the surface.
And we see the CT land, through the clouds and superimposed animation. And I think the blast from this landing knocks the Captain back down into the tinkertoy realm. They happily bounce all around him and seem very pleased to see him again so soon. Happy bouncing creatures. Puppies…from Space!
The crew of the CT clambers about the surface and find the wreck of the Crawler Copter. They determine that it exploded because there’s “a high tension line” running just where it landed, and the next time it gets a signal, it will blow up anything else that happens to have landed on it. So watch it! But then Omega shows up. And so does Captain America. Everyone’s happy to see the two of them.
And the Captain pulls out the tinkertoy creature he found earlier, and everyone’s all, Whoa. Dr. Japan says he’s going to determine if this is a life-form, and the rest of them are going to follow the high-tension line, figuring it will lead to a city or something. This is like people lost in the woods who follow a river.
So, they all set off on their hike. Except some of them are riding in another Crawler Copter (they brought two more of these). They tell the CT that they’ve found something strange, a huge sphere that “looks like an immense golf ball.” And we cut to a view of this, and sure enough, that’s a pretty good description.
They mention how weird this all is, and how unprecedented and stuff like that. And they promise to give regular reports.
Back inside the CT, Captain America is giving more diary stuff, saying how he wonders why the planet is so quiet. Are the tinkertoys the dominant life form? Huh? Well, are they? Dr. Japan is working “day and night” to find out what they are, exactly, and finally he tells everyone that they’re “harmless” and “not a form of life.” He demonstrates what one of the “creatures” “micro crystals” sounds like, and again someone is going nuts on the Moog and I hope he doesn’t break it. They are expensive.
When the noise abates, Dr. Sukarna says that this was the voice of the Venusians, and that the tinkertoy-things are a kind of mobile voice-recorder. And the trap door that Captain America fell into, well, that was a kind of archive. Durand wonders, “But then where can the inhabitants be? They certainly saw our spaceship land, they couldn’t have missed it, yet nothing happened. Nothing at all.”
Captain America notes how his copter blew up, but no one ascribes that to malevolence. Dr. Sukarna says he needs more tinkertoys to examine.
And outside, everyone is still examining the “petrified forest” and wondering where the power lines go after they go to the Golf Ball. Some guy in a space suit seems to have found the answer, but we instead see Dr. Japan scanning the sand that the storms toss around. He’s looking for evidence of life. Captain America’s narration notes that everything has to stop when the night falls, because that’s when the storms hit. But they have stuff they can study while cooped up inside, so it’s not like they’re just wasting time and money. Or our patience. Much.
They study the “vitrified” forest, which is a word I’ve not heard of (I kept thinking I must be hearing “petrified”), but Word seems to think it’s okay. Dr. Sukarna has come to the conclusion that the forest is actually the grid of an enormous weapon, “capable of destroying all life in a radius of millions of miles.” That seems pretty darn extreme, there—sounds like they’d kill themselves along with whatever it was they were afraid of, or hated.
”Then it was build by the inhabitants of Venus,” Sumika says. No, sweetie, I’m sure they bought it on eBay. Good grief! Dr. Sukarna goes on to say that they were ready to use this weapon, but something went wrong.
Captain America says maybe they decided to disarm, but Dr. Sukarna poo-poohs this naïve notion. He says the metal insects have given him some information on this topic. After some prompting, he goes on to say that there was some kind of catastrophe on Venus, but he can’t decipher past a certain point, as the data becomes “chaotic. It’s like—it’s like everything was broken!” He says that if there was a planet-wide catastrophe, then it was such a huge one “as to be absolutely beyond our powers of comprehension.”
Dr. Orloff says they can only solve this mystery through study. So stay in school, kids, and don’t do drugs. He says they should study the giant sphere, because all the power lines lead there. According to him, the sphere is either a “transformer” or a “force field generator.” Are those the only two possibilities? Dr. Harrington says there might even be some surviving Venusians in the sphere. So they all decide to take a field trip.
We cut to the landscape, which is made up of enormous black spheres, like bubbles of tar, and we see two miniatures of the crawler copters trundling along. (I told you they packed several of these before leaving Earth.) Then we cut to a full-size version, with folks inside. Captain America calls the CT, telling them they’ve been driving for “nearly seven hours now” which is a long time for a highway with no rest areas. Also, I bet they have watches on the CT so they probably know how much time has elapsed. They continue along the highway, along some lighted paths (like on a landing strip) and through some bio-mechanic-looking overhangs and the usual animated overlays. The Captain asks if they should keep going, and is told, “Yes.”
It certainly is a very strange looking landscape, have to give the film-makers credit for that. It’s all curved and filled with hollow balls and calcified tentacles and stuff. They come across some giant towering things that look like melted skeletons, and theorize that these might be buildings. They talk about how it sure looks destroyed and all. Captain American asks Sumika what’s she’s thinking.
