One tradition we share with our friends Bob and Susan (we’re visiting them this week) is to watch bad movies. This visit’s selection was a fabulous mess from 1961 called Journey to the Seventh Planet. It appears to have been a Swedish production (judging by many of the names involved – including the fantastic “Thok Sondergaard”). Those of you who are astronomically knowledgeable will realize that the seventh planet from the sun is the comics’ favorite Uranus…and this movie goes out of its way to find new vowels in order to navigate between the two poles of Urine-us and Ur-anus. (It comes out something like your-ANNus.)
The movie is written by a not-very-bright sixth grader who once read some Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury. It purports to be about a freaky all-powerful being who manifests himself in spooky, proto-psychedelic lights and overwrought narration (correction: semi-powerful – he can make defective weapons out of thin air, but must manifest as garishly made up fantasy women to physically place the weapons…). Its real theme, though, appears to be How We Can Never Trust Women and How Men Are Incredibly Dumb. (I was pretty much rooting for the portentously narrating light show before too long.) Basically, this freaky light show of a regional deity is able to read the minds of its dumpy, pan-European all-male crew (from an era in which the Irish counted as ethnic) and manifest their rather drag-queen-like ex-girlfriends in order to get his bidding done. John Agar “stars” as the sort of incredibly obnoxious walking hard-on that men were apparently supposed to be in the early sixties, the kind of guy for whom “the hammer is my penis” would count as subtlety. Someone else stars as Commander Rollerhair, whose disturbingly fascinating look featured little rolling wavelets of greasy brownish hair over a catcher’s mitt of a face. When Lieutenant Pantstenter insists on poking his fingers into a Judy Chicago-looking bit of foliage, only to discover an apparently impenetrable membrane beneath, the crew is determined to plumb the depths of this planet’s inscrutable, unreliable mystery…. On it goes, through incredibly uncommitted acting and writing.
Finally (like all good movies of its era), the film ends with an entirely tonally-inapt love theme over its closing credits (which also feature a wonderfully cheesy effects sequence of a cardboard rocket flying past a styrofoam planet). This number, which I’ve christened “Love Theme from Journey to the Seventh Planet,” is written by the immortal team of Jerry Capehart and Mitchell Tableporter (“Tableporter”?) and features the vocal stylings of one Otto Brandenburg. It also, like many love themes of its era, features a trombone solo. (Somewhere, there’s a full-length version of this song, which fades here in the middle of the trombone solo…)
Here for your listening pleasure, then, is Otto Brandenburg with “Love Theme from Journey to the Seventh Planet.” Put on your dumpiest space jumpsuit, strap on your emergency space pants, and relax to the imaginary sounds of the love-trombone, brought to you by your psychedelic Shatnerian overlord.