start out with some great surrealistic paintings by the same guy
whose artwork graced the credit sequence for Queen of Blood—John
Cline. They're wonderfully fluid and mysterious, and I'm sure the
movie can't match them for sheer inventiveness. Great stuff. If
you've seen the artwork of Jack Gaugin, or Leo and Diane Dillon, the
work is quite similar.
“Written and Directed by John Sebastian,” which has to be a pseudonym. In fact, if I recall my film history, AIP bought some Russian science fiction films, recut and redubbed them, and used the (expensive special effects) footage from them over and over (Queen of Blood contained some of the footage). So John Sebastian may be Curtis Harrington, Peter Bogdonovitch, or Francis Ford Coppola, or someone. (I'll look it up later.) Probably not the guy who wrote the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme song.
Over an incredibly red night sky (ha ha), a narrator tells us the year is 2020. The Moon has been colonized, and the next “space goal” is about to be reached, “The first landing, by man, on the planet Venus.” We see some nice footage of a little space ship, and a giant space station rotating in space. We also see some little people wandering around on this space station without any benefit of space suits, but heck, maybe they're in an observation dome. (There are moving stars in the background.) The narrator repeats the belief, common at the time, that Venus is a lot like Earth, and so scientists hope to find life there.
Hm, maybe those people have space suits after all. Anyway, they're on the platform exercising or something. The narrator informs us that three ships, the Sirius, Vega, and Capella “are in the final stages of their journey...rapidly approaching their destination.” The space footage is rather decent throughout, not terribly exciting but fairly realistically presented.
Suddenly, a meteor strikes one of the ships and it vaporizes. Somewhere else, a door slides open. And Basil Rathbone walks through that door. He is informed that the Capella has been destroyed. Basil asks that contact be made with the Sirius. (Turns out Basil is in a base on the Moon.)
On board one of the ships, three men lounge gloomily over the fate of their comrades (ha ha). They talk about how unfair it all is, and how meteors give no thought to fairness. This is obviously Russian footage, as the dubbing has that flat sound usually associated with a sound booth. To be fair, though, the lip matching isn't half bad.
The radio comes on, and Basil tells everyone how sorry they all are about the Capella, but “Flight Plan A” must still be followed. So the two remaining ships are to go into orbit, and wait for a third ship, the Astra, which is “due to blast off immediately.”
The three guys take this news in different ways. One guy complains that they might have to wait “months” which seems accurate, the third says “Why complain?” with resignation (the first guy responds with “Bah!”) and the last guy, the leader, just sits there being contemplative.
So, Complains says he has an idea. The plan was to land one ship (“That's true, with the cybernetic relay,” says Leader), but Complains wants to go down to the surface himself, instead of the robot (the cybernetic relay, I'm guessing) who he refers to as “a monster.”
Resigned says, what about Basil? He won't like this. Complains says they'll take that chance.
But Leader says they'll contact Earth and see about getting the robot...transfered, or something. It's hard to follow. But Leader wants to send the Robot down. “Soon he'll be our boss,” Complains complains, re: the robot.
And after a brief shot of a spaceship, we cut to this very scary looking guy, looking right at us, and telling “John” to “awaken.” We zoom in on this guy's face. He's balding with intense eyes and a sharp smile...he would be perfect to play an evil overlord, or a Nazi commandant.
Then we cut to see “John,” who is a pretty impressive looking robot. He indicates that he is awake now.
“Preview us,” says the scary guy, “be extra precise. There are changes you must make in our present landing pattern program. Plan now, is Sirius and Vega. You, me and Sherman...on the same spaceship. The Commander Lockhart, Walters and Fresno in the second ship. First ship Sirius, second ship Vega. Problem: land on Venus and return.”
John assimilates the data, then calculates that someone will have to be left behind. He volunteers for this (not exactly in those terms).
There is a lady on board one of the ships with a classic beehive hairdo. She calls Basil on the Moon to tell them about the new flight plan. They don't want to have to wait for the Astra. Basil agrees that the plan is “quite logical.” But he's concerned about the “possible psychological danger to you in remaining too long alone on the Vega.” Isn't it a bit late for that, Basil? They're out in space!
Beehive agrees that there's a possibility of her going STARK STARING BONKERS but she still says this is a better plan.
And “Sherman” pops up to ask Basil, hasn't anyone told him that ladies are tougher than men? Basil has a good laugh over this, and having glanced over some paperwork re: psychological stuff, agrees that this is so. “Permission granted,” he says.
Beehive thanks Basil, and says she will contact them again at 1400 hours.
And we cut to the three earlier guys, Leader is shaving (wouldn't want to look slovenly landing on the Planet of Love, would you!) while Resigned is...eating something. A call comes in for Leader. It's basically just telling Leader that the plan is going through, and his (Leader's) ship will land first, followed by the one with the robot. Leader seems pretty pleased by this turn of events, but Complains and Resigned seem a bit reluctant (that's who we're missing! “Reluctant!” Then we could have a real trio.).
Back on the radio, Leader tells Sherman, “Make room for a spaceship. I'll join you there. Maybe. Good luck.” Uh...well, there aren't enough syllables for this to be haiku....
