FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS (1960) Reviews and overview

 

‘This is a first! Fantastic! Unforgettable!’

First Spaceship on Venus is a 1960 East German/Polish science-fiction film about an international team of astronauts sent to the planet.

Directed by Kurt Maetzig from a screenplay co-written with Jan Fethke, Wolfgang Kohlhaase, Günter Reisch, Günther Rücker, Alexander Stenbock-Fermor and J. Barkhauer (uncredited), based on the novel The Astronauts by Polish author Stanislaw Lem.

The movie stars Yôko Tani, Oldrich Lukes, Ignacy Machowski, Julius Ongewe and Mikhail N. Postnikov.

Plot:

After finding an ancient, long-buried flight recorder that originally came from a spaceship, apparently from Venus, a human spaceship is dispatched to Venus.

The crew discovers a long-dead Venusian civilization that had constructed a device intended to destroy all life on Earth prior to an invasion. Before they could execute their plan, they perished in a global nuclear war…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

” …the jarring editing turns the film from amusing to bemusing […] The set design is probably the thing that holds up best, with impressive Venusian smog and landscape effects that seem to come from Krazy Kat’s nightmares.” The Bad Movie Report

“Silent Star’s images of melted cities and crystallised forests, overhung by swirling clouds of gas, are masterpieces of production design. The scene in which three cosmonauts are menaced halfway up a miniature Tower of Babel by an encroaching sea of sludge may not entirely convince, but it is still a heck of a thing to see.” Alex Cox, The Guardian, 30th June 2011

” …the dubbing is worse than usual, repeating the line “It’s incredible!” ad nauseum, and you know English is not their first language when Omega is pronounced ‘ummagah’. It’s not a complete write-off, though. First Spaceship on Venus has some terrific set designs, nice special effects and extremely impressive Venusian landscapes that look like a Yes album cover.” Horror News

“Things do pick up somewhat upon the arrival on Venus, which is depicted with a degree of imaginative colour – a world covered in mist, the sky lit up by aurora and filled with alien geodesic domes, mountains built out of spheres, petrified forests and ruined cities. There is a sense of unveiling mystery as the astronauts explore the ruined city and a fine sequence where they are pursued up a tower by a sinister oil slick.” Moria

” …it quickly changes with the arrival on Venus. It is still slow but in a pondering way typical of the best communist sci-fi of this time. It also starts to become exciting, almost tense, and there is some really wonderful, almost breath-taking, scenography showing the Venusian landscape.” Silver in a Haystack

Cast and characters:

Yôko Tani … Die japanische Ärztin / Sumiko Ogimura MD
Oldrich Lukes … Amerikanischer Atomphysiker / Prof. Harringway Hawling
Ignacy Machowski … Polnischer Chefingenieur / Prof. Saltyk / Prof. Durand
Julius Ongewe … Afrikanischer Fernsehtechniker / Talua
Mikhail N. Postnikov … Sowjetischer Astronaut / Prof. Arsenew / Prof. Orloff (as Michail N. Postnikow)
Kurt Rackelmann … Indischer Mathematiker / Prof. Sikarna
Günther Simon … Deutscher Pilot / Robert / Raimund Brinkmann
Hua-Ta Tang … Chinesischer Linguist / Doctor Tchen Yu / Lao Tsu (as Tang Hua-Ta)
Lucyna Winnicka … Fernsehreporterin / Joan Moran (as Lucina Winnicka)

Filming locations:

Berlin-Johannisthal airfield, East Germany
DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme, Babelsberg, Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany (studio)
WFF Film Studio, Wroclaw, Dolnoslaskie, Poland (studio)
Zakopane, Poland (outdoor scenes)

Technical details:

95 minutes
Agfacolor  | “Technicolor” (US release)
Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1  | “Totalvision” (US release)
Audio: 4-track stereo

Original title:

Der schweigende Stern “The Silent Star”

US release:

This film was released in the United States by Crown International Pictures in 1962 as First Spaceship on Venus on a double-bill with Varan the Unbelievable. It was edited down to 80 minutes, dubbed into English, and Andrzej Markowski’s score was replaced by a stock score prepared by Gordon Zahler of the General Music Corporation.

Two differently cut and dubbed versions of the film were also shown on the American market at the time, Spaceship Venus Does Not Reply and Planet of the Dead.

Fun facts:

Stanislaw Lem, whose novel the film was based upon, was extremely critical of the adaptation and wanted his name removed from the credits in protest: “It practically delivered speeches about the struggle for peace. Trashy screenplay was painted; tar was bubbling, which would not scare even a child.”

A short sequence from First Spaceship on Venus was used as a “film-within-a-film” in the low-budget American feature Galaxina (1980).

The original, uncut version of the film was finally re-released in the USA. in 2004 under its original title The Silent Star by the DEFA Film Library of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Trailer:

Full film free to watch online [1080p HD]: