Film (1958). Allied Artists. Directed by Edward Bernds. Written by Charles Beaumont and Edward Bernds (uncredited), based on a story by Ben Hecht. Starring Eric Fleming, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Paul Birch, Laurie Mitchell, Dave Willock. 80 minutes. Colour.
Flying to Earth's Space Station to investigate intimations that we have unfriendly "neighbours", four astronauts watch as the space station is blown up by a strange ray; then, accelerating to avoid a similar fate, the crew blacks out and awakens after landing on an unknown planet. One man says, "I'll break out the pressure suits," but these turn out to be unnecessary since planetary conditions are similar to those on Earth. Captured by a team of beautiful women, they find that they are on Venus, an all-female planet ruled by a cruel masked woman, Yllana (Mitchell). She had previously led a revolt against Venus's ruling men after they waged a ruinous war with another planet and, after the rebellion was successful, she killed or exiled all of the Venusian men. Fearing an attack from Earth, she now plans to destroy our planet, overcome by her ongoing resentment of men because their war disfigured her face with radiation burns. She is nonetheless attracted to Captain Neal Patterson (Fleming) but turns against him when he discovers her secret by removing her mask. Fortunately, another Venusian woman, Talleah (Gabor), is sympathetic to the Earth men and, with her allies, she helps them escape so they can disable the mechanism that will soon beam the ray to destroy Earth. Although they are captured, the men manage to sabotage the machine anyway, so that the Earth is saved. Yllana is killed while trying to get the ray to work, and Talleah takes over Venus to establish peaceful relations with Earth, and with her new beau Patterson.
This dire film reportedly originated when writer Ben Hecht, entertaining guests at a party with sardonic remarks about the sorts of idiotic stories that were now popular in Hollywood, offered as a typical example the outlandish scenario of astronauts who fly to Venus and discover a civilization of beautiful, man-hungry women; proving his point, a producer overheard him and promptly purchased the rights to the story. Certainly, it is not a typical example of his work. All that distinguishes the film is the attention paid to making the women look as attractive and glamorous as possible, right down to the high heels that they improbably wear while marching their male prisoners through the jungle. Trapped in a cast of untalented actors, Birch as the expedition's Scientist has the unenviable task of defending the scientific logic behind each absurd event, though at one point all he can say is, "All things are possible in space." To pay homage to the film's equally risible precursor, Cat-Women of the Moon (1953; vt Rocket to the Moon), the astronauts briefly encounter a giant spider, though its presence on an otherwise Earthlike Venus is never explained or even commented on. [GW]
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