“See you on Venus,” says Sherman cheerily.
Okay...so who's going first, Leader or Sherman? Apparently Sherman is. I guess that's the problem when your footage is shot before you've written the dialogue.
We then get a very impressive roiling cloudscape, which I guess is the Venusian outer atmosphere. And we cut to Beehive, who is talking about pressure readings. I had thought for a moment she was wearing a very low-cut blouse but I was mistaken.
Others discuss landing possibilities. One chap says he sees a glowing “spot of red” and another says, “Spot of red could be Hades,” but we don't slow down to enjoy this bit of wit.
We cut to Beehive, who is making some kind of diary entry. She says that the most important question to ask Venus is, if any form of life exists on this planet. Someone breaks into her reverie and says he doubts they'll find any life. “A planet of fire below us,” he says. I think it is Scary. “Is it a new world, or will it consume us all?” You know, Scary, those aren't mutually exclusive, it could do both.
Resigned rubs his chin obsessively while popping out, “Those...bright red spots, could that...be a city or something?” one slow syllable at a time. Well, obviously it could be something, and still be a city. You people and your questions!
Beehive points out that it's time for Sherman, Kern and “automaton John” to pop on along and land on Venus now, yes it's time.
Leader cuts in to congratulate Sherman and Kern (but not Automaton John) for being the first folks on Venus. Resigned and Complains also offer their congrats. Beehive looks like she's been crying a lot. Now, look, the movie's a bit stiff but it's not that bad.
A clock strikes twelve, and everyone watches the sister ship...um, ascend above the cloud cover...guys, aren't you going the wrong way? Maybe it's that wacky Automaton John!
Sherman's voice comes over the loudspeaker. “White clouds...lightening. I don't like the looks of this! I'm turning control over to Robot John [his name is AUTOMATON John you insensitive jerk!].”
John's voice says “Ahead—steep—mountain—I—am—going—up.”
“Wow, close call,” says Sherman's voice.
Scary comes on the line to say they're watching the indicators, and everything is strange. “This is truly a prehistoric planet.”
“Prehistoric planet is right,” agrees Sherman's voice. Then, “There's a hard, level spot” but he's talking about the planet's surface, and not anything else.
Sherman gives the Sirius the coordinates for her own landing, then says “Uh oh, there's water beneath us,” and there's a sound of a crash!
Beehive calls to ask what happened. Leader says not to worry, the signal was only broken by the horizon, he is sure they've landed.
Okay, I missed something, where are all these people? Sherman, Scary and Automaton John are on the Vega. Leader, Complains and Resigned are on the Sirius. So where is Beehive? She never interacts with anyone (well, they're all Soviet actors, and she's American Faith Domeringuegueguesinbladst, but that's beside the point).
Anyway, Leader tells Beehive that there's nothing more they can do til their orbit brings them around again, so they might as well all get some rest.
And we fade on Complains, sweating buckets, as he calls out the names of the folks on the Vega. But no one answers, so he says it's hopeless. Leader comes over and paces a bit, then says, “We've no choice. Let's break orbit. We'll prepare the ship [well, I should hope so!]. You better bring her about and plan a course to find them.”
He then calls Beehive and tells her that it's likely something bad is up, and “if something should happen...don't you be afraid.”
“I won't, I promise,” she says. “Shall I sign off now?”
“You can help us most, “ he says, “if you'll be brave, and keep faith.” Ha ha! Because, she's Faith Domeringueguegueskeedebomp.
Back on the Moon, Basil calls to ask whazzup. He says, “We wish you to feel free to discontinue the expedition at your own discretion. Don't take unnecessary risks. Your lives are too valuable.” He then immediately continues, “All the nations of the Earth are eagerly awaiting the result of your exploration. We wish you all success.” Basil, aren't those two contradictory things? Do you want them to stop, or to go on?
“Lunar Seven,” says leader, “my men...the ship...are just about to break orbit and drop.” He tells that the plan is to land in a certain area, the place where Vega said it was totally cool to land. “My people are proud and privileged to be...chosen members of this expedition. The first on Venus's surface. Our special thanks to all people of Earth.”
“Well my boy,” Basil tells his assistant, “all we can do now is wait.”
“What do you think they'll find, doctor?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Basil says. “Let's just hope they arrive there safely.”
And we cut to the Sirius, descending through the clouds. We get quite a bit of clouds, in fact, though they slowly start turning red (with heat, one assumes, and not with socialism). Inside, Leader, Complains and Resigned are all strapped in nice and tight, then we're back out for more clouds, and the nose of the rocket (with Russian characters on the name—oops) descends below the cloud level. (Nowadays there'd be some dialogue to cover the Russian words--”Good thing the Russians built the ship for us,” or whatever.)
And they've landed. Complains says, “Wa-la!” and everyone unstraps himself.
