by Mel Valentin
Ridiculously, ludicrously, abysmally bad, "Journey to the Seventh Planet," is science fiction at its cheapest and cheesiest, bereft of ideas or logic (and whatever ideas it has were stolen from Ray Bradbury’s "The Martian Chronicles" and Stanislaw Lem’s "Solaris") and made on a micro-budget with an international cast of no-name actors (who stayed that way), but with one exception, John Agar. For science fiction fans with a difficult-to-explain fondness for 1950s and early 1960s cheese, Agar is their man. Agar starred in science-fiction cheapies memorable for their titles and the occasionally interesting concept or two (e.g., "Curse of the Swamp Creature," "Zontar, the Thing From Venus," "Invisible Invaders," "Destination Space," "Attack of the Puppet People," "The Brain from Planet Arous," "Daughter of Dr. Jekyll," "The Mole People," "Tarantula," "Revenge of the Creature").The impossibly distant future, 2001. Earth is at peace, everyone is well fed and taken care, thanks to a United Nations (UN) that rules benevolently over the world. Science is no longer in the business of disco The UN sends Spaceship Explorer 12 on a mission to the seventh planet, Uranus. Led by Commander Eric (Carl Ottosen), the international crew includes Capt. Don Graham (John Agar), the resident womanizer, Svend (Louis Miehe-Renard), a Swede, Karl (Peter Monch), a German on his first space mission, and Barry (Ove Sprogøe), an Irishman prone to rambling on about the “Emerald Isle” and “the little people.’ Approaching Uranus, the men slip into a comatose state, only to awaken days later, no worse the wear.
"For the love of everything you hold holy, stay away."
Spaceship Explorer 12 unexpectedly lands on a green, lush Uranus. Svend recognizes the forest from his youth. Searching on foot, the men discover a force field at the edge of the forest that seemingly surrounds them on all sides. Karl impulsively tries to push through the force field, only to reel back, his hand and forearm frozen. Eric and the others realize Uranus’ inhabitants have made their thoughts real. After Eric reminisces about his adolescence, a village magically appears in the forest. Eric meets an ex-lover, Ingrid (Ann Smyrner), who hasn’t changed in twenty years. Don conjures up two ex-lovers, Greta (Greta Thyssen) and Lise (Ulla Moritz), only to be called back to duty. Eric decides to break through the force field and discover whatever’s on the other side. He brings Don and Carl with him, leaving Svend and Barry behind.
Directed by Sidney W. Pink (Reptilicus) with an obvious lack of talent or skill (he can point and shoot the camera and not much else) and an ignorance of basic storytelling rules, Journey to the Seventh Planet is incoherent, illogical, and excruciatingly paced. Characters are either superfluous (Svend and Barry), a nuisance (Carl), or stereotypical (Don, a womanizer; Eric, a shoot-first, ask-questions-later commander). The UN might be running the mission to Uranus, but the crew of the Spaceship Explorer 12 reflects zero diversity. The female characters the men encounter on Uranus are well-coiffed, chaste (the blandly blonde Ingrid) or slutty (Don’s ex-lovers). Ingrid, though, is particularly helpful in telling Eric the alien’s evil intentions (a head scratcher if there ever was one).
As for the alien, he’s (or it’s) a giant, one-eyed, pulsating brain that speaks in stentorian tones and gloats prematurely at the Earthmen and their transparent weaknesses (e.g., libido, fear). And the giant, one-eyed, pulsating brain wants to leave Uranus (that’s pronounced "You-rah-nus," by the way, so that elementary school joke you had in mind won't work). The less said about the acting, the better. It’s worth pointing out to Agar’s many admirers that he’s the second lead here, not the first. Yes, Agar's acting career had slipped to the point where he wasn't even asked to carry a non-effort like Journey to the Seventh Planet. Ok, to be fair, Journey to the Seventh Planet was a U.S.-Danish co-production, so it’s likely the producers decided on a Nordic lead before casting even began.
The special effects aren’t (special, that is). They’re a combination of stock footage and shoddy model work. The visual effects were so badly done that the American distributor, American International Pictures, stepped in and commissioned new effects. They weren’t much of an improvement, though. A cyclopean-rodent monster (you read that correctly) created via stop-motion animation is laughably bad. Another, a giant spider that attacks the men in an underground cavern, is actually footage lifted from 1958’s Earth vs. the Spider. There’s even a brief shot or two cribbed from 1960’s The Angry Red Planet, written and directed by Journey to the Seventh Planet’s screenwriter and Pink’s hack-in-arms, Ib Melchior.
Whatever its fault (and its faults are legion), Journey to the Seventh Planet is the perfect (if by perfect we mean cheese of the highest order) film for an undemanding Saturday night. At only 77 minutes, Journey to the Seventh Planet can be double-featured with another micro-budget sci-fi non-classic. While the distributor for the DVD edition of Journey to the Seventh Planet, MGM, includes Invisible Invaders as the second (or first) feature on a single disc, Journey to the Seventh Planet is better suited as part of a double feature with Melchior’s other semi-forgettable, non-classic, The Angry Red Planet (featuring an effects process called “CineMagic” no less).And if you squint hard enough, you might notice surface similarities between "Journey to the Seventh Planet" and an episode of the classic "Star Trek" series, “Shore Leave,” Roger Corman's underseen, underappreciated 1980 magnum opus, "Planet of Horrors" (a/k/a "Galaxy of Terror"), and almost two decades later, Paul Anderson's "Event Horizon." Then again, if we pretended "Journey to the Seventh Planet" didn't exist, it’s easy enough to imagine that not much would have changed.
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originally posted: 01/11/07 22:54:22