Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Destination Mars !
peterfromkanata | Kanata, Ontario Canada | 11/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm delighted that George Pal's "Conquest of Space" has been released on DVD. Of course, I am a "baby boomer" who loves science fiction movies from the 50s--in fact, I have an interest in the whole history of sci-fi/fantasy films. It's possible that younger viewers, used to the current technological wizardry in film, will find "Conquest" dated and slow. If they give it a chance, though, there is much to enjoy.
After the spectacular "When Worlds Collide" and "War of the Worlds", George Pal returned to the almost "semi-documentary" style of his first big feature, which heralded the 50s sci-fi boom, "Destination Moon". Stationed above the earth in a huge, wheel-shaped space station, a group of astronauts prepare to fly a spaceship to the moon. They are then notified of a change in plan--the moon is no longer the target--they are to undertake a much longer, and more perilous journey to the planet Mars.
There are no big stars in this film--clearly most of the budget went on special effects. Most of the actors are quite stoic, including faces familiar to fans of vintage television--actors like Eric Fleming, William Hopper and Ross Martin. The leader of the expedition, General Merritt, is played by Walter Brooke, a no-nonsense commander who goes by the book, although he actually finds himself turning to the "good book". He finds strength in the Bible, although it creates doubts in his mind about Man's right to invade new worlds. Mickey Shaughnessy over-acts outrageously as Sergeant Mahoney, a stereotypical, emotional Irish American--although his performance is actually a welcome contrast to that of most of the other actors.
One other performance of note--Benson Fong plays Imoto, the Japanese member of the crew. With just ten short years since the end of the war between the United States and Japan, it is interesting and refreshing that George Pal decided on a Japanese character in this film. The message is obvious--we should put aside our past earthly squabbles--if we are to explore the vast unknown of space, we must all pull together. This is a theme that the Star Trek series was to champion later. I should add that Fong has a compelling speech about Japan's interest, and pride, in being part of the great adventure.
The theme of science and religion not necessarily being incompatible is raised here, perhaps not entirely successfully. It is a debate that continues to this day.
For 1955, the special effects are excellent--the space station--the interstellar vehicles--the astronauts going for "space walks"--you cannot help but wonder how much this film influenced the Kubrick masterpiece, "2001". Two renowned experts were on hand to add to the film's authenticity--Willy Ley was one of the world's foremost pioneers in rocketry--Chesley Bonestell was a writer and artist, famous for his paintings of other worlds and "spacescapes". His work enhanced "Destination Moon", and it is a major plus here. George Pal's frequent collaborator, Byron Haskin, directs with his usual professionalism.
The DVD is gorgeous--this is a very colourful film, and the quality here, except for the occasional strident flesh-tone, is excellent. There are no extras, except a trailer.
"Conquest of Space" is now some fifty years old, but it still captures our sense of wonder about the future, and the exploration of our solar system and beyond. If your idea of a sci-fi movie is loads of action, and plenty of aliens to battle, this film may not be for you. On the other hand, if--as I said earlier--you have a more serious interest in the history of the sci-fi film, "Conquest of Space" deserves a place in your DVD collection."
A Wonderful Movie Finally Arrives on DVD
Doyle Elmo Collins | San Bernardino, CA | 10/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD version of CONQUEST OF SPACE finally treats the movie with the respect it deserves and gets FIVE stars. The anamorphic 1:1.85 widescreen image is so great, crisp, and clean it's like watching the film in the theater for the first time. Three cheers for the technicians who did the transfer!
Never has the screen shown--before or since!--a better starscape than this picture (no, not even FORBIDDEN PLANET, 2001, or STAR WARS). The opening moments show a classic round von Braun space station hanging and spinning in space with an interplanetary vehicle parked nearby. Space has never been so black, nor the stars so scintillating. The score by Van Cleave underscores the sense of wonder--both eerie and majestic--inherent in these scenes.
I first saw CONQUEST OF SPACE when I was ten. This was at a time when our local theater ran Saturday "Kiddie Mantinees" for 25 cents admission during the '50s when the feature was almost always a science-fiction movie. That's how I saw INVADERS FROM MARS, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and others for the first time. As much as I was thrilled by these movies, the one that touched me the most was CONQUEST OF SPACE.