They remark about how it's strange to have gravity again, though I didn't notice any weightlessness before (probably part of the Soviet footage that didn't make it overseas). They peek out of the windows, and pretty much see nothing but a cloud bank. But some other viewer they've got shows them the landscape, though it looks like just more clouds to me. But they spot something interesting (they don't let us see) and Complains says he'll switch on the “outside sound pickup.” They get weird electronic wind noises. (Man, this is starting to remind me of the house in Carnivore). Then the noise becomes voice like. “What is it, a human being?” Resigned asks.
“Hold it,” says Leader. The listen to the odd electronic voice again. “It's finished,” Leader decides, and he orders it transferred to playback. Then he asks Resigned to check out his spacesuit and prepare to move out. He orders Complains to try to contact Sherman by radio, then get into a space suit. They're going to “walkabout.” I'm assuming they don't mean in the Australian Aborigine sense, but then, these are Russi—no, wait, they've been translated into Americans.
“I'm right behind you,” says Complains.
“That'll be handy if I slip,” says Leader. “Get popping now!”
As he goes below, Resigned says, “It's 4.7 in oxygen.”
“That's pretty close,” Leader pronounces. Fade to deep red.
Then, we're outside, on the fog-ridden moors. The guys have their suits on and are descending on the landscape. One of them says, “Ah, we were lucky! Good solid rock!” You mean the fact that the spaceship didn't sink didn't clue you in on that? Hmmm.
Leader tells him to keep hold of the line and not to get out of visual contact.
The guy pokes about the rocks a bit, picks up one or two, then finds a pool of water. He then deliberately gets up on these unstable looking rocks instead of walking on the ground that's right next to them. If you fall and break your leg, don't come running to me! Ha ha, you see, that's a funny joke, because [snip].
Resigned meanwhile tells the Leader that Beehive has got a signal of two objects, one of them metallic, and Leader says “Probably Sherman and Scary.” Uh, Leader? One of them is metallic.
Complains sees an odd looking boulder and stares at it. And tentacles snake out and snare his legs! Now, I know you think I just wrote that to liven things up, and it didn't actually happen, but it's true this time! These tentacles mean business. Complains tries to cut them with his knife, but the wily tentacles make him lose his balance! Argh, Complains, didn't you train for this? They always make you lose your balance! And of course, the doofus drops his knife! Complains, there is a future for you in the 1980's as a slasher film victim.
That is, if you're not a victim right here and now...you're dragged off behind a rock, with your foot disappearing last, with a kind of finality. Oh, sorry, reader, I didn't mean to leave you out! That should read, he's dragged off behind a rock, with his foot disappearing last, with a kind of finality.
Back at the ship, Resigned is talking about minor crap, but Leader notices something (that tug on the lifeline, maybe?). Actually, they both hear Complains yelling for help. And they're off, following the lifeline, and they find him entwined in...well, a pretty impressive plant beast (for the time, I mean). It's got thrashing tentacles, huge petals arranged around its body, and the body is an urn shape that has an undulating mass at the top. It's pretty cool...though the more everyone fights it, the more paper-mache it looks. Still, full credit to the effects people for this. Thought it doesn't help that, when they all escape, Resigned has to toss a tentacle back to the plant-beast, like he's getting it out of shot or something.
Anyway, it turns out that Complains is all right, and he's going to take a picture of the creature. And as he focuses on it, the large petals all enfold the thing into kind of bulb, ie, something with no real photographic interest.
“Can you imagine that,” says Complains, “he's bashful!” Actually, it makes me think he's a member of the cat family. Oh the stories I could tell you....
...but I won't, as I have a job to do. Complains is all, we should get one of those for the zoo! And Leader says, you have to be more careful, it was luck we heard you call for help. And Complains says that he didn't call.
Now, both Leader and Resigned insist that they heard him. He insists he didn't. They decide the heck with this mystery, and go back to the ship.
And we see Beehive's ship, moving through the void. Since the Vega was lost when landing, and the Sirius landed fine, and the Capella was destroyed, that leaves...no other ships, so I'm going to call Beehive's ship the NCC Rootintootin. Anyway, she's making a log entry about how she got a call from the Sirius, but then she gets a call from the Sirius again! If it's not one thing...
Leader says, “I'm afraid you haven't given us enough information about the location of the spacecraft,” and Beehive smiles like, oh, men! “I need to know their precise position,” Leader continues.
“I'm sorry,” Beehive says, “I was so happy you'd made a safe landing, I forgot to tell you. They're in square 107, about a mile from The Red Spot. The direct distance from you is 32 miles across the bay.”
They think about this a moment, then Leader says, “We'll have to go by air. Is the car ready?”
“More than ready,” says Resigned. “Will the car make it there?”
“It does, or we walk!” Leader says with conviction, not confection. Confections are sugary candies that everyone likes, while conviction is a bad thing in court, but a good thing if you need to do something difficult. Confections are much more popular at social gatherings, while at those same gatherings, convictions lead to arguments and shouting. Sometimes, even, someone gets punched. Especially in an election year. (Which, of course, they didn't have in the USSR.)
“I'd sure like a four-lane freeway,” says Resigned, as he goes below.
“Bet that you'd get a flat,” Leader answers. Hey, why don't you just bring everybody down, then?
“Commander?” asks Complains.
