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  Masters of Venus
Year: 1962
Director: Ernest Morris
Stars: Norman Wooland, Amanda Coxell, Robin Stewart, Robin Hunter, Patrick Kavanagh, Arnold Diamond, George Pastell, Ferdy Mayne, Jackie Martin, Zienia Merton, Tony Calvin, Robert Bruce, Andrew Laurence, Robert James
Genre: Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Ballantyne (Norman Wooland) has been hard at work on an interplanetary craft to send crew from Earth to Venus, since it resides under a thick atmosphere of cloud and nobody knows what lies beneath it. Who can guess at what could possibly be discovered? He has two children, a son Jim (Robin Stewart) and daughter Pat (Amanda Coxell), and they are keen to be involved with the project, and have indeed contributed research material to it, but one day as the rocket is more or less completed, they show up at the base to meet their father only to find a pair of men in black wielding strange pistols which render the target unconscious. The only place to hide is the rocket...

Serials had been around since the days of silent cinema, a cunning ploy to get the audience returning week after week to check out the new films and buy tickets and refreshments in the process. Come the advent of television, their days were numbered as that box provided just that form of entertainment only you could watch them in the comfort of your own home, and the movies turned to other ideas. Although they were commonly thought of as mostly a Hollywood creation, Britain got in on the act too, and as many of them were aimed at children, actually the pretty much all were after a while, the Children's Film Foundation got in on the act as well.

Which explains why, when most serials for the theatres had stopped being made around the mid-fifties just when the domestic rival was seizing control, the C.F.F. were making these into the nineteen-seventies. Why? Because they produced material for the Saturday morning pictures clubs across the country, and further afield too, where audiences of rowdy, popcorn-chucking kids were taken off their stressed out parents' hands for a morning while they went shopping, and their little darlings were treated to all sorts of made to measure diversions, with Masters of Venus as one such example. That said, it perhaps wasn't as widely seen as it might have been.

If they had made it in colour, it might have endured further, but this was a black and white endeavour and they were going out of fashion in a world where Technicolor (or at least Eastmancolor) was the order of the day for all the bright young things. When this was first out, television in the United Kingdom was still in monochrome, so they wouldn't have had so much to worry about, but time marches on and advancements in the sixties were progressing faster than ever, so the kids more than ever expected to see their space adventures in glorious hues. Which leaves this as even quainter than it was in the first place with its TV budget realising untold wonders as the two heroic children blast off to Venus and adventure in an alien culture.

If you had no qualms about watching vintage movies and television these days, however, you would get on with Masters of Venus just fine, and it did have the novelty for a C.F.F. effort as a science fiction tale that actually went further than meeting some Martian boy on Earth or whatever, as they obviously spent a bit more on fashioning those sets, and props. When Jim and Pat, accompanied by two responsible adults (to fist fight with the baddies when push comes to shove), end up on the planet second nearest the sun, Pat gets to thrillingly spend her entire time there stuck in the control cabin as her brother has all the fun, meeting aliens conniving and friendly alike, including two Venusian teenagers (one of whom was cult TV staple Zienia Merton), and the chapter titles grow increasingly aggressive and violent to reflect the plot of Venus declaring war on Earth with a deadly virus. It resembled Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, only with more credibility, though there were a few unintended chuckles to be gained; if you remember this stuff, you'll likely have a high tolerance for its disarmingly sincere foolishness. Music by Eric Rogers.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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