Fast forward to the '80s and '90s. The only VHS version of the film that I'm aware of could not be more terrible. The blacks are washed out due to the positively poor resolution of the tape. Even more disappointing, when the opening title sequence begins a few minutes after the start of the film, the image on the pan-and-scan VHS suddenly and unaccountably reduces in size so that the titles run in a foreshortened box surrounded by black bars on all sides. As soon as "Directed By" finishes, the movie jumps back to fill the standard TV screen. Since this sequence is one of the more dramatic moments in the film, this VHS version completely destroys the film makers' intent. Fast forward again. A couple of years ago, I discovered a Japanese Laserdisc version of the movie on E-Bay. I bought the disc hoping against hope that the Laserdisc would be an improvement over the VHS. Unfortunately it is the exact same poor resolution pan-and scan version as the VHS. But all that is in the past now thanks to this practically perfect DVD, which has restored the title sequence to its original widescreen glory.
Since this is a George Pal film, the special visual effects are as good as they could get for their time. The story about a trip to Mars has many moments of spine-tingling wonder. But, due to studio interference and pressure, the script was rushed and could have been better. The depiction of the surface of Mars was dramatic and cinematically wondrous in 1954 and knocked my socks off, but has little to do with the photographs of martian landscapes that we are familiar with today from the various NASA Mars missions.
But now I'm quibbling. This DVD is a dream come true and is the best rendering of this film since its original theatrical release in 1954. For those who wish to learn more about the production of CONQUEST OF SPACE and George Pal's other marvelous science-fiction and fantasy films, check out the out-of-print book THE FILMS OF GEORGE PAL by Gail Morgan Hickman."
Great 50's sci-fi from George Pal on VHS
microjoe | 02/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I highly reccommend the VHS of this movie, it is not on DVD at the time of this review. This film is an example of great 50's sci-fi from special effects wizard and producer George Pal. The space scenes hold up well for me and are not corny at all 50 years later. I still get excited watching the space wheel over a decade before Kubricks 2001 version. There are no hokey monsters or aliens in rubber suits here, man is his own worst enemy. This movie goes far beyond most sci-fi films of its time, exploring many issues of the human spirit for exploration in the face of danger. For one thing, it has an international cast to people the space station and the mission that it launches to Mars. There is discussion of the danger ahead, disagreements, accusations, forgiveness, and sacrifice. Lots of suspenseful moments. The trip is fraught with danger and a crewman is killed during a tethered spacewalk. The scene of the crew leaving him dangling on his space tether while they continue onward through space is still chilling to me. They finally have a space burial that is very memorable. This is the first film I know of that shows this, and a crewman that loses his mind and tries to sabatoge the journey.
There are some minor glitches here and there, like the gloves that are not sealed to the spacesuits, but other touches like loss of gravity are well done. Lots of great gadgets, and neat spaceships that "transform". While the special effects are fun and look eyepopping for their time, the gift of this movie is in its most subtle moments. This is one to see more than once. The desperation when they are stranded without water is carried off very well, and when they are near death and denying that there is any higher power in the universe a miracle occurs in a scene straight out of "It's a Wonderful Life". The crew is very human, and has interesting interaction with each other.
The scenes of the crew preparing for the journey are comical as only the astronaughts eat space food while the wheels crew gets steak. The astronaught are getting fed up with being under such a tight training schedule and they each have different feelings about the mission. The character actors are a fresh contrast to the usual cookie cutter crew. There is a great scene where a younger trainee is "washed out" by the hard nosed commander. Another intersting moment when another crewmember smuggles himself aboard and nearly dies since he is not in a restraining couch.
The color is good, and the picture is very clean on this vhs, no problems with sound either. Will look better in widescreen, but the quality of picture was close to dvd i=on this well made copy."
SOME CLASSIC MOMENTS FROM 1950'S SCI-FI
Parisonn of Atlantis | Minneapolis, Minnesota | 09/07/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you saw this movie when it was brand-new and you were a 10-year-old boy, it'll always have a special place in your heart.This is actually two movies. The first half is the pedestrian, uninspired one as preparations are made inside an orbiting space station -- nicknamed the "Wheel" because of its shape -- for man's first flight to Mars. The situations and dialog here are laced with that oafish humor which George Pal apparently felt was necessary to sugar-coat the movie's more technical aspects.Once the ship is launched, however, things markedly improve and the movie's second half contains scene after scene which still linger in the memory even after more than 40 years: the encounter with an asteroid, the burial in space, the landing on Mars, the snowfall during a Martian Christmas, etc.Three members of the cast went on to greater renown. Eric Fleming soon starred in TV's "Rawhide" series with Clint Eastwood. William Redfield piloted a miniature submarine through the human body in "Fantastic Voyage." And Walter Brooke later said one word in "The Graduate" to Dustin Hoffman -- "Plastics.""