“What's happened to the robot?” and the camera tracks in close.
“Marsha, Marsha?” Leader says into the microphone. (Marsha is Beehive's real character name, but heck, you know, you show me a character and have her talk, and then others talk, and so on, and after a long time, you give me a name...well, too bad. She's Beehive. Hey, it's better than being Complains or Resigned, isn't it?)
“Have you been...apprised at all about the robot?”
“Well, apparently they're having some difficulty with him,” says Beehive. She says he was loaded on the ship partially disassembled, and they haven't reassembled him yet. Boy, if you can think of one thing bound to make an Automaton mad, it would be only assembling a few bits of him! Wouldn't that make you mad? In the future?
To add insult to injury, we cut to John walking along the foggy landscape. He seems to be missing his semi-anthropomorphic head, and his left arm. The left arm appears to be right in front of him, in this kind of tiny forest of spiky plants. They look like fern fronds. But then we pan to see John's head, and it is being held by Scary! He tells John to keep coming, keep coming, that's it...and then a dinosaur attacks!
It's not a huge one, it's kind of man-sized, and Sherman shoots it, but everyone is kind of on edge about this stuff. Dinosaurs! On Venus! Who could have imagined it, except about a hundred pulp writers of course, I mean.
The dino-men (not dyno-mite) continue to attack, and Sherman and Scary continue to shoot them dead while Scary completes John's assembly. Once done, he orders John to “secure yourself to that boulder...proceed, proceed!”
And John lumbers off, with three reptile men attached to him, to do as he is told. Actually, when I look, it seems he is securing a line to the boulder.
“He's better equipped to fight this place than we are,” Scary says.
“I'm wondering if we should be here at all,” Sherman opines.
“Why don't you catch a bus and go home?” asks Scary.
“Don't think I wouldn't if I could find one,” is the witty reply.
It seems John has rigged a rope, so the two of them can escape, um, by, er, crawling up this rope. It's kind of like a ski-lift, if there were no power. I guess. Sherman suggests that Scary go first. And we fade to red.
And fade back to some more cloud-covered landscape. And then, the “car” spoken of in the last scene at the Sirius trundles along the landscape. Apparently, it's a kind of hovercraft, and apparently, it was designed by scientists after they'd been to a 40's auto show. It has big tail fins and everything. And, I'm sorry, but it looks pretty silly. It looks like a prop left over from a live-action Jetsons movie. (Oh hell, have I just given someone an idea?)
Just when there's a “monster roar” on the soundtrack, Leader says, “Stop the car around here.” Sure thing boss!
It turns out the monster roar came from a brontosaurus on a hilltop. One of our intrepid trio is going to go take a blood sample from it. “Take it from his tail!” is one bit of good advice. Another bit of good advice not given by the characters, but said by me: “Leave it alone! We have to rescue our people first!” No one ever listens to me.
Thanks to a fortuitous jump-cut, samplin' man is back at the Hover-Edsel in no time, and says that the bronto “never even knew I was there!” Hey, neither did we! Wow, small universe!
“What did [Beehive] say?” asks the guy who didn't go for samples. (It's hard to tell them apart when they have their spacesuits on.)
Leader says they're all moving together, though kind of slowly. And we cut to why, as John is essentially dragging the other two behind him. I'm surprised they're not shouting “Mush!”
“Let's rest,” says Sherman.
“We've very little oxygen left,” observes Scary. And they talk about how rescue efforts look a bit dim as a prospect.
Sherman mentions how he feels as if his “head's spinning.”
Scary puts this down to “your torn suit. Infection is getting through.”
Sherman wants to take some “Quincell” which I assume is a brand name, but Scary says they'd have to rest after, and they must...keep...moving!
Which they proceed to do. Straining as if every muscle everywhere were on the verge of collapse. But they move on, past a kind of cool looking plant. Fade to red.
And we're back with the Jetsons, I mean, the Sirius folks trundling along in their car. They stop by the shoreline, and argue about what to do next. And decide to keep going. Then, they hear the sirens of Venus again!
“That voice again!” says one of them. And they park, and stand around the car, and listen to eerie choral voices. “Almost sounds like a girl,” says Leader.
“A girl...perhaps,” says (I think) Resigned. “Or a...monster.” They all leave the car to go look.
“It's a human sound,” says Someone.
“Well, there are sure no humans here,” says Someone Else. You mean, other than you three, right?
“Well, we're humans,” observes Someone. (Ouch, me and my big mouth!)
Complains is still certain it's a human girl making all that eerie racket. Resigned thinks its all hooey. The Leader is open-minded. “To a man of science, anything is possible til proven otherwise,” and Resigned looks pretty shocked at this kind of thinking.
But they banter a bit more, then go off to find Complains and his inevitable disappointment with the universe (e.g., no women). So they can laugh at him!
But no, just as suddenly, they all decide to pile back into the Jetsons' car, and the screen fades to red again.
We fade in on a rather pretty waterfall, but the music is kind of ominous so I'm betting it's not a nice waterfall. We see a close up of Automaton John's feet as he walks over the rocks. He has these weird toes, like a raptor. As the two humans trot along behind him, John announces that this is “too much water, my mechanism is in danger. Need protection.”
