Even with borrowed special effects shots and one of the most unimpressive (and thus inexpensive) spaceship sets in cinema history, the filmmakers behind this dud of a film still ran out of money before it could be completed in 1967. Five years later, somebody else decided to actually finish the thing - without any of the film's actors or actresses. The difference is exceedingly noticeable, turning what was a pretty lousy movie into a hopelessly bad cinematic experience. That five-year delay does answer some puzzling questions I had about the film, though - such as why the lift-off procedures of the astronauts were so unrealistic. By the time this film came out in 1972, we had already been to the moon several times, yet the astronauts here did little more than buckle themselves into Lazy-Boy recliners for liftoff. Of course, this doesn't explain why the spaceship completely changes shape four different times as the movie progresses (sometimes it's a rocket and sometimes it's a rotating space station), why the script is so incredibly bad, or why no one mentions the well-known fact that Venus is completely uninhabitable for humans!
This spaceship that changes shape and size is the culmination of the work of Project Astra and was designed to carry seven men to Venus. That was the plan, anyway - until the military learned about China's possible use of a Doomsday Machine to wreak havoc along all of the Earth's fault lines. We don't know why the Chinese would want to destroy the Earth; apparently, it's just one of those "you know those Red Chinese" sorts of things. All of a sudden, though, the Venus mission's schedule is bumped up, important secondary checks are neglected, and -- to the great consternation of the crew - three of its astronauts are unceremoniously dumped for three female scientists - one of whom is actually a Ruskie. It doesn't take a genius for the remaining male astronauts to figure out what is going on here - even though none of them believe the Chinese would be stupid enough to destroy Earth. The resulting crew interactions are interesting, as one of the "highly professional scientists" suddenly grows several sets of hands, one of the women actually compares the whole mission to a hayride, and the whole story starts to turn into a bad soap opera. Things really get crazy when the ship has to start dodging big ole pieces of exploded Earth and the odd man out figures out that only three of the seven crew members can actually make it to Venus. Then, just when something actually starts happening, the original production ends, and you're forced to endure two faceless actors in a dark room doing absolutely nothing for what seems like forever.
One of the very few interesting things about Doomsday Machine is the fact that both Casey Kasem and Mike Farrell make an appearance. Farrell appears only briefly, while Kasem is the communications officer back on Earth (and, no, he never tells the astronauts to keep their feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars). There are some hilarious little treats like the crew's ingenious way of dealing with a radiation threat by basically just hanging a big piece of aluminum foil on one wall and a vivid example of why females working in secretive installations should not wear their hair in pigtails, but the only actual reason to watch Doomsday Machine is just to add another notch to your bad movie belt.