The Soviets send three spaceships, the Sirius, the Vega and the Capella on the first manned trip to Venus. Suddenly the Capella is hit by a meteor and explodes, all hands are lost. The mission requires three ships but the Sirius and the Vega continue on. Earth informs the cosmonauts that a replacement ship, the Arcturus will be sent but it will take two months.

In the meantime the crews of the two remaining ships have a decision to make. On board the Sirius are Ilya Vershinin (Vladimir Yemelyanov) Roman Bobrov (Georgiy Zhzhonov) and Alyosha (Gennadi Vernov). On the Vega is Masha (Kyunna Ignatova), Ivan Shcherba (Yuri Sarantsev), Allan Kern (Georgi Teich) and a robot named John. Not wanting to waste two months waiting for another ship they come up with a plan to land on Venus and begin their exploration. The plan calls for Ivan and Allan to take the glider down to planet along with the robot, John. Then Sirius will land with Ilya, Roman and Alyosha. Masha is to remain in orbit in the Vega to monitor the situation and communicate between the ships and Earth.

The glider ends up off course and lands in a swamp. Communication is lost. The Sirius lands safely. Now the Sirius has two missions, to investigate the planet and to find the glider and its missing crew. The crew of the Sirius unloads a hovercar and head in the direction where the glider was last observed. As the hovercar heads toward the missing cosmonauts, Ivan and Allan, along with John, are battling dinosaurs, torrential rain and crossing treacherous territory. When Ivan and Allan become sick with malaria, robot John must tend to them or they will die.

With communication out between the cosmonauts on the planet surface and the orbiting Vega, Masha grows concerned that the men on the planet are in danger. She debates whether or not to land on Venus and try to help. If she does, everyone may be stuck on the planet surface with no way to get back to Earth. The fate of the mission may be in her hands.

“Planeta Bur” AKA “Planet of Storms” was released in 1962 and was directed by Pavel Klushantsev. It is a Russian science fiction movie.

“Planeta Bur” has its faults but some of them are actually pluses. The Venusian terrain looks like a barren Earth with lakes and a lot of mist. There are man-eating plants. The animal life in the lake looks exactly like Earth with fish and turtles swimming around or whatever was in the aquarium being used in the dry for wet scenes. The dinosaurs are an interesting touch that gives the planet a prehistoric feel. The T-Rexes are man size, and they hop. The robot and the hovercar are both very cool as are the spaceships themselves. Granted the things depicted on Venus are not accurate but little was known about the surface at the time. To compensate, the Russian imagination blossomed.

Even though the film has a ton of fun things to look at the tone of the movie is rather somber. There is a lot of philosophical discussion about Venus. The cosmonauts speculate on whether there is or ever were intelligent life on the planet. If so, where did it come from and what happened to it? There’s enough speculating conversation to be a bit of a buzz-kill but the visuals of the movie more than make up for it. My only real problem with the movie is the brightness of the colors. A touch of restoration would bring out the matte paintings and cinematography. Perhaps someday someone will either find a better copy of the movie or at least update its colorization to give it some dazzle.

In 1965 Roger Corman bought the rights to “Planeta Bur” and, adding footage incorporating Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue, then re-titled the film “Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet”. After Americanizing some of the names and adding a computer called Marsha, Corman released the film to television. Later he chopped it up some more, added scenes with sexy women, including Mamie Van Doren, and called it “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women” 1968. For the second go-round he had Peter Bogdanovich, using the name Derek Thomas, direct the new and no so improved version. To add additional spice Corman also incorporated some scenes from the Russian film “Nebo Zovyot” 1959.

If you watch “Planeta Bur” and get a feeling of déjà vu it’s probably because you’ve seen either one or both of Roger Corman’s versions.