Robert Heinlein's vision of space travel and the future of man are depicted in his second cinematic space travel adventure, his first being "Destination Moon" three years earlier. Colonel Breiteis, a female rocket pilot, a... more »nd Major Moore, her co-pilot, are selected to orbit the Moon to survey a landing area for a future expedition, but a ruthless Russian spy-scientist aboard the ship causes it to land on the lunar surface, stranded and out of fuel. Will they live or die in these dire circumstances? Writer Heinlein gives us thrilling ideas of an orbital space station where people walk on the walls and ceilings, a rocketship that looks much like the real one that landed on the Moon in 1969, the American Space Force, commie spies and a woman President of the United States. Full Frame - B&W - English - Mono« less
"Somehow this movie never played on TV in my locale (Milwaukee/Chicago) when I was a horror-crazed kid (unlike apparently every other cheap SF flick of the period). For fans of low-budget 1950s space operas this is a terrific find. Project Moonbase neatly straddles the fence between "serious" science-fact specimens such as Destination Moon or Riders to the Stars and tacky "babes in space" fare like Cat Women of the Moon or Queen of Outer Space. It shares a similar look and feel with all those films and other typical titles of the era from Astor, Allied Artists, UA, and other independents, such as Missile to the Moon, Fire Maidens of Outer Space, War of the Satellites, etc. Co-written by pioneering modern SF icon Robert Heinlein (Destination Moon, The Puppet Masters, Starship Troopers) and low-budget western producer Jack Seaman, PM contains enough sober "speculative fiction"/rocketry tech stuff to satisfy hardware geeks as well as plenty of cool atomic-age design and forehead-slap-inducing sexism ("I ought to turn you over my knee and spank you") for irony-wallowing bad cinema fanatics. `Genre' names peppering the credits include director Richard Talmadge (the silent movie star, stunt man, and 2nd unit director); Ed Wood's house cinematographer, William C. Thompson, and makeup man, Harry Thomas (unfortunately no one gets their face burned off with acid in this); former Columbia art director Jerome Pycha (Riders to the Stars, Unknown Island, Prehistoric Women), and future director (Cry Baby Killer, Twilight Zone, Lost in Space) Justus Addiss.
The year is 1970, the United States has a floating space platform, and the government is about to embark on exploration of the moon. The Russkies, who look and sound like Midwestern businessmen, find out, and decide to sabotage the operation by commandeering one of our spaceships and crashing it into the space station. To accomplish this, they infiltrate the mission with one of their 350 (!!) Exact Doubles of Prominent Scientists that they just happen to have lying around. After some talky explanations of gravitational principles by General "Pappy" Greene (Hayden Rorke, I Dream of Jeannie's Dr. Bellows), Major Bill Moore (Ross Ford), and Colonel Briteis (pronounced "bright-eyes," cringe now) played by Donna Martell (Rocky Jones: Space Ranger) are selected, along with the doubled Dr. Wernher, for the mission to observe the dark side of the moon, much to their mutual consternation. See, Maj. Moore and Col. Briteis used to be an item . . . . During these set-up scenes it seems like you're in for one of those dry Gog type of flicks, but hang in there, things start to pick up once the space flight gets underway. For some reason they scream and sweat profusely on takeoff (?!), and they all wear easily the silliest uniforms ever seen, comprised of tee shirts, short shorts, big honking belt buckles, and demure felt aviators' caps, which look cute on Ms. Martell but laughable on everyone else. Once they arrive at the space station we get a docking-with-the-space-wheel sequence, crazily angled sets, some (intentionally?) hilarious scenes of crewmembers matter-of-factly walking on ceilings and sitting on walls, and "please don't walk on the walls" signs posted in the corridors. (These scenes are strangely prescient of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey; could this be one of the dozens of SF flicks he screened while preparing his masterpiece?). Bill, Col. Briteis, and the fake Dr. Wernher take off from the station on the observation mission, Bill suspects Dr. Wernher