If it does nothing else, 1962’s ‘Journey to the Seventh Planet’ solves one of the most important issues of our time. As you know, the seventh planet in our solar system is Uranus. There’s no way to have an entire movie with astronauts constantly saying “Uranus” without the kids – the target audience – laughing all the way through it. Zero gravity is no place to discuss a place called, “Urine-us,” and you sure can’t have a spaceship spend the whole movie circling “Your-anus.” So the filmmakers decided to pronounce it, “You’re-on-us,” which is still funny, but only if you think about it for a second, and it’s nowhere near as funny as the other two options. So, there’s that.
The film also manages to totally rip off one of the most famous science fiction books of all time, for those of you who dislike reading. Maybe you can save a little time while you’re wasting it.
It is the year 2001. War has been totally eradicated and the people of Earth, now under the sole government of the United Nations, have turned their focus towards space travel and exploration. All planets have been charted except for, well, you can guess. Who better to lead this internationally intrepid group of space explorers than mighty B-movie actor John Agar? Since we’re not given an option, let’s say no one!
As the crew approaches its destination, the ship is taken over by a mysterious invisible force from the planet below. It hypnotizes the crew and, even though they can’t hear it and they remember nothing, it speaks to them anyway. It will bring them through the “outer veil,” which I guess is Uranian for “atmosphere.” But it also warns that it will take over the ship and work its way back to Earth, where it will take over the entire planet. What it intends to do with the planet is not clear.
When the crew begins to explore the planet’s surface, they notice a couple of weird things. First of all, there is a force field behind some trees. It’s not a good force field; one of the crew members pokes his arm right through it. His arm promptly freezes. The other odd thing is: whatever the crew members think of, that thing shows up in front of them. Not surprisingly, they think about the girls they left behind on Earth. Up they pop, in all their low-cut shirt, above-the-knees skirt glory. It seems like the boys’ space trip is about to turn into some serious rest and recreation.
But those women can’t be real, can they? There’s something shady going on here on the seventh planet, and these space jockeys have got to find out what it is.
‘Journey to the Seventh Planet’ is mildly entertaining, mainly because it’s such a mess. Most of the cast is Swedish, so there’s terrible dubbing galore. The special effects are low-rent, consisting mostly of brightly colored artificial flowers, stock footage and toy-store-model rockets. The story moves swiftly, tripping over its feet as it does, yet managing somehow to keep from falling down completely. It’s like listening to a drunken old man tell you a complicated story while riding a ten-speed bike and juggling chainsaws. Eventually it ends, and even though you’re not quite sure what happened, you’re just happy nobody got hurt.
The realism of the film isn’t really the problem here, because it’s such a fantastic concept. However, it is a cheap out, being on a distant planet and having some brainiac power make it look just like Earth. It’s a sci-fi film; quickly! Build a house! And by the way, if you’re directing a scene where your heroes are fighting a monster directly in front of them by shooting the monster with ray guns, make sure they know how to pretend to shoot a gun. These astronauts look like they’re trying to fling water out of a dried-up garden hose.
This story is a raging mish-mash of other, better stories. There are elements of ‘Forbidden Planet’ here, as are major plot points from the “Mars is Heaven!” tale from Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Martian Chronicles.’ Sometimes, you can borrow story points and expand on them, turn them into something interesting and different. Not here. The script feels like it was cut and pasted together like a ransom note. I’ll give it one good mark for the fact that no one filed a lawsuit against the screenwriters.
It’s hard to look at this movie as anything but a disappointing self-parody. The men are all rugged and handsome and the ladies are lovely. Everything else is stupid. Ray gun effects look as if they were achieved by scratching the film. Dialogue is spoken flatly and haltingly. One of the monsters is a tarantula. Another one appears to be a sea sponge with a flashlight shoved into it. Even for a low-budget film, it’s pretty bad. And wait until you hear the cheesy space-lounge love song played over the end credits. It makes the theme from ‘The Love Boat’ sound like Rachmaninoff.
When it’s all said and done, sadly, ‘Journey to the Seventh Planet’ is a smashing hunk of dreck, only advisable for highly experienced watchers of garbage sci-fi. And although grammar aficionados will be pleased to finally have that pronunciation problem solved, most other viewers will be pretty sure this isn’t a movie about Uranus as much as it is a movie that comes from it.