Journey to the Seventh Planet is the type of low budget science fiction film from the 60’s that I used to come across on late night television when I was a kid. While the film has budgetary restrictions that clearly show, the filmmakers make due with what they had and delivered a fun, imaginative little movie.
The film takes place in the distant future of 2001. Planet Earth is no longer divided into various countries and as a result there aren’t anymore wars. Instead Earth is controlled by the United Nations. In an attempt to find other planets that can harbor life the United Nations sends a space crew out into space in an attempt to explore Uranus, which they believe to possibly be suitable for living. Obviously the notion of human life being able to exist on Uranus is silly, but this was the 60’s, so why not?
When the crew lands on Uranus they are surprised at what they find. This isn’t the cold, dark icy plant they were expecting. Instead they find themselves smack dab in the middle of a luscious forest, just like one might find on Earth. Puzzled by this development the crew decides to get out and do some exploring. What they discover is that this forest is surrounded by some sort of barrier or force field. One member of the crew attempts to force his arm through the barrier which results in it freezing.
Suddenly other things begin to appear. A village that looks familiar to one of the crewmen. Then attractive women that various crew members have had a history with. Before long the crew realizes that everything they are seeing is something they have imagined or thought about since landing. Their desires begin to become reality, at least that’s how they appear. Before long they are confronted by some sort of creature. This creature is the thing controlling them, the thing that gets inside their minds and brings their thoughts into the real world. Soon the creature begins to pray on the fears of the crew and hideous monsters and beasts begin to attack.
This plot may sound familiar and that’s because it has been used a few times in films since. Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is the most famous and successful movie that plays around with these same ideas. This is not to say Journey to the Seventh Planet is in the same category as Solaris, because it’s most certainly not, but some of the same basic ideas are shared. It’s also worth mentioning that while Journey to the Seventh Planet may predate the film of Solaris, the novel actually came out a year earlier.
A better comparison would be Berry Levinson’s Sphere, which also deals with an alien life force that creates manifestations based on the fear of the crew attempting to explore it. I would say that not only do these two films share similar themes, but they’re on pretty equal footing in terms of overall quality.
The special effects are of low quality, but they’re fun and inventive. There are some shots and effects re-used from previous AIP films – 1958’s The Spider being one that stood out. This was a Samuel Arkoff production and we know he wasn’t against re-using footage to save a buck or two. And honestly, I’m fine with that. Part of the enjoyment of a film like Journey to the Seventh Planet is relishing the cheap nature in which it was made and appreciating the work the filmmakers put in to make something out of nothing. I actually find movies like this to be quite inspirational, precisely because of the way they were made. They had to get creative with this and they did just that delivering interesting costumes and sets. I was especially fond of the crew’s blue spacesuits which looked like something Devo might wear.
The recent Blu-ray from Kino Lorber looks fantastic. It does a wonderful job bringing this B-movie to life. The film has a few moments that really pop with color and these shine on this particular release. Texture of the costumes and set design also comes through nicely. As far as special features go there isn’t much. You get a trailer and a commentary track with Tim Lucas, a film historian and Mario Bava expert. Overall not a bad package.
Journey to the Seventh Planet is a high-spirited B-movie that I would fully recommend. Grab some popcorn, your favorite beverage and pop it on for the perfect Saturday matinee.
Journey to the Seventh Planet is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.