Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
1965, 74 minutes, color


fan-made trailer

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 usis 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 planet's surface.


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 Venusa 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, but Hartman 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.


Faith Domergue

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 woman.

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 Rathbonea star who worked in some of the biggest pictures form the Golden Age of Hollywoodnow 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.

Go to Page Two to see more pictures from the film.

 


Buy the DVD at Amazon

Watch or download Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet for free at https://archive.org/details/VoyagetothePrehistoricPlanet

Also available for free download is Planeta Bur in the original Russian with no subtitles: https://archive.org/details/PlanetaBurPlanetOfStorms1962

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Cast

 

Credits

 
Basil Rathbone ............... Prof. Hartman Production Co. ............. AIP
Faith Domergue .............. Marcia Evans   Producer ........................ George Edwards
John Bix .......................... John the Robot   Associate Producer ...... Stephanie Rothman
Gennadi Vernov (as Robert Chantal) ......................... Andre Ferneau  

Executive Producer ......

Roger Corman
Georgi Zhzhyonov (as Kurt Boden) ........................... Hans Walters   Director (added scenes) .... Curtis Harrington (as John Sebastian)
Yurly Sarantsev ............. Allen Sherman   Director (Russian footage) Pavel Klushantsev
Georgiy Teykh .............. Dr. Kern  

Screenplay ...................

 Curtis Harrington (as John Sebastian)
Vladimir Yemelyanov ..... Cmdr. Brendan Lockhart  

Script supervisor ..........

Barbara Bohrer
Marc Shannon ................. ?   Cinematographer .......... Vilis Lapenieks, Arkadi Klimov
Christopher Brand .......... ?  

Editor .............................

 Leo Shreve
Lewis Keane ................... ?  

Music  ............................

Ronald Stein

     

Art Director ..................

Albert Locatelli

      Set Decoration ............. Leon Smith
      Makeup Artist .............. William Condos
      Hair Stylist ................... George Spicer
      Production Manager ... Gary Kurtz
      Production Design ...... Vyacheslav Alkesandrov, Mikhail Tsybasov
      Artist (paintings in opening titles) .......................... John Cline
      Sound .......................... Harold Garver
      Sound effects ............. Gene Corso (as Nelson-Corso)
      Sound effects ............. James M. Falinburg
      Costume supervisor ... Sharon Compton
      Property master ..... Carl Schanzer

 

Notes

  1. Barry Lowe, Atomic Blonde: The Films of Mamie Van Doren (McFarland, 2008) p. 191.
  2. Variety (April 8, 1965)
  3. See the Internet Movie Database, for example.
  4. Interview with Curtis Harrington, www.horror-wood.com/harrington.htm, accessed November 2007.
  5. Mark F. Berry, The Dinosaur Filmography (McFarland, 2002) p. 410-411.

 

 

 

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2015