|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
First Spaceship on Venus, German: Der Schweigende Stern (en: The Silent Star), Polish: Milcząca Gwiazda, is a 1960 East German/Polish science fiction film directed by Kurt Maetzig and based on the novel The Astronauts by Stanisław Lem.
Spoiler alert: Film description starts below.
The film begins in 1985, when engineers involved in an industrial project to irrigate the Gobi Desert accidentally unearth a mysterious and apparently artificial "spool." When found to be made of a material unknown on Earth, the spool is circumstantially linked to the Tunguska explosion of 1908. The "spool" is seized on as evidence that the explosion, originally blamed on a meteor, was actually caused by a spaceship. Professor Harringway deduces the alien craft must have come from Venus. The spool itself is determined to be a flight recorder, and partially decoded by an international team of scientists led by Professor Sikarna and Dr. Tchen Yu. When radio greetings sent to Venus go unanswered, Harringway announces that a journey to Venus is Earth's only alternative. The recently completed Soviet spaceshipCosmostrator I (Kosmokrator in the original), intended to voyage to Mars, is redirected to Venus, a 30–31 day trip. During the voyage, Sikarna works furiously to translate the alien message on the disc using the ship's computer.
When the ship nears Venus, radio interference from that planet cuts the crew off from Earth. By then, Sikarna's efforts lead to a stunning discovery—the spool describes a Venusian plan to irradiate the Earth's surface, with the extermination of mankind being the prelude to an invasion. Rather than a "cosmic document" as had been expected, the spool bears a cold-blooded message of destruction. Harringway convinces the crew to press on towards Venus rather than return to Earth with news that would cause panic.
With the ship's robot Omega, American astronaut Brinkman pilots a one-man landing craft. On the ground, he encounters an industrial complex and finds small recording devices that look like insects. The rest of the crew follow when Cosmostrator lands, but find no Venusian life forms. Journeying across the planet, they find the remains of a deserted and blasted city centered around a huge crater—signs of a catastrophic explosion so intense, shadowy forms of humanoid Venusians are permanently burned into the walls of surviving buildings.
While the Venusians are gone, their machines remain functioning, including the radiation-bombardment machine intended for Earth. One of the scientists accidentally triggers the radiation weapon leading to a frantic effort by the Earthmen to disarm it. Tchen Yu lowers Talua—the ship's communication officer—into the Venusian command center. When Tchen Yu's suit is punctured, Brinkman goes out to save him. Before he can reach Yu, Talua succeeds in reversing the radiation weapon. Unfortunately, this reverses the planet's gravitational field, flinging Cosmostrator into space. Brinkman is also repelled off the planet, beyond reach by Cosmostrator, while Talua and Tchen Yu remain marooned on Venus. The surviving crew members return home, where they warn the people of Earth about the danger of atomic weapons.
Despite what sounds like an interesting movie, it is one of those that is often paired with other winners on the 2for$5 racks in video stores or shops. One of its saving graces is that it shows some clear images of some main characters arriving at the launching site in a very shiny MiG-15bis. It also has the usual attempt at a loveable robot and has a very cosmopolitan crew, made up of mostly those from socialist nations.
To many of us who watch old sci-fi, like this 1960 release, the space ship is often a focal point of our interest. In this case, the space ship is called, unsurprisingly, the Cosmostrator. The design is rather striking and is such that was not normally seen in similar movies produced in Hollywood at the time. It consists of a three 'winged' ship with very spikey engine nacelles at the end of each of the scimitar shaped wings. The central housing is also quite pointy and has a clear full vision area near the tip that houses a searchlight for peering through the gloom.
As Pegasus kits go, this one has a lot of parts. There are three identical sprues for each of the wings and accompanying power pods. The central fuselage is in two pieces, topped by the lone clear bit, which looks as if it was ripped from the sprue by the Chinese factory workers, and another pointy bit. Though the instructions imply that this clear bit should be able to turn, my copy was missing the hold back piece on the bottom of it. The instructions also show that the main fuselage should have a slit nozzle piece to attach to the bottom, but this has been molded into the fuselage halves, leaving a seam that will be quite challenging to fill.
Each of the wing nacelles has the one-piece main strut and half of the nacelle. The other half, two fins and the rocket nozzle make up each assembly. You will notice in the parts image that you will not see the second nacelle half as the workers at Pegasus have already snapped those in place.
Instructions are three steps with well done and clear drawings. There are no decals and the model is supposed to be painted a very shiny chrome.
Thanks to Pegasus Hobby we now have another interesting movie rocket from the first decade of rocket-based sci-fi movies. It may not be on everyone's want list, but for those of us who, like me, enjoy watching these old films, it is one that should be considered.
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