Countdown to Halloween: "J" is for Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)
In the year 2001, life has changed from the year Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) was made. The story takes place “after man has solved the complex mysteries of space travel.”
The planet Earth is no longer racked by wars and threats of annihilation. Man has learned to live with himself. The United Nations is the sole governing body of the world, and the great hunger now, is for knowledge. All the planets near the Sun, including Saturn, have been explored and chartered by the U.N. Space Fleet, but as yet, no sign of life in any form has been discovered, the search goes on and systematic exploration continues. Spaceship Explorer 12 is now on a mission to survey, land and investigate the seventh planet, Uranus.
Specifically, the flight instructions for the crew of Explorer 12 are to land on Uranus and investigate the source of radiation they’ve detected coming from the planet. The catch is that they have only 10 days to complete their mission. When they enter orbit, the men freeze for what they’ll later learn is for two hours, while an alien presence enters their minds: “You shall submit and I shall possess you. I will rule you and make your world mine.”
When they land, they step into a beautiful forest right out of the memory of one of the astronauts. It’s not what they expected, but it is “an effective way of inviting us outside.” Throughout the rest of the movie, other memories come to life which, in most cases, are endearing to the characters. The exception is Captain Don Graham (John Agar), whose greatest desire is apparently to bed as many beautiful women as he can.
This element really dates Journey to the Seventh Planet, more so than the special effects, which are a mixed bag (more on that later.) Graham is a male chauvinist pig of the highest order. At first, it’s humorous, but as he steps deeper into it, it becomes uncomfortable. The attitude toward women doesn’t usually bother me – I understand the time in which a movie was made – but it’s unusual for Agar to play such an unlikeable character.
The special effects were originally produced in Denmark; however, American International felt they were so bad they needed to be redone. Jim Danforth and Wah Chang from Project Unlimited stepped in to shoot new footage. Also, the movie recycles effects from other movies: Earth vs. the Spider (1958) and The Angry Red Planet (1959), as well as audio of the titular monster’s roar from Rodan (1956.)
Even with this history, I thought the special effects were pretty good. The centerpiece is a giant one-eyed rodent monster, created with stop-motion. Not only is it effective, but it meets its demise with a shot to the eye, making it gorily explode. I don’t know if they are also stop motion, but footage of the Explorer 12 flying through space also appear to be, especially the fire propelling it forward. It doesn’t look bad and somehow seems to belong in the movie.
With the deadline mentioned at the beginning of the movie, you know Journey to the Seventh Planet is going to conclude with a race against time. The crew faces the alien in its natural form, a big eye nested in a big brain, and concocts a plan to destroy it that’s right out of Jaws (1975.) (Or, I guess, the ending of Jaws is right out of this.) Despite its flaws, I really enjoyed the movie. It presents some big ideas and squanders them in a most entertaining way.
Written by Ib Melchior and Sidney W. Pink
Directed by Sidney W. Pink
Starring John Agar, Carl Ottosen, Ove Spogae, Louis Miehe-Renard, Peter Monch
Released March 10, 1962 RT 77 min.
Home Video KL Studio Classics (Blu-ray)
Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.