You gotta hand it to American International Pictures and Roger Corman. In the mid 60s, Roger purchased a Russian sci-fi flick called "Planeta Burg" for a song and some Vodka, and footage from it was used for what turned out to be VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET in 1965. That film added actors Basil Rathbone (in one of his final roles) and Faith (THIS ISLAND EARTH) Domergue. Directed by Curtis Harrington (under the pseudonym "John Sebastian"), it's a clumsy melange of veteran actors on cardboard sets trying to interact with a more impressively produced import.
Milking the bone dry, footage from this Soviet space saga was also transformed into something called VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich (only a few years shy from his Oscar-nodded THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) under the name Derek Thomas, this patchwork was even more mind-numbing (but somehow more entertaining), and like its predecessor, sold straight to television. Bogdanovich also narrates the proceedings (with proper screen credit given) as one of the film's cosmonauts.
The plot has a group of male cosmonauts landing on a planet (Venus) searching for lost comrades. They encounter men in rubber dinosaur suits, a giant plant with vicious vines, and pterodactyl that looks like the cousin of THE GIANT CLAW. The new American footage features 50s blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren and other actresses in blonde wigs as a tribe if women who lie around the seaside rocks. Sporting clamshell bras and gray paint around their wastes, they communicate through telepathy and worship the dead pterodactyl who is also represented as a rock sculpture.
The original Russian footage (dubbed into English) is superior, with dazzling sets and costumes, and great outdoor and cavern locations that give it a surreal fantasy look. They have an intimidating robot that looks like "Robbie" on steroids, and a cool land rover to get around. Some Toho-like miniatures are also on hand. The Bogdonavich-lensed stuff is much campier to say the least, with Mamie and the babes looking pretty and biting into rubber fishes filled with fake blood. Besides Van Doren, all the other girls are unknown except for Margot Hartman, wife of producer/director Del Tenney who was also in some of his films (CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE, PSYCHOMANIA).
Retromedia has presented VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN on DVD in a non-Anamorphic transfer that looks to be letterboxed at 1.66:1. Colors are pretty nice--the colors in the original Russian footage look muted to begin with, so the American footage fares much better in appearance. There are some nicks and scratches in the print source, and the picture jumps a bit in spots, but the transfer is satisfying overall. Audio is clear and free of any noticeable defects.
Extras include "Being Mamie," a new video interview with Mamie Van Doren that lasts over 20 minutes. At 71, Mamie is as sassy as ever, and the interview talks about most of the films she has acted in. There are some funny stories and interesting anecdotes told (apparently she was not crazy about Bogdonavich), so this disc is a must for her fans. Also included is a full reproduction of a Russian photo novel for the original film, as well as a brief still gallery. There are also some very sarcastically amusing liner notes by Thorn Sherman on the back cover. According to Retromedia, Bogdonavich declined an offer to do a commentary track. (George R. Reis)
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