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.
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.
- 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.
- Black Dude Dies First: Inverted and with additional drama: Talua is the only member of the Cosmostrator who ventured to stop the Venusian device at the climax who does not die, but the inverted gravity of Venus kicked the rocket ship out of the planet, leaving him behind to die once his oxygen reserves run out.
- Captain's Log: Except that it's made not by the Captain but by The Lancer, Brinkmann.
- Characters Dropping Like Flies: Brinkmann, Talua and Tchen Yu die in the third act - well, Brinkmann and Tchen Yu die and Takua is left behind on Venus by reasons beyond the humans' control, which is a slow and painful death regardless.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: The entire population of Venus accidentally nuked itself to kingdom come sometime between their scouting mission to Earth that left the spool and modern day. All of the mayhem that ensues for the Cosmostrator crew occurs because of the Venusians' gear, including the doomsday device aimed at Earth, having Ragnarök Proofing.
- 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.
- Final Solution: The Venusians' plan for Earth. They never got around to it, because of their civilization being exterminated by A Nuclear Error before they could.
- Forgets to Eat: Sumiko has to remind some of the scientists on the spaceship to eat. One even argues with her, and she reminds him that he hasn't eaten in days.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 is a little robot who accompanies the crew, and even plays chess with them.
- Space Clothes: The Cosmostrator crew wear velour pajamas; the ground crews at the launchpad wear alphabet jerseys.
- The Tunguska Event: Attributed to the explosion of a Venusian spacecraft visiting Earth.
- 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 task of translating the Venusians' message is given to "the world's largest computer," as opposed to its fastest.