Scary tells John to find shelter, and he does so. Sherman wants to lie down, rest, and give up, but Scary won't let him. They trudge on. John has found a place with “no water” and Scary encourages Sherman on. They make their home in the cave. Then Scary collapses too, and he asks John to stay with them, to make sure their bodies are found. He then starts raving about mathematics, how mathematics might prove something, and how there's always a chance when you have mathematics on your team. Sherman starts raving about Beehive. John starts repeating, “I await your order.” “Help them find us, John,” says Sherman, and the screen goes red again.
Fade to Beehive, calling the Sirius. She's calling Scary and Sherman, but is getting no answer. She calls Resigned then, and tells him she can't contact anyone.
And we cut to the intrepid three in the Jetson car, boating about and being worried about their fellows. One suggests contacting their lost comrades via “helmet phone” because Scary “has a spare.” Complains says he's trying that now. He gets a very static-y noise, which he identifies as “a woman” and says it must be Beehive. After a moment, the broadcast becomes clearer, but not enough to make out any words. Then it goes to static again.
Leader suggests going point-to-point, and Complains tries to call John. “Are you there? There's no response,” he says in the same breath. Hey, Complains, robots are fast, but they are not that fast.
“Better go to solar battery, much bigger reading,” says Leader.
“I'm on it,” says Complains. “Hello. Hello. Hello. You must hear me, John. Please open your mic and answer me. You must obey me, John.”
“No response,” says Leader, as we look at ocean waves. “Try another point.”
And gosh, this works! John responds, saying he hears them and has adjusted to hear them. What an efficient robot! Complains asks for John's position, situation, and what he would like on his Subway. They also ask about Scary and Sherman.
“They do not speak, they do not move,” reports John. He's pretty complete about this! I would like Automaton John to be my special friend.
Leader takes the mic. “Hello, you will listen John. First you will obey me and do precisely what I say. You will listen. Listen, John. Obey my every command.”
You are feeling sleepy, John, so sleepy. Good grief, Leader, I know you're the leader and all, but do you have to lay it on so thick? I'm surprised John didn't say, “Yeah, yeah, you frickin' jerk, fine, I'm listening already, what the hell do you want?”
It turns out that Leader wants John to remove “container two” from Scary's first aid kit. We get a close up of John removing the whole kit, with the bottles clearly labeled one through six. I guess this was not part of the Russian footage, then? Leader goes on to order John to remove one tablet, remove Scary's helmet, and give Scary the tablet. This goes on for a long time, as John wasn't really designed for delicate work. He drops the pill bottle, it takes him two tries to get one pill, etc, etc. The whole “revitalize Scary” thing goes on for a while, and while it's impressive work for a rather awkward robot, it's not all that an exciting time at the cinema.
Of course, we now cut to Beehive, making her diary entry. When this was in theatres, she filled everyone in on what they missed when they went for more popcorn. In today's modern DVD world, she's just wasting our time!
And we're quickly back at our Rescuin' Trio. Though they are heading the wrong way in the film (the director has crossed the axis!!), they are glad that the others are alive, and they hope they stay that way, and stuff.
Then, they are attacked by a pretty awkward puppet flying reptile. Resigned readies the turret gun, and they all lower their face plates to shield themselves from awesome reptile radiation. Leader hopes the Jetson car will pass unnoticed, but of course it is way too cool looking for any reptile to pass up, and it slaps the turret gun with its tail, and the turret gun spins away from the perfect kill shot! “It knows we're here now!” observes Leader. (That is why he is the leader, you know.)
They open the Jetson car dome, and Resigned takes aim at the second-cousin-to-the-Flying-Claw, and shoots it, and then they call Beehive to tell her all about their li'l encounter. She, of course, was catching up on her reading in her bunk but she takes the message rather than let the answering machine get it.
“[Leader], what has happened? What shall I transmit?” she calls into the mic, but she is answered only by...dead air! So she turns on the synthesizer and chills to some awesome waveforms. Well, yes, that is what she does.
Back on the Jetson car, Resigned keeps shooting the Nuevo Flying Claw, but he stinx as a gunner and they decide to submerge rather than face these terrible special effects again. A portal is opened in the floor of the Jetson car, and water rushes in. And this is their good idea?
Back on the NCC Mistaken Impression, Beehive thinks the submergence of the Jetson car means that all hands were lost to a bad wire puppet. “They're gone!” she whispers in terror.
And she's all ready to call Basil on the Moon and tell him that, well, it's all gone to hell and ain't coming back soon...only on pay-per-view! But she does tell us that she's calling from “Command Ship Vega”...so. Uh huh. Well. I guess that Automaton John, Scary and Sherman all went down to Venus in...the shuttlecraft. Of course. That must be it. And the fact that Scary, Sherman or Automaton John never interacted with her means that...well, um, she's a girl, and she has cooties? Or they spliced in the footage pretty lamely?
But—no matter. She calls the moon to tell them that everyone is dead and everything is bad and we're all gonna die, and what the heck should I do now? “Should I land?”
