Did you know that in the year 2001 we conquered long-distance space travel, achieved nuclear disarmament, and handed over the entire world’s sovereignty to the United Nations? Me neither, but I was really into shitty rap-rock & sneaking even shittier beers at the time so I might’ve been too distracted to notice. Needless derision aside, you really do have to admire the optimism of Journey to the Seventh Planet’s version of 2001. Years before the moon landing, the end of the Cold War, and, hell, even JFK’s assassination, the film felt like the world had its whole life ahead of it. Journey supposed that by 2001 we’d have a good enough handle on space travel to make it all the way to Uranus (sadly not pronounced the fun way here), but instead by that time we’d never made it past the moon and a lot of people were listening to Limp Bizkit.
Journey to the Seventh Planet did get one thing right, though: the universal appeal of 60s era pin-up girls never truly faded. The film tells the story of a small, all-male (of course) rocketship crew who journeys to Uranus (teehee teehee) and discovers that it looks an awful lot like California wilderness. This similarity is not only a frugal cost-saving measure, but rather part of a super cool plot device in which a nefarious alien spirit hypnotizes the rocket crew and brings their subconscious visions to life. During the atomic age opening monologue about the end of the arms race and the world-governing UN, a narrator warns “There are no limits to the imagination and man’s ability to make reality out of his visions is his greatest strength.” Apparently this extends to the visual re-creation of California forest & breathable air, but that’s not all. As the crew is composed entirely of lonely, horny, red-blooded space travelers, their hallucinations begin to take the form of voluptuous pin-up models who lure them away from safety one at a time so the alien spirit can try to hitch a ride back to Earth in their stupid, horny bodies. It’s pretty damn adorable.
The pin-up models and a forest covered Uranus are the most unique aspects of Journey to the Seventh Planet, but they’re far from the movie’s only charms. There’s also a plethora of adorable atomic age sci-fi staples like model rocketships, dinky rayguns, science babble about “atomic units” & “retrorockets”, and strange green lights that give the film a less-artsy Planet of the Vampires feel once the illusion is broken. The hypnotized men also conjure up images of stock footage “giant” spiders and stop-motion Harryhausen-esque cyclops lizard monsters that are legitimately pretty awesome. There is no shortage of cool ideas and goofy practical effects in Journey to the Seventh Planet and I much prefer its space alien pin-up version of 2001 to the much more depressing Limp Bizkit reality. I honestly believe that if it had chosen the much more memorable title Journey to Uranus it would have a much larger cult following, if not only for the juvenile giggling it would be sure to induce.