Once again we find ourselves in MST3K territory.
The Sixties were not a great time for science fiction.
Horror films had taken over, audiences became more demanding, and the effects had to compete with real footage of our space program. The naive simplicity of the Fifties got caught in increasing paranoia and the very real fears of where our technologies might lead us. No one quite seemed to know what to do with science fiction, and it shows.
Here it results in a somewhat schizophrenic quality to the film: on the one hand, we have a very Fifties spaceship crew on a long cruise which is more than a little like Forbidden Planet‘s C57-D, complete with comic relief – but on the other we have very Sixties questions of racism, revolt and colonialism playing a major part in the story.
Perhaps the most notable part of this film is the huge part that the relativistic time distortions caused by travel at close to the speed of light play in the story. A three month trip – for a space ship trying to rescue the survivors of a space wreck – takes eighteen years from the perspective of those stranded on a primitive planet.
It’s interesting to see Einstein playing such a large part in an SF film, long before Interstellar. It wasn’t the first (see my review of Croisières sidérales), but it is certainly rare. The whole plot depends on this point.
However, we all know that “firsts” (or even “rare examples”) are not necessarily the same as great or classic films. We aren’t talking a classic here. Sorry. It starts well enough, for those of us who don’t mind our SF movies a tad bit dry, but once it gets to the planet, it slows way down for some routine jungle hazards, a few deaths, a kidnapped girl, savages, and one, young good-looking survivor.
And let’s get this straight: there are no Prehistoric women. Nada. Not one.
There are some nicely goofy touches, like the bodies of the dead survivors perfectly preserved in glass display cases, and a trivial, last minute twist not too dissimilar to the one tacked onto the end of Voyage to the End of the Universe.
So, we’re not exactly talking terrible here. It’s reasonably competent, looks fairly good and has a few interesting ideas in the mix. Yes, it’s slow, a little dry, and the final romantic subplot is nothing special.
But completists will love it, and it’s probably better than watching whatever movie’s on Syfy right now.
Even without Mike, Servo and Crow.
(Former member of Mark’s Wish List)