Basil, on the Moon says, “Listen here, Evans, it would be extremely--” and communications cut out! Just like that! That's what you get for getting stuff made in Russia!
She tries to re-establish contact, and so does Basil, but...to no avail! Basil wants her to stay in orbit. Basil is the most animated he's been, ever. But that's also to no avail. We're fresh out of avails!
Back on the...Vega...Beehive muses, “I just don't know what to do.” And she talks about how the Jetson car has probably submerged and all. She can land and help, but she has to wait an hour before she'll get the cool landing spot.
And we cut to some ocean waves, and then the inside of an aquarium. Well, that's what it is! They even have some aquarium thingy that blows bubbles. And a turtle! And sea anemones, and genuine fish.
And then we see our Intrepid Trio...pulling the Jetson car by hand, though this underwater wilderness. They wonder if the car “will ever run again” and someone says that it will.
Then, Complains looks out in the distance, and he says, “Look, the cliffs are all in even rows...like streets!” Hey, if you say so. He wants five minutes to look around, and Leader pokes his watch to emphasize this. Complains moves off, pretending that he is underwater.
The other two look at the fishes around them. “Look, that's a shark's tail,” says Resigned.
“Yes, but with the head of a dolphin,” says Leader, unwilling to be upstaged. He then calls to Complains and reminds him not to go too far.
Complains, though, is soaking in all this new wonderment. Remember, a few hours ago he was almost eaten by a carnivorous plant, you'd think he'd be a bit more cautious, but you'd think wrong. (We no sign of these “cliffs in even rows,” by the way.)
In fact, an octopus with a comical beard rushes at him, as if to attack, and then thinks better of this plan and slinks away. Too late! Complains knows a threat when he sees one, and he draws his knife.
But he lets the octopus alone. “I've found a cave,” he relays, “only the entrance looks like it's been carved!” Well, by people who were bad at carving, I suppose.
“You've gone far enough, why don't you come back now!” says Leader being a spoilsport and a droopy pants and a sore loser.
“Just a quick look. Might find something!” says Complains.
Hey, Complains, far be it from me to, like, throw the plot back at you, but aren't you worried about your companions back with Automaton John? At all? Hello?
Complains finds something which, to us, looks like a hunk of crud, but he's all over it. He grabs it.
He then calls the Leader over to see...uh, something else.
“It's a statue!” Leader declares. It is?
Resigned says it's a petrified tree. But he is a spoil sport and is not invited to parties. Everyone else says it's a statue. So there.
“And much more,” says Leader. “Boobies.”
“You say 'rubies'?” asks one of the others. “Show me!”
“Simple,” says Leader, and he tears a bit of weed off of a superb, fleshy, bouncing...ruby. Sorry, everyone, sorry. I won't do that again! (snicker) However, Leader clearly said Boobies, so “what's a guy to do?”
“Eye of an idol,” says Leader.
“An idol?” asks Complains.
“Yes, a reptile,” says Leader, and he says it resembles the puppet that made them dive. And now that they've pulled the camera back a bit, I can say, yes, it rather does look like that, but only just.
“You're right, Complains, I'm not laughing any more, there WAS a civilization here,” says Resigned.
“And I'll bet you there still is!” says Complains. And we fade to red, again.
We fade in on a crevice full of fog—I think this is where Scary and Sherman were left behind. Yes, it is, because we see Scary whistling happily as he plays with some bottles. Sherman in the mean time has found some “volcanic foam-like metal” which “absorbs oxygen.” How about that!
Next we see John on a cliff, playing with some string. Be careful, John! It turns out he's pulling down a tree to use as a bridge from one side of the crevice to the other. While he does that, Sherman and Scary have the usual on-a-new-planet banter, talking about building a house over yonder, and being homesick and stuff. And the tree comes down.
“We—are—ready” says John. Scary requests some music, “music to cross bridges by.” “What—would—you—like—to—hear?” asks John.
“Anything you are programmed to play, my dear John,” says Scary. Boy, I'm sure glad we got to hear that whole conversation. So, John plays some flute-filled Latin-tinged muzak, and they cross the bridge.
And we fade to the Heroic Trio bringing the Jetson car ashore. Of course, it has seaweed all over it. And next we see them tending the fire they've made on the shore...uh, the fire they made with, um, some Instant Fire Powder, I suppose...I mean, if there's enough oxygen for a fire, couldn't they just breathe the air?
Well, it turns out that the car is fine, though the radio is (of course) totally ruined. They discuss how this is kind of a bummer and stuff, but the Leader restores calm by saying the radio will “dry out.”
“We know it's not a dead planet, not completely,” he says. He says that there could be a whole race out there, hiding, afraid of them, because they came from “above” and they might therefor be considered “some kind of monster.” “I'm only advancing a little hypothetical science-fiction. Nothing should be overlooked. Let's face it...they build a city that's now under the sea,” he concludes. There's a bit more talk, and then the siren song sounds again. Complains is ready to write Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. The other two look like they've eaten the bitterest pickle. Everyone gets the Jetson car ready to depart.
