In the year 2020 three spaceships (Sirius, Vega and Capella) are on
their way to the planet Venus. Scientists hope to find evidence of life on
Venus, where, as the narrator says, "so many physical conditions are like
our own." Clearly, the writer knew nothing about what Venus is really
like. The writer also had no idea how close Venus comes to Earth. The
narrator explains that the three spaceships have traveled 200 million
miles and are now in the final stages of their journey. The distance from
the Earth to the Sun is only 93 million miles! The distance from Earth to
Venus varies of course, depending on the orbit, but it is a mere 26
million miles when Venus is closest to Earth. It seems that the scientists
in this film decided to travel to Venus when it was on the other side of
the Sun, as far away from Earth as possible, so that they would have to go
around the Sun to get to it. That doesn't seem logical, so I'm assuming
it's ignorance on the writer's part.
As the three ships are finally approaching Venus, disaster strikes! A
meteor hits the Capella and completely destroys it. The next scene shows
Professor Hartman (Rathbone) entering the Control Room on Lunar 7, where
his assistant informs him very matter-of-factly of the Cappella's
destruction. Hartman reacts with no emotion at all, but merely instructs
his assistant to contact the Sirius. Doesn't the death of the crew of the Capella mean anything to the folks on Lunar 7? Most people would have had
a more emotional reaction if they were told that someone had dinged their
car in the parking lot. At least the crew of the Sirius seemed disturbed
over the loss of their friends and fellow astronauts.
Professor Hartman orders the crews of the Sirius and Vega to go into
orbit around Venus and wait for the arrival of another spaceship, the
Aster. But the crews of both ships don't want to sit around and wait.
Marcia Evans (Faith Domergue), one of the crew of the Vega, radios Lunar 7
and receives permission for a shuttlecraft containing the other Vega crew
members (Sherman, Kern and Robot John) to land on the planet while she
stays aboard the Vega, orbiting the planet. The plan was for the Sirius to
also land on the planet.
While the crew is gathering data in preparation for landing on Venus,
Marcia wonders aloud whether life exists on the planet. Her crewmate
responds, "I personally doubt if any does. That planet of fire below
us—is it a new world, or will it consume us all?" (Planet of fire? The
narrator at the beginning said that the physical conditions of Venus were
very similar to those of Earth!)
Sherman, Kern, and the Robot (or "automaton," as they call it), head
down to the planet in their shuttlecraft, and almost immediately they lose
radio contact. Lockhart, Walters and Ferneau (the crew of the Sirius) fear
that their friends are in trouble, so they take the Sirius down to the
Professor Hartman reacts to news of the destruction of the Cappela
Hartman and assistant
Meanwhile, Sherman and Kern have made contact with the Vega. Marcia
gives their location to Lockhart et al. The scenes of the film bounce back
and forth between the two landing parties, who are making their way toward
one another. They encounter a variety of dangers, including a man-eating
plant, "lizard men" (actors in lizard costumes), a flying reptile, and
an erupting volcano. Several times Lockhart's crew hears a strange voice.
"Almost sounds like a girl," says Lockhart.
As they are traveling toward their friends (in a cool-looking
hover-car), Lockhart, Walters, and Ferneau find evidence of a civilization
on Venus—a statue of the
flying reptile with ruby eyes. They wonder if the Venusians still exist.
At one point Marcia loses
radio contact with both landing parties. She wants to go to the surface to help her friends,
orders her not to break orbit.
When hot lava from the erupting volcano covers their path, Sherman and
Kern climb onto the robot, who carries them part of the way across. The
robot then determines that he must get rid of the extra weight, so he tries to drop Kern into the
lava. The cool hover-car shows up in the nick of time; Kern and Sherman climb aboard
and leave the robot behind in the lava.
