Monday, October 27, 2014


A crew of astronauts is heading to Uranus on the trail of a strange radioactive signal (years before 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY used a similar plotpoint to send Dave and Frank to Jupiter). As they approach, they are all frozen in place while a blob of light materializes and announces that their minds will be under its control. When the ship lands, the barren surface of the planet suddenly becomes lush and earthlike, though the men discover that behind the trees is an invisible barrier; when young impulsive Carl sticks his arm through it, his arm is flash-frozen—though he does recover eventually. That night, as the men sit around a campfire (!), Commander Eric dreamily relates a childhood memory about life on the family farm, and as he does, the farm landscape appears in the distance, as does a woman of his past acquaintance. By now, if you know your Ray Bradbury, this will seem familiar as it's a plot device right out of his short story "Mars is Heaven," so you'll know right where this is going: the Blob of Light is pulling memories out of the men's minds and reproducing them. Despite more sexy women appearing, the men soon decide to go through the barrier where they find the "real" Uranus: a desolate waste with ammonia quicksnow (like quicksand but white and sparkly--see picture below). Some huge monsters appear, giant versions of animals that the astronauts fear like mice and spiders (shades of the climax of 1984), and Ingrid, one of the sexy apparitions, informs them that a being "of space and time itself" (which later appears as a huge disembodied brain) has them trapped.

Unless I missed something, it's never made clear exactly why the monster is after them, aside from fear of colonization, and if the Blob/Being of Space and Time/Big Brain had just left Uranus like it really was—bleak and uninhabitable—instead of making it look and feel like Earth, the men would probably just done a little rock-gathering and left. This film has its moments—I particularly liked the effect of the barren gray planet turning green and the quicksnow scene—but it also feels a bit slapdash, especially in the writing, with little examination of character or of the consequences of space exploration. It was shot in Denmark with a Danish cast except for Hollywood B-leading man John Agar who plays the second in command. Peter Monch seemed promising as Carl, but this is his only film credit. The mysterious women all look like Nordic models—and they were, most notably Greta Thyssen who was Miss Denmark of 1951 and went on to rack up over 20 acting credits. Special effects are about average for the time. The closing theme is worth hanging around for—as the ship sails off into space, we hear a crooner sing, "Our love will take wing/And go on and on…" though the only love going on in the film was between earthmen and alien-created avatars of women (unless two of the astronauts had a thing on the down-low). [Netflix streaming]

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