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JOURNEY TO THE
SEVENTH PLANET (1962)

"Your own fears have created the means of your destruction! Come, then! Challenge me! We shall see who survives!"

Director: Sidney Pink

Starring: John Agar, Carl Ottosen, Louis Miehe Renard, Ove Sprogoe, Peter Monch, Ann Smyrner, Greta Thyssen, Ulla Moritz

Screenplay: Ib Melchior and Sidney Pink

Synopsis: In the year 2001, a United Nations commanded space mission is sent to explore Uranus. When the ship nears its destination, a strange force takes over the crew’s minds. When the men come out of their trance-like state, they find that enough time has passed for an apple held by one of the crew to rot. As the rocket ship lands on Uranus, the planet’s barren, rocky surface suddenly becomes covered with lush forests. Expecting a dead, frozen environment, the men are bewildered by what they see, particularly when their ship’s airlock opens by itself and reveals a breathable atmosphere.

The men go out to explore, and one of them, Svend (Louis Miehe Renard), is startled to find that he recognises the section of forest near which they have landed as being where he spent his childhood. After Svend rightly predicts that they will find a stream with a large rock dividing it a short way into the forest, the men discover that none of the plants around them actually have roots. Next they find an apple tree where none had been only moments before. Soon afterwards, they realise that they are in a region enclosed by some kind of force field. Karl (Peter Monch), the youngest of the team, tries to go through the barrier but his arm becomes frozen. After Karl has been taken back to the ship, the other men argue over whether to try and get through the force field or not. The Commander, Eric (Carl Ottosen), insists that their environment has been created out of their own minds by some alien being. As Eric begins to reminisce about his hometown, the other men see the very objects he describes coming into existence nearby. When they explore the village, they encounter a beautiful girl, Ingrid (Ann Smyrner), whom Eric had also mentioned. Back at the ship, Don (John Agar) suddenly sees two girls that he knew on Earth, Lise (Ulla Moritz) and Greta (Greta Thyssen). The next morning, Eric, Don and Karl force their way through the barrier and see Uranus as it really is. Following a pulse of radiation, the men enter a cave and discover a strange, moving mass. Karl fires a shot at it, and suddenly a mysterious voice begins to speak….

Comments: Journey To The Seventh Planet, the second installment of Sid Pink’s early sixties trilogy, is recommended to anyone who likes bad acting, terrible dialogue, illogical plotlines, silly monsters and scantily-clad women. In other words, I liked it. (Well, actually, I could have done without the scantily-clad women, but I understand that some people like that kind of thing.)

The story involves, naturally enough, man’s first mission to Uranus (pronounced U-rah-nus). Set in the far-flung future of 2001, the storyline posits a peaceful world ruled by a benign United Nations. Despite the inferences of brotherhood-of-man, the crew of our rocketship is a relentlessly Caucasian, not to say Aryan, bunch. There’s a Swede, a Dane, a German, an American, and someone who spends a great deal of time saying, "Sure and begorrah!" and talking about "the little people of the Emerald Isle" and whose indecipherable accent I would therefore assume to be an attempt at Irish.

The film opens with some truly terrible dialogue meant to establish who each of our stereotypes is. We’ve got the By-The-Book One (no time for romance), the Scientific One (serious, boring, ugly wife and kid), the Funny One (obsessed with food), the Kid (shy, awkward, certain to get killed off) and the Hero (women, women, women). The latter role falls to John Agar, who gets all the worst lines and deserves it. Not only does he deliver them without looking the slightest bit embarrassed, he goes through the entire film with the same glazey-eyed, slavering, teeth-bared grin that he wore throughout The Brain From Planet Arous (1958), only here he’s meant to be the good guy, not an evil, alien-possessed psychopath.

Sid Pink’s self-referencing "Cinemagic" technique is here thankfully confined to the interior of the rocketship, and to the hair of the crewmembers, each of whom sports a coiffure of a particularly repulsive shade. Thankfully, the men soon leave their ship and spend some time amongst some picturesque – and inexpensive – exterior settings. This portion of the film is quite interesting, as indeed it should be, having been lifted intact and unacknowledged from the writings of Ray Bradbury ("Uranus Is Heaven"?). The rootless plants are even clever; but you get the feeling that Sid Pink is more interested in visual stimulation than mental.

Before long we’re being introduced to the products of the astronauts’ imaginations: star-billed starlet (and former Three Stooges stooge) Greta Thyssen as the object of John Agar’s lust, and Ann Smyrner as Carl Ottosen’s dream-girl. That out of the way, we finally get to the real reason we’re watching this film: monsters! Having encountered their enemy – who conveniently enough manifests itself as swirling coloured lights – in a cave, the men are attacked by a monster that looks like a one-eyed version of Monty Python’s Black Beast of Aaarrgh. Despite the obviously lizardy nature of this critter – a rather charming beast animated by Jim Danforth - the script insists it’s meant to be some kind of mutated rodent conjured up by an astronaut with a phobia. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for this, other than the natural juxtaposition of "rodent" and "Uranus". (Now, I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to go down that path….)

Having escaped this peril, the Commander decides it’s time for a few answers, which he gets without too much difficulty from Imaginary Ingrid. Why exactly a woman invented to be a weapon for the humans’ enemy should be permitted to flap her mouth at will about who the alien presence is and what its plans for the astronauts are is just one of this film’s little mysteries. ("How do you know all this?" demands the Commander. "I just do," is the less than convincing reply.) The astronauts are naturally disturbed to hear that their enemy is a being able to "use its brain at nearly full capacity". "The alien enemy is trying to destroy us with our stupidity and our weaknesses!" announces the Commander, which certainly seems like a sound strategy to me, particularly after the injured Commander regains consciousness to find his entire crew out canoodling with imaginary women.

However, it turns out that the astronauts needn’t have worried. Like most superior intellects, the alien is easily defeated by some good old-fashioned physical violence. After battling a giant spider with the odd habit of grabbing people with its legs, the intrepid humans take on their enemy with a canister of liquid oxygen and their ray-guns. And that’s that. So much for the great threat to the future of mankind, huh? Ridiculous as Journey To The Seventh Planet is, the cast and crew must have had a good time making it, because shortly afterwards they got together again almost en masse to produce Reptilicus (1962), a film I haven’t yet had the good fortune [?] to see, but which is very thoroughly reviewed at < Unsolicited Plug> (no, really!) The Bad Movie Report.