The five men leave the planet in the Sirius without ever seeing the
Venusians that they had hoped to find. The film ends with a vision of a
pool of water and the reflection of what appears to be a woman.
the cool hover-car
Except for the scenes with Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue, the film
used footage from a 1962 Russian film called Planet of Storms (Planeta
Bur). Roger Corman bought the rights to the Russian film. According to
author Barry Lowe, "Roger tried to sell it to AIP, but they didn't
think it was viable because it didn't have any women in it."1
So Roger used the footage from the Russian film to create three sci-fi
films: Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, Queen of Blood, and Voyage to
the Planet of Prehistoric Women, all of which feature at least one
Before Rathbone finished his last day of shooting Queen of Blood, he was
asked to film more scenes to be edited into another Soviet science fiction
film Planet of Storms, also owned by Corman. The plot involved the first
spaceship in the year 2020 to reach Venus whose only communication with the
Earth is with a space vehicle which circles the planet in orbit. The
astronauts face many unexpected dangers including prehistoric monsters.
Rathbone performed the same duties, wore the same costume, and worked on the
same set as he did in Queen of Blood. But this time his name was Prof.
Hartman. The film was never released theatrically. The film, however, has
surfaced on television as part of a syndicated package in various parts of
the country. Both films were directed by Curtis Harrington.
Harrington recalled the film, "We were all in awe of Rathbone—a star who
worked in some of the biggest pictures form the Golden Age of Hollywood—now
working on a low budget non-union film for $3000 a day. Because some of our
sets weren't ready, we fell behind on our short shooting schedule, so the
actor had to work an extra day. We found out later he went to the Screen
Actor's Guild complaining he wasn't paid his overtime! But he was a great
guy to work with anyway."
From "Suave but Sinister: The Basil Rathbone Story" (Chiller Magazine, 2001)
Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue were hired to play roles in The
Clouds of Venus (the working title for Voyage
to the Prehistoric Planet)2
to add some star power to it. The only other English-speaking actors
played Hartman's two aides on Lunar 7. The rest of the film is taken from
the Russian Planeta Bur, so the actors are Russian. The dubbing in
English is done very well; most of the time it really appears that the
Russian actors are speaking English. With the exception of Rathbone and
Domergue, the cast of Voyage
to the Prehistoric Planet is a bit of a mystery. The Russian actors' names were
removed from the credits, presumably to hide the fact that the footage
came from a Russian film. The names that appear in the credits are: Marc
Shannon, Christopher Brand, John Bix, Lewis Keane, Robert Chantal, and
Kurt Boden. Robert Chantal and Kurt Boden are
listed as pseudonyms for the actors playing Ferneau and Walters.3
But couldn't they be the English-speaking actors who did the voices for
the Russian actors? John Bix did the voice of the robot. But what about
Marc Shannon, Christopher Brand, and Lewis Keane? Either they are
fictional, or they did the voices for the other Russian actors, or two of
them could be the names of the actors playing Hartman's aides on Lunar 7.
Curtis Harrington directed the film (sort of), but his pseudonym "John
Sebastian" is listed on the credits. Why didn't Harrington use his own
name? Perhaps he was embarrassed to be associated with it. Of course,
there wasn't much directing involved, since 90% of the film consists of
footage from the Russian film. The only scenes he directed were those with
Basil Rathbone and those with Faith Domergue. Rathbone's time on screen amounts to about
four minutes! Faith Domergue has nearly seven minutes of on-screen time.
In one interview, Harrington attempted to distance himself from Voyage
to the Prehistoric Planet. He said, "I totally disavow any connection
with the film other than the simple fact that I helped Roger Corman shoot three
additional scenes with Basil Rathbone to put in the film so it would have an
American name in it."4
Rathbone shot his segment in one day. It seemed as though he wasn't
even trying. Rather, he was just "phoning in" the performance.
Gary Kurtz, production manager of this film as well as Queen of
Blood, was also the production manager of Star Wars (1977) and
The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Composer Ronald Stein's opening title music was first heard in the 1960 film Dinosaurus!5
The special effects were fairly decent for 1965. Voyage
to the Prehistoric Planet was never released
to theaters, therefore no official theatrical trailer was ever made. A few
fan-made trailers can be found on
YouTube. The film was released straight to television.
Page Two to see more pictures from the film.