But Complains is on the shore, looking at a rock, and musing: “Are you a lovely lady, face that I desire*, or a monster looking down on us, with horns and breathing fire.”
*This took a number of times to transcribe, and even now I think it sounds like “faithful by the fire.”
Now, just after he finished his little greeting card verse, there was a shot of something bobbing in the water, like a bottle, but then we get these sunset and shore images, and finally everyone calls to Complains to hurry up. They tease him about his Venus lady obsessions, and we fade to Sherman, Scary and John in a cave.
“Strange, it's gotten suddenly dark, well it's no wonder,” Sherman says, just like that, with no pauses or anything. Stop reading other people's lines, Sherman!
Scary asks whazzup, and goes to see the totally rad volcano that Sherman has discovered. The music starts going, “Uh, this could be trouble” while Sherman talks about how boss and kewl the volcano is.
“And beyond the volcano, it looks like the lights of a city!” Sherman says, and sure enough, there's the volcano, and there's...a light, like sunset, behind the volcano. Doesn't look like a city to me, but then I'm not a highly trained Cosmonaut.
“The red spot Complains saw,” says Scary. “We must get a move on.”
“Not right away,” says Sherman. “This might be our only chance to gather some samples...of lava and ash...to take away with us.”
“All right—we'll go to a much better vantage point, and right now. Sherman, come!”
“But look at the magnificence! No one on Earth has seen such a sight.”
Scary tugs him away just as black clouds fill the sky, and lava starts boiling over the rocks and flowing toward everything.
Sherman and Scary and John are getting samples, and they got some good ones, but they waited too long! The lava is all around them. So they order John to carry them across the lava river. Well, as C-3PO once said, “We seem to be made to suffer, it's our lot in life.”
John starts across the lava flow, and the lava makes this really disgusting sound. And we see Scary and Sherman, riding on John's shoulders, like they're at a theme park or something.
John gets a signal from Leader, and this cheers Sherman and Scary, but then John says his external temperature is 500 degrees. His self-preservation program says he has to “eliminate extra weight.”
Well, you don't need a slide rule to know which way the percentage falls, so Sherman and Scary wonder what they're going to do, now that they're half way across a lava river, and John is going to throw them off. So they decide to “deactivate the mechanism.” But John decides when your programming says jump he has to ask how high, so he grabs Scary—hard—and gets ready to toss him. We see shots of the Jetson car speeding to the rescue, while Scary tells Sherman to smash John's panels.
“Kern,” says John. That's all he says. (It's Scary's real name, and Scary built John.) But then Sherman smashes the panel. “Kern...” John says again, and expires in a cloud of smoke.
The Jetson car lets two of the guys out and goes on to rescue Scary and Sherman. Which they do, leaving poor John in the lava. And everyone is happy and laughing and joking and stuff when they get back to the shore. Stuff like, “I sure am glad to see your ugly face” and “We should have saved Scary's robot instead!”
But that just isn't funny. At least Scary is sad about John. And back at the lava flow, John slowly pitches head first into the boiling lake. And we get Scary looking sad and regretful.
Then we're back on the shore. “It was just a metal monster,” says Scary. “Yet when its destruction was imminent, it called my name.” We see Scary's face during this but his lips don't move, so I guess these are his rueful thoughts.
Leader shows up and talks about the sea. Scary humors him by talking about it too, but you can tell he's still bummed out.
“We'll soon be home,” says Leader.
“Yes,” says Scary. “But we leave a friend behind.” I'm sorry, but it's touching. John gave his all for them.
Back at the shore camp, the radio still isn't working. And there is this very odd conversation about triplets. Apparently, Resigned and wife just had a set, and he has a picture of them labeled 1, 2 and 3. “Why not names?” “I'd forget.” “Looks like he's raising his own countdown.” “Did you name them after us?”
Finally, one of them says, “I'm worried about him!” and I'm worried about all of you! Actually, the screenwriter more than you guys, but you know what I mean.
And Leader and Scary are discussing the proof of life on Venus (the statue). Leader thinks life may still exist here. Scary dismisses this concept, saying “Could a human survive here?”
“You did,” says Leader. And he talks about evolution, and how we all came from water-living life forms. “And on our Earth, these people couldn't live! The air'd be poison!”
“I'm afraid I don't share your opinion,” says Scary.
And there's more of this interplanetary bull session. “How about the lizards, couldn't they be people?” He then speculates that they saw the ship land, “got out their lizard costumes, and jumped up and down to spook us away! Ha ha ha! What possible story could explain it better, huh? Ha ha ha!”
“No, you're the winner!” says Sherman.
And the talk goes on, and honestly, some of it is not bad. There's just a lot of it, going over things we've already seen and such. But the leader is genuinely enthused about intelligent life on Venus.
“Here you two, have some coffee and rest your voices,” says someone off screen, as we look at Complains looking all muse-y. His voice over starts and he starts thinking about the siren voice, and “What does she look like? She couldn't be anything but beautiful. Why do I keep thinking about it? I'll probably never know the answer.” And he gets this li'l secret smile.
