Mysterious Planet (1982)

If there is ever an award given for the worst sound in a Motion Picture, I’m afraid this film will probably carry away a lifetime achievement award.

Which is a shame.  With a halfway decent dub track it probably would have played endlessly on the Superstation and ended up a cult favorite like Don Dohler‘s The Alien Factor.

Not that it’s hard to see why that never happened.  Even a few studio hours with a handful of underpaid voice actors would probably have cost more than Video City Productions paid for the rights to release the film on VHS.

After all, B-Movie Maestro Brett Piper made this, his first film, for the princely sum of Five Thousand Dollars!

Okay, the sound is atrocious.  It’s hard to hear any of the dialogue, and, even worse, there’s a weird echo effect in parts of the film, as if someone TRIED to dub it but messed up, although I do wonder if it’s because Brett tried to record from two mikes on the same track.  Either way, it is a mess.  Nor should we expect great acting here, although it is not better or worse than the Dohler standard.  And the opening space battle sequence just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But what it does deliver is an incredible assortment of Piper’s signature creature effects, including several quite impressive stop motion monsters.  As I’ve pointed out in my reviews of his other films, his creatures usually seem to have a slightly comic edge to them, which gives them more life than the monsters in most expensive creature features.  Perhaps the standout here is the first creature his stranded space travelers encounter on this alien planet, a two-headed snail thing the size of a house, which manages to be outrageous, threatening and rather silly at the same time.  His work here is quite good, perhaps not at the level of his later films, but then, you’d hardly expect that.  Perhaps, if he’d lost the copyright to the film (as the creators of Planet of the Dinosaurs did) then we might have seen movies built around effects stolen from this film (see my comments on Time Tracers).

While the film bills itself as “very freely based” on Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island, I was somewhat surprised to find that it included parts of the novel I’ve never seen in any adaptation before.  In fact, I doubt if there has ever been an adaptation which hewed this closely to the book either before or since (although the scantily clad jungle girl is new.  But then you’d guessed that).


Also curious is that it is currently only available in a dubbed version from Germany, although all reports suggest that it’s audio quality is just as bad.

At any rate, it seems a shame that this one got lost, although it did make $50,000 dollars in video sales at the time.  One can only imagine how much better they’d have done with a good soundtrack.

It isn’t a great film – not by a long shot – but it is memorable and has some good bits here and there.  We keep forgetting that everyone had to start somewhere, and this is a far more accomplished start than most people give it credit for.

It’s well worth a view.  So grit your teeth and ignore the sound quality.

If you can find a copy, that is.  Even Brett Piper doesn’t have one.

(Former member of Mark’s Wish List)



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