Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968)
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Artistic Value: *
Entertainment Value: * * *

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Synopsis & Analysis
Peter Bogdanovich's Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women is a peculiar mélange of scenes taken from Planeta Bur, a 1962 Russian science fiction film, footage of Mamie Van Doren, and narration connecting these.

After an expedition to Venus is destroyed by an asteroid, a second is sent and lands on the planet, but it loses contact with the Earth. A third mission is then dispatched to rescue the men of the second. Despite having to battle the Venusian climate and various monsters, most of which resemble men in rubber tyrannosaurus rex costumes, the members of the second two expeditions explore the alien world. While doing so, they discover the remains of an ancient civilization under the sea but are eventually driven by storms and volcanic eruptions to flee the planet and return to the Earth. These scenes depicting the astronauts' adventures are taken from Planeta Bur and resemble moments from numerous low budget American science fiction films of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Interspersed with the adventures of the astronauts, however, are a number of additional scenes showing a group of telepathic, platinum blonde Venusian bathing beauties who wear shell brassieres and hip hugging bell bottoms. They are led by Mamie Van Doren, who is, apparently, the priestess of their deity, a rubber pterodactyl they call Ptera. Since the footage of Mamie and her acolytes has been edited into the Russian film, the women never actually interact with the Earthlings. They seem to have been included in the movie only to provide the presence of scantily clad young women, and they do little else besides contributing such a presence.

Bogdanovich attempts to join these different elements together by making use of narration, but the narrator is strangely disconnected from the action depicted in the film. While he identifies himself as one of the astronauts, I was never certain which of them he was supposed to be. This disconnect does, however, contribute to the movie's overall lack of cohesiveness, which, admittedly, constitutes a large part of its appeal.

Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women is actually fairly interesting as camp art. The scenes from the Russian film show it to have been a low budget production similar to American efforts of the same period, and those featuring Mamie Van Doren and her followers are so utterly ridiculous they are frequently entertaining. The film is a failure, but it is strange enough to keep the viewer interested in cinematic oddities amused.

Review by Keith Allen

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