Just then, he's attacked by a strange creature...which turns out to be one of the others covered in weird seaweed. Nothing like a good laugh to eat up running time, I mean, ease the tension and stuff.
And we fade to the Jetson car trundling along the landscape. And some shots of sky, and some shots of the guys gathering more samples, and some more lizards and dinosaurs, repeat. And finally they're back at the ship.
Of course, there's more teasing of Complains and his siren woman. But he takes it all in stride: “If we could explore behind those hills, I bet you money we'd find her, and that city.”
“You've been reading too many comics.”
“Scary wouldn't believe she was real if she was sitting on his lap right now.”
“We're here.” And the car toddles up to the spaceship and parks. And everyone unpacks all their swell samples, which will result in “big headlines.”
Inside, they listen to a recording left by Beehive while they were out. She can't contact Lunar Station and Basil and such. She talks about how she is disobeying orders, and she is going to land on Venus. Then the tape runs out.
Everyone reacts as if this means Beehive is dead. “This is a mess,” says someone.
“More than that,” someone else says. “Beehive's mistake was the worst. The worst! We'd better make a plan, a good one.”
Outside, it's raining, probably because everyone is sad.
Inside, yep, everyone is sure sad. They not only assume she's crashed somewhere, but mention that the only way to contact anyone is through her ship. Which makes it an incredibly bad judgment call on her part. But Leader has a plan.
If I follow correctly, he wants him and another guy to take the rocket up and see if the Vega is still there. If it is, he'll come back and get the others. But just then, the ship lurches. Apparently the ground is unstable. And they go outside, and see cracks in the earth and flooding all around. So they're going to lighten the ship for emergency blast-off.
You mean all those samples are going to waste? How will they get those big headlines?
Anyway, they're all unloading stuff, and suddenly there's a buzz in the ship, and it turns out Beehive is up in orbit anyway.
And Leader contacts her, and it turns out that she didn't land, because Basil contacted her at the last minute and ordered her not to land. So, she will disobey an order, unless you repeat it. Then, she knows you really mean it. Hm.
Anyway, Leader calls everyone to come indoors cos they're gonna blast off, but he orders Complains to start the weather station. He tries to open the door on it, but it won't budge, so...well, remember the rock he had when he was reciting his poem? He uses this rock to bash open the weather station and start it up.
Doing this chips the rock, and he starts to pull other parts of it off, revealing an alien female face carved underneath. It has wide, slightly slanted eyes and a peaceful expression.
Well, he goes running off yelling, and at this type of action, we suspect a sudden blast of something would make him drop the face, so there was no proof and all...but this doesn't happen, he gets pulled in with his stone face. And the ship takes off, just as the ground crumbles and stuff.
And we see the ship ascend into the clouds. And there's another shot of that little bobbing bottle thing! What the hell? Was this part of the weather station, or is everyone just going to ignore it?
I guess so, as we cut away to the surface of a pond. And reflected in that pond is what looks like the same woman who's face was carved into that rock, headgear and all. She's wearing a flowing white robe, and she reaches up to the sky (down to the bottom of the screen in the shot). Since it's in the surface of a pond, we don't get a clear look at her face, but come on, it's her. Or her descendant. She kneels by the pond's edge, and we fade to red.
Back to space, and the space ship zooming across the starry expanse. “And so, man's search for intelligent life on other planets, and in other galaxies, will continue. For this is the heart and the meaning of that great adventure: the exploration of the universe.”
And over one more of Mr. Cline's paintings, we get the words, The End.
One of the reasons often given for the failure of the space program to fire public enthusiasm back in the 70's, was that the presentation on the media wasn't terribly exciting. There were hours and hours of routine, calling in to base, checking settings, and so on, without any real sense of drama. (I'm not talking about me, personally, by the way.) To the extent that what we have here are some guys who have a mission, and the steps they take to complete it, this film pretty accurately reflects that view of the space program. To that degree, it must be considered both a failure and a success; the most amazing things are to be cataloged and sampled and such, and in the meantime, we have a job to do.
So: watching this movie isn't going to set your pulse pounding, but it's not at all a bad example of simple problem-solving (with some dinosaurs thrown in). There's time for the odd speculation on extraterrestrial life, and talk about some wonders of the planet (though mostly unseen by us). But in the main, it's men in space doing the work they were trained to do. It's almost like a documentary, or a training film.
Except for the bits with Faith D and Basil, that is, which look like what they are—spliced in attempts to have recognizable marquee names. If you can get past the fact that their scenes have no real impact at all, and the rather drab dubbing job, this film could be an evening's entertainment. Your mileage may vary of course. If nothing else, the vintage special effects are fun to watch. And (aside from the inevitable meteor, which makes its appearance early on with no fuss) most of the “space travel” cliche's seem to be absent. No one's from Brooklyn, for example, there's no love story with the natives (aside from Complains' mooning), no on-board saboteurs, and NO “comic” characters.
To sum up: not terribly dramatic, but solidly done. You could do worse, and this could be fun for you. Me, I'd like to see the original Russian film. Wonder if it's available....
--October 27, 2004