Silent Star


Director: Kurt Maetzig

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

First Spaceship on VenusIt seems a fair guess that First Spaceship on Venus (Raumschiff Venus antwortet nich, or Spaceship Venus Does Not Reply, 1962) impressed Gene Roddenberry when he decided to duplicate this film's vision of a future one-world-order that lives in peace & sends multiracial crews on space missions.

Based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem, Russia's finest science fiction writer, & produced in East Germany as a German-Polish co-production, it was given an international cast, & a reasonable budget for the task, with some first-rate models & set design.

First Spaceship on VenusA "spool" (which looks like a malformed rod of melted glass) from an alien recording device is found in the Gobi desert & it turns out to be of Venusian origin. Realizing there either is or was life on a planet so near to earth, an international effort is made to achieve radio contact with Venus, but for radio activity Venus sounds like a dead planet.

So a lovely art deco rocket called the Cosmokrator is built, manned with one each from Africa, China, Japan, Russia, India, America & so on, inclusive of both sexes. These explorers set off to see if our planetary neighbors are all right. They start out the mission in suspended animation laying on what looks like lawn furniture, in a room of the Cosmokrator that has aluminum & plastic chairs & cheap drapes.

Also along for the voyage is a "cute robot" programmed by the Polish crewmember. The robot looks like a cross between a lawnmower & a toy army tank, with blinky lights for a face.

The surface of Venus is an surrealistic set, very arty. Cosmokrator lands in a glass forest, where they find robot insects in a hole, the significance of which is never stated. They find a a power line still active & follow it to what they hope will be a city, but turns out to be a military complex of some kind, with gigantic machinery but nobody to operate it.

FirstThey also discover seeds blown into the region with the planet's dust storms. So there must be life somewhere, but no higher life remains in the glass forest or near the giant machines, as everything is poisoned with radiation.

Inside a big white dome they discover evidence that the Venusians despite an advanced technology had not advanced into peaceful beings the way Earthlings had. Indeed the Venusians were ready to launch a conquering invasion of Earth but ended up destroying themselves instead.

The earthlings poke around until an oily-blobby thing almost gets them, & to evade it they accidentally cause the white dome to turn red as the planet prepares its weapons. By some slight-of-hand phony science, gravity is reversed & the Cosmokrator is sent back into space. Just like in American movies, the Black guy & the Chinese give their lives so the white guys can be safe.

SilentThe look of the film is sometimes glorious, elsetimes silly, but it so delights in the mere idea of travelling to Venus that it never occurred to anyone to tell a decent story.

Stanislaw Lem personally never liked this adaptation of his novel, the version shown in Soviet controlled nations having a bigger dose of propoganda disagreeable to curmudgeony Lem (the politics are muted in America's dubbed edit). The English version retains an obvious message, but its no different than the moral idealism in many Gene Roddenberry Star Trek scripts: The fate of the violent Venusians could have been Earth's fate had we not learned to live in peace.

A subtitled version of the original German-Polish production The Silent Star (Der Schwiegende Stern, 1960) has been released by First Run Films, so it is now possible to see the film as it was known in the rest of the world.

The Silent Star is about ten minutes longer than the dubbed version, but the story was not greatly changed while being Englished.

The original is more overt about the peaceful & cooperative nature of the world being due to Socialism. There are other small changes for the western audiences, like the fact that the beautiful Japanese astronaut is sterile due the Americans bombing of Hiroshima, & the American pilot of the dubbed version is an East German pilot in the original.

Otherwise most of what was deleted or mistranslated was expositional dialogue & socialist speechifying of a certain historical interest but lending nothing to the tale that anyone should be sorry to have missed.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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