First Spaceship On Venus (aka Planet of the Dead, Silent Star, Spaceship Venus Does Not Reply) is a 1960 East German/Polish film based on an early Stanisław Lem novel depicting the investigation of a strange message which apparently originates with the planet Venus. An English dub was released in the United States by Crown International Pictures in 1962.
Determining that the meteorite/spool does indeed contain some mysterious message and that it was indeed launched from Venus, Earth's interplanetary spaceship Cosmostrator I (Kosmokrator in the original) is dispatched to investigate. Shortly before arrival, the message is decoded: it is a blueprint for war, the Venusians planning to irradiate the Earth's surface. However, upon landing on Venus, the astronauts find only an inhospitable environment, and no Venusians. The crew of the Cosmostrator must continue investigating, to determine where the Venusians are, what their plans are for the human race, and what the human race can do about it.
Of interest is the fact that the American dub quite naturally omits a long section where an American scientist fights with his own government over an expedition to Venus before defecting to the East, who of course never let bureaucracy and nationalism interfere with the pursuit of knowledge. With this lengthy Cold War subplot gone, the American version manages to be less dated than the original purely by accident.
Note that this article, in general, employs the names of the characters as provided in the English dub. For the sake of international readers, the following cast list is provided (copied from That Other Wiki):
- Yoko Tani as Japanese female doctor / Sumiko Ogimura MD
Oldrich Lukes as American nuclear physicist / Prof. Harringway Hawling
Ignacy Machowski as Polish chief engineer / Prof. Saltyk / Orloff
Julius Ongewe as African TV technician / Talua
Michail N. Postnikow as Soviet Astronaut / Prof. Arsenew / Prof. Durand
Kurt Rackelmann as Indian mathematician / Prof. Sikarna
Günther Simon as German pilot / Robert / Raimund Brinkmann
Tang Hua-Ta as Chinese linguist / Dr. Tchen Yu / Lao Tsu
This film contains examples of:
- 20 Minutes into the Future: 1985, as seen from 1960.
- An Aesop: Anvilicious, natch: peace and no atom bombs, or else...
- All Planets Are Earth-Like: Utterly averted. Stanisław Lem often explored the concept of other worlds being too alien to even begin to comprehend, which is the main theme of his most famous novel, Solaris.
- The Atoner: Brinkmann, possibly. Early on, the film hints at a failed prior romance between Brinkman and Sumiko, but it turns out that Sumiko's husband died during an exploration of the moon. It's subtly implied to have been Brinkmann's fault/responsibility, or maybe it's just a case of Once Done, Never Forgotten.
- The Captain: Harringway
- The Chick / The Medic: Sumiko
- Failed Future Forecast: "Arriving now is Brinkmann, the first American space man to land on the moon!" It's even worse in the original version, where's Brinkmann is East German.
- Irony: Given the point raised at The Atoner, above, it becomes a tragic irony at the end of the film when Sumiko must bring word of Brinkmann's death to (presumably) his mother.
- It Only Works Once: A plot point. The Cosmostrator can land on Venus and take off again only one time. It could be a matter of fuel, but no reason is ever officially given.
- Kill 'Em All: The Venusians' plan. They never got around to it, because of their civilization being exterminated by A Nuclear Error before they could.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Kicking the rock to cause the slime flood; shooting the slime flood, making it retreat — and arming the Venusian doomsday device; disarming the Venusian doomsday device — which causes the Cosmostrator to be flung off Venus before it can rescue the astronauts trapped outside.
- No Pronunciation Guide: The Robot Buddy's name is variously pronounced "Omigow" and "OH-mee-gah".
- Polyglot: Prof. Sikarna and Tchen Yu. Officially, Tchen Yu is the mission's linguist; but we mostly see only Sikarna working overtime to translate the alien spool.
- The Radio Dies First: Atmospheric conditions on Venus render most long-range radio operations ineffective.
- Raygun Gothic: The Cosmostrator and its on-board vehicles are loaded with stuff like massive radar dishes and being very vaguely aerodynamic.
- Recycled Soundtrack: The U.S. dub swaps out the original score for another Gordon Zahler supervised "name that movie!" library cue mishmash. At least two cues are heard again in the John Beck/Peter Zinner version of King Kong vs. Godzilla.
- Robot Buddy: Omega.
- Space Clothes: the Cosmostrator crew wear velour pajamas; the ground crews at the launchpad wear alphabet jerseys.
- Wham Line: "I will translate: 'We will initially subject the planet to a very intense bombardment of radiation. The conquest and occupation of the Earth will then present no difficulty. When the ionization intensity has fallen by one half, the final extermination phase can start.'"
- What the Hell, Hero?: Talua, trapped outside the Cosmostrator when it is hurled involuntarily off of Venus (and not realizing that this is what's happening) can only cry "You're leaving me?! DON'T LEAVE ME!!"
- Zeerust: "The world's largest computer".