Before America became stricken with space fever in the mid-1960s, Britain was already coming down with symptoms of this consuming affliction. Evidence in proof of this can be seen in television and film series of the era, especially those aimed at youngsters.
One such program was Masters of Venus, an 8-part science-fiction serial that was released between September 1962 and November 1962 throughout the UK. It was an engrossing serial that was shown in theaters on Saturday mornings, usually before a matinee feature, in 16-minute parts.
Masters of Venus was a production of the CCF ( Children's Film Foundation ), which produced a number of serials like this in the late 1950s and 1960s. The story is about a team of scientists who are preparing to launch a rocket - Astarte - to Venus. One day two saboteurs break into the rocket center in an attempt to destroy the Astarte, but they were thwarted in their plans by Jim and Pat, the two intelligent children of the rocket's inventor, Dr. Ballantyne ( Norman Wooland ). The pilots are knocked unconscious and, unbeknownst to the children, the rocket is prematurely sent into outer space - with them in the capsule!
Like most Saturday morning serials, every episode ends with a cliffhanger, and Masters of Venus has some jim-dandy ones. The pilots ( Patrick Kavanagh, Robin Hunter ) revive in time to set Astarte's course to Venus, but once they land on the planet they discover it to be inhabited by rather hostile Venusians, who are actually a band of super-advanced survivors of the ancient kingdom of Atlantis.The plot may seem far-fetched and the sets and "scientific procedure" rather simple, but the series is very entertaining to watch, especially for children. The principal actors all do a wonderful job of making the story seem real. Robin Stewart, who portrays young Jim, went on to become a popular actor in the UK on television ( Bless This House ) and in films ( The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires ). Mandy Harper, who plays Pat, was a child actress who had a number of uncredited roles in films of the 1950s. The same year she filmed Masters of Venus she starred in Swallows and Amazons based on Arthur Ransome's famous novel.