1950s rockets to the moon
wiredweird | Earth, or somewhere nearby | 05/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I got this two-pack for about a buck, when some store was closing and liquidating its stock. It was the best buck I've spent in a while, giving two wonderful Eisenhower-era views of space travel. Of course that meant traveling somewhere, and of course that meant the moon.
"Destination Moon" is just a little hard to take straight-facedly today. There's a long interlude early on explaining how a rocket works, in the form of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. The reverential attitude towards American Industry (you can even heard the capital letters when the phrase is spoken) died long before Ernon and the rest defiled its corpse. The guys bounding around on the moon look pretty naive by the standard of The Matrix's wire-work. Even the stereotypes, like the little wise-cracking guy with the Bronxoid accent, have passed away. Still, George Pal's direction and Robert Heinlein's script push this one ahead of the pack.
In particular, ahead of "Rocketship X-M." In this one, the moon travellers make a wrong turn and end up on Mars. (The two were so close to each other, y'know, it was a natural mistake.) If you can go along with that much, you might enjoy this artifact of the 1950s. It's not so much a movie as a series of stereotypes strung together. The rocket's instrument panel would be familiar to anyone who had seen cockpit panels in WWII movies, right down to the artificial horizon (relative to what?) and airspeed indicator, despite lack of air. There are a few zero-G scenes, but weightlessness seems to apply only to objects and not to people. Mars itself is a lot like Earth, but with a Theremin and an orange filter. And that poor leading lady - she could be a woman or a scientist, but not both at once.
Whatever their flaws, these are still good popcorn movies. They capture the era in which they were made, including an glowing optimistic sense that's since been painted over with many coats of cynicism. And, if you have kids, you might appreciate the fact that people watch their language, keep their clothes on, and don't get into bloody fights. (The end of X-M might be a bit much for a sensitive kid, though - use your judgement.)
Far out space operas
E. D. Deuss | Phoenix, AZ | 09/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Destination Moon" and "Rocketship XM" both came out the same year -- but that is where the similarity ends. I consider "Destination Moon" the father of the modern science-fiction film. The quality of the production and the gorgeous Technicolor® give this film a quality few later '50's sci-fi films would achieve. What helps this flm is the fact that there are no real stars in it -- but very competent and very recognizable actors at the least. "Rocketship XM" on the other hand was a hurry-up film made to beat "...Moon" to the theaters. The B/W print quality is gorgeous, having been restored to its original sharp quality. Lloyd Bridges stars. The special effects for "XM" were decent for their time, but the effects for "...Moon" were ahead of their time. If I were grading these films, I would give "..Moon" a B+, and "XM" a C+. Both films are enjoyable, and make nice companion pieces."