When it comes to that touchy topic of remakes, I’ve always strongly felt that you should leave the proven classics alone. It’s those uneven ‘interesting misfires’ or intriguing ‘wasted opportunities’ that should be redone.
JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET is an ideal candidate for possible updated improvement. There is an intriguing premise here, but the finished project does leave much to be desired.
I felt the initial idea of the lone unseen alien menace, probing the minds of the explorers to Uranus, had some compelling possibilities.
First mistake occurs before they are about to land. They are suddenly frozen in a suspended state, which is an eerie foreshadowing of their impending fate. So far, suspenseful. Unfortunately, we then hear the melodramatically villianous voice of the alien announcing its malevolent intentions; which kills any necessary sense of mystery. We should have just seen them in their suspended animation, and left to wonder what is really transpiring. Viewer is left knowing too much now, and far too soon.
There are some novel touches after they land. Instead of a dead world, there is a lush forest paradise and breathable atmosphere. However, the plants and trees have no roots, and one of the crew members remembers it as a place from his childhood. There’s a certain unsettling Twilight Zone/Outer Limits quality here that gives the film some innovativness. Still with me? Don’t zone out yet.
Next, they discover a few beautiful women (Awake now?) in a small European-style village (from the commander’s past); and they turn out to be former girlfriends of the crew, representing their lost human desires and passionate fantasies. Seduce and Annihilate?
Then, they go through a strange encircling barrier to the real Uranus, and encounter bizarre creatures that sybolize their most dreaded fears and nightmares. As you can see, there are some interesting and thoughtful plot elements at work here.
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS – They are finally able to deduce that there is a lone being whose supermind can function at full force (humans are known to only use about 5% of their mental potential, and in too many sad cases, far less). It knows the characters’ every thoughts and human weaknesses. Invasion of privacy at its most insidious. Now that is truly disturbing when your paranoia turns out to be true. Ever been there?
Essentially, the alien’s (revealed in the end as a huge one-eyed brain) plan is to destroy all the astronauts but one, by deviously exploiting their human fears and desires (and guilty pleasures). Also, it’s hostile aim is to return to Earth in the body of the one ‘survivor’, for the purpose of (guess what?) world conquest.
Granted, the taking over of good old Planet Earth is the oldest Science-Fiction Alien Menace Tale in the movies, but at least this beloved cliche is somewhat reinvented with a few creative variations of the ancient invasion theme.
As is, JTTSP is hampered by the low budget, bland performances and, of course, somewhat hokey monsters.
I hate to say it, but this could almost be ideal MST3000 fodder. Don’t misconstrue, I was quite fond of MST, but I personally thought they should not have mocked the admirable misfires, but gave it to the real irresponsible and irredeemable stinkers. R-E-P-T-I-L-I-C-U-S?
Also, it is burdened somewhat by an uneven script (typical problem with many B Films). Uneven, in the frustrating sense of the dialogue; sometimes intelligent and other times utterly ridiculous. (How many examples of that can you come up with?).
Also, you certainly wouldn’t chase the gorgeous babes off your property with your shotgun, but they definitely weren’t graduates from The Meryl Streep Theatrical Academy. However, we do have our old friend John ‘Tarantula’ Agar as our tough, smarmy gigilo captain, representing the only American on board (Snicker! Snicker!) so all isn’t completely lost. (Snicker! Snicker!).
So, all quips aside, considering JTTSP’s potential merits, it would be the ideal ‘interesting failure’ to remake, as long as the writer and director take these pertinent points into inspired account.
SEE IT & see for yourself. And try to imagine how it could be fixed-up and improved.