She replies in the most stilted dubbed dialogue that I’ve ever heard. “Of the dam-age,” she says, sounding like someone talking in her sleep. Now, I know dubbers have to match lip motion, but this is really badly done.
Apparently we lost a bit of footage, as everyone is now parked and getting out of the copters. Yes, even Omega joins in the fun. They’ve found something they think is an entrance to somewhere, and decide to go inside.
They find a giant floating model of the solar system. They speculate about it a bit, but come to no useful conclusions, and in the next shot, they’re coming back out of the entrance because someone’s found a shaft going down into the ground. Everyone walks over to see, and inside, there’s…something. Several bright white dots, with two larger forms that look like dancing bemused tadpoles. They decide it must be one of the “nerve centers” or a control room of some kind.
And they walk somewhere, where there’s a large pit of smoking stuff. No, not smoking cigarettes, smoking like hot lava. They see two conical towers dotted with windows. Durand asks Omega what this is, and Omega says “Beats me!” Definitely too much heart, doc.
They decide to go toward these towers anyway, wondering about the bubbling crap all over everywhere. Durand accidentally kicks a rock into this boiling stuff, and it gets tossed back out quick, and the bubbling crap reacts as if, Hulk smash! Rather than run away, they run toward the towers and climb the spiral walkway. And the blob monster starts flowing up after them. So they continue to run up the ramp. Man, all this over a smallish rock! Those Venusians were sure oversensitive, and they passed this trait on to whatever blobs happened to hang around their conical towers.
The blob grabs Sumika by the foot, but Captain America pulls her free and they continue on up. The stuff is now pouring out of the windows as well, getting all over their nice clean spacesuits. (As the only woman on board, you know she’ll get stuck with the laundry. Heck she already does the cooking, in a sense.)
Finally, they discover they can’t go any higher, as the ramp has been broken off. The blob is getting closer. Durand tries shooting the blob with his gun and it turns out, the blob hates this, hates this to hell, and it retreats (through the magic of reverse footage, which also cleans the spacesuits).
Elsewhere, Dr. Japan and Dr. Orloff, who were not menaced by any blobs, decide the solar system diorama they’ve been watching is actually a tool the Venusians used to plan their invasion and stuff. Harrington shows up and says that the dancing tadpoles are the operational headquarters of this planned invasion. The tadpoles are actually animatedly dancing now, and one of the scientists pulls out a small box with an antenna, which he uses to (I guess) record the sounds of these dancing tadpoles. Either that or they had a prop they wanted to get into a shot.
And we see Sumika, Durand and Captain America walking through a waving bunch of extension cords, having escaped the blob. Omega, too.
On board the CT, Dr. J notes that the forest has begun radiating energy, and Dr. Sukarna comes to see.
All this from a rock being accidentally kicked! Boy, those Venusians were sure thin-skinned all right.
The white sphere has turned red, and gravity has increased. Dr. Sukarna…somehow…figures this means that the defense systems still active on Venus are powering up to fling the ship out into space. Dr. J gets on the horn to call everyone back.
In a pretty nifty shot, the explorers return to their copters and board, while the camera pans down across the copter’s waving antennae. Lightning seems to be an increasing problem. The two copters start to trundle back and…they see the Venusian remains.
They’re nothing but shadows, burned into the walls by atomic radiation. Spindly humanoids, their last moments don’t seem to have been pleasant ones. All that remains of their paranoid, advanced society are pictures of agony, permanently burned into their architecture. Fade to black.
Back on board the CT, everyone is collating data. Dr. Japan has found what might be plant seeds, meaning that Venus might not be totally dead. Everyone gets called to a big meeting by Dr. Sukarno. He tells them that the metal insects have told them some stuff. And he’s pieced together the rest: the Venusians were all set to attack us with nuclear weapons, but passions got out of hand and they destroyed themselves first. He says it more fancily than this, but this is the gist.
Dr. Orloff mentions that the energy projecting weapons are still intact and could still be set off. “Why, what do you mean?” asks Captain America. “We’ve started the reaction?”
Orloff asks about what happened when the rock fell into the “slime” and they recount what happened. When Durand says he shot his ray gun into it, everyone is totally down on him, because he’s started a chain reaction across the whole Venusian defense grid. Durand asks what he was supposed to have done but, having no answers, no one answers him. “You are supposed to be French, aren’t you?” No one says that, but I bet they are all thinking it.
They all agree that Venus was way ahead of Earth, since they could reverse atomic explosions (somehow) (which didn’t seem to help them much in the end). Omega takes this opportunity to go crazy, and he drives his tiny body over Dr. Harrington (who had to really work to get in Omega’s way). Omega is smashed. Durand goes to help and Sumika does too.
Apparently, the sphere had gone all red again and this upset Omega's brain. Also, the “glass forest” is starting to energize itself. The radiation is increasing, and so is the gravity, so they can’t take off to escape this planet of death. They talk a lot, finally Dr. Japan says that he might know how to reverse the process that has been set in motion, and turn the released energy back into mass where it’ll be quiet and not bother everyone.
Dr. J and Dr. Japan are going to and try to deactivate the Venusian nerve center. Sumika is operating on Harrington to repair the Omega injuries. Durand manages to fix the computer.
The two Drs climb down into the Venusian nerve center. Dr. J goes first, of course, but Dr. Japan gets hit by something which punctures his suit. Dr. J says he’ll come up to help, but Dr. Japan insists he help the others by deactivating the nerve center. Then he collapses, letting the rope run out, so Dr. J is pretty screwed anyway. Offscreen, he manages to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow and the sphere turns white. Dr. Japan calls the CT and says Dr. J did this, but then he goes on about his own problems with punctured suits and air flow and such.
Now that the gravity is back to normal Captain America says he’ll set off in the “rocket plane” to rescue Dr. Japan. This turns out to be an attachment to the crawler copter. Sumika, in the meantime, gets on the horn to say that the seeds Dr. Japan found are germinating, so he has proven that life is still viable on Venus. Let’s hope those seeds aren’t from an intellectual carrot.
Dr. Japan, among the flailing extension cords, dies happy. And the “negative gravity is increasing” at the CT, which makes the CT takes off into space. The “rocket plane” is also tossed off into the trackless void, which makes Captain America pretty unhappy and prone to screaming.
Dr. J staggers out of the nerve center opening and runs screaming toward the camera, begging for the others not to leave him. Too damn late, man. I wonder if this started the trend where black people die in science fiction movies? Well, the Commies got there first I suppose.
Back on Luna Three, they are picking up signs that the CT is alive and well and heading back to Earth. Giant satellite dishes move to see where the CT is. So do some telescopes. And more antennae. And a big crowd has turned out to watch the CT land back on Earth. Wow, the return journey sure didn’t take long. And various emergency vehicles and stuff come to see the disembarking CT astronauts. Which seems to consist solely of Dr. Sumatra, Sumika, and Durand. I guess Harrington died of his injuries, but where’s Orloff?
A bunch of people with “A”s on their chests hold the crowd back. I guess they all read that novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, eh? And Sumika goes back up, and Orloff and the wounded (but not dead) Harrington disembark.
”I greet the Earth. I greet you all,” says Dr. Sumatra. And the same reporter from Intervision forces Sumika to the microphone.
”We have learned much,” she says. “But we have sacrificed…a lot. Too much!” and she moves off, barely keeping it together. She embraces some old lady with white hair. And another woman rushes through the crowd eagerly, but seems disappointed.
”Let us honor the memory of three great men,” Dr. Harrington says. He mentions that Dr. J saved the expedition, Dr. Japan discovered life on Venus, and Captain America was the first person to set foot on Venus. “May they never be forgotten,” he says as the music turns into what sounds like end titles.
Dr. Durand takes up the slack. “We found traces of a civilization that had advanced beyond our comprehension. The Venusian science had gone beyond their power to control it. A dreadful catastrophe fell upon them. They were destroyed by their own machines.” See this is irony, because Durand was all about machines.
”We still have a grave task before us,” Dr. Orloff says, “We must use our [SPLICE] other planets. We’ll fly further and further. It’s mankind’s destiny.”
And the lady who looked through the crowd anxiously before, rushes forward and embraces Dr. Harrington. Hey, any port in a storm I guess. Unless she was his wife, in which case, sorry.
Well, well, well, well, well, well, well. Not sure there’s a lot to say about this one, although the characters themselves sure had a lot to say, pretty much all the time. No one could say, “I missed breakfast this morning” if they could turn it into “Since I was unable to come to the table in a timely fashion, the items we commonly use for breakfast had been put away by the time I was able to make an appearance. Thus, I remain unsated and my fast unbroken.” There’s tons and tons of talk, so if you’re really way into talk, this may be a film you’ll enjoy a lot.
Otherwise, it’s very reminiscent of the Russian film cut up into two “Prehistoric Planet” films, which made their appearances on this site here and here. A lot of very interesting ideas and some very original set designs make this, if not exactly exciting, at least colorful and imaginative and thus, ultimately, watchable. The ending, where the tragic sacrifice of the three astronauts is turned into a stirring call for space exploration, really seemed to benefit from that convenient splice. I suspect they couldn't just end the film on a down note like that, but it really seemed like they pulled a fast 180 with Orloff's talk.
Now that I’ve said a couple of things, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot else to say; the film is enjoyable to a certain degree, but it’s not the sort of thing that’s going to make you leap out of your chair, either with excitement or with despair. You’ll probably like it best if you’re really nostalgic for the days when spacecraft were covered with pointy things and every alien out there wanted to kill us, just because they were mean and we were blocking their view of something…like this film, maybe, on the drive-in screen.