First Spaceship on Venus

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First Spaceship on Venus
Directed by Kurt Maetzig
Screenplay by Kurt Maetzig
J. Barkhauer
Story by J. Fethke
W. Kohlhasse
G. Reisch
G. Rücker
A. Stenbock-Fermor
Based on Astronauci 
by Stanisław Lem
Starring Günther Simon
Julius Ongewe
Yoko Tani
Music by Andrzej Markowski
Cinematography Joachim Hasler
Edited by Lena Neumann
Distributed by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb (East Germany)
Crown International Pictures (USA)
Release dates
  • 26 February 1960 (1960-02-26) (East Germany)
  • 7 March 1960 (1960-03-07) (Poland)
1962 U.S. release dubbed in English by Crown International Pictures
Running time
93 minutes
79 minutes[1] (US)
Country East Germany
Language German

First Spaceship on Venus, German: Der schweigende Stern (English: The Silent Star), Polish: Milcząca Gwiazda (English: Silent Star) is a 1960 East German/Polish color science fiction film directed by Kurt Maetzig and released by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb (East Germany). It is based on the novel The Astronauts by Stanisław Lem. The film is also known as Planet of the Dead and Spaceship Venus Does Not Reply.

In 1962 a much-shortened, 79 minute, dubbed release from Crown International Pictures substituted the title First Spaceship on Venus for the English-speaking market.

The film was later featured in episodes of both Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Cinema Insomnia.


In 1985 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 an alien spaceship. Professor Harringway deduces the craft must have come from Venus. The spool itself is determined to be a flight recorder and is 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 the only alternative. The recently completed Soviet spaceship Cosmostrator intended to voyage to Mars, is redirected to Venus, a 30–31 day journey. During the voyage, Sikarna works furiously to translate the alien message using the spaceship's computer.

When their spaceship nears Venus, radio interference from the 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 containing 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 panic mankind.

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 follows when Cosmostrator lands, but they 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 that shadowy forms of humanoid Venusians are permanently burned on to the walls of the surviving buildings.

The Venusians are gone, but their machines remain functioning, including the radiation-bombardment machine intended for Earth. One of the scientists accidentally triggers the 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 ventures out to save him. Before he can reach Yu, Talua succeeds in reversing the weapon. Unfortunately, this also reverses Venus' gravitational field, flinging Cosmostrator into space. Brinkman is also repelled off the planet, beyond the reach of the spaceship, while Talua and Tchen Yu remain marooned on Venus. The surviving crew members return to Earth, where they warn humanity about the dangers of atomic weapons.


  • Günther Simon as German pilot / Robert / Raimund Brinkmann
  • Julius Ongewe as African TV technician / Talua
  • Yoko Tani as Japanese female doctor / Dr. Sumiko Ogimura, M.D.
  • Oldrich Lukes as American nuclear physicist / Professor Harringway Hawling
  • Ignacy Machowski as Polish chief engineer / Professor Saltyk / Professor Durand
  • Michail N. Postnikow as Soviet Astronaut / Professor Arsenew / Orloff
  • Kurt Rackelmann as Indian mathematician / Professor Sikarna
  • Tang Hua-Ta as Chinese linguist / Dr. Chen Yu / Lao Tsu
  • Lucina Winnicka as TV reporter / Joan Moran
  • Eduard von Winterstein as nuclear physicist


The Earth spaceship sent to Venus is named Kosmokrator in the film's original East German and Polish release.

The film was shot in East Germany.[2] When first released to cinemas, the film sold 4,375,094 tickets.[3]

Author Stanislaw Lem was extremely critical of the film.[4]


The U. S. release was only 79 minutes long. All references to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima were edited out. The American character Hawling became a Russian named Orloff. In turn the Russian character named Arseniev became an American named Heddingway, while the Pole character Soltyk became a Frenchman named Durand.

First Spaceship on Venus was double billed with Varan the Unbelievable for the U. S. release.

The original, uncut version of the film was finally re-released in the U. S. in 2004 under its original title The Silent Star by the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.[5]

In other media[edit]

In 1980 a short sequence from First Spaceship on Venus was used as a "film-within-a-film" in the low budget feature Galaxina.

In 1990 the film was featured in the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and was released on DVD in 2008 by Shout! Factory, as part of their "MST3K 20th Anniversary Edition" collection.

In 2007 the film was shown on the horror hosted television series Cinema Insomnia.[6] Apprehensive Films later released the Cinema Insomnia episode on DVD.[7]


  1. ^ "FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 1963-01-23. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  2. ^ Allan, SeDn; Sandford, John (1999). DEFA: East German cinema, 1946-1992. Berghahn Books. p. 80. ISBN 1-57181-943-6. 
  3. ^ List of the 50 highest-grossing DEFA films.
  4. ^ "Filmowe światy Stanisława Lema", citing Lem's interview, published in book Thus Spoke... Lem
  5. ^ "DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst". DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "Cinema Insomnia". Cinema Insomnia. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  7. ^ "First Spaceship on Venus DVD". Apprehensive Films. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  • Ciesla, Burghard: "Droht der Menschheit Vernichtung? Der schweigende Stern – First Spaceship on Venus: Ein Vergleich". (Apropos Film. Bertz, Berlin 2002: 121–136. ISBN 3-929470-23-3)
  • Kruschel, Karsten: "Leim für die Venus. Der Science-Fiction-Film in der DDR." (Das Science Fiction Jahr 2007 ed. Sascha Mamczak and Wolfgang Jeschke. Heyne Verlag, 2007: 803–888. ISBN 3-453-52261-3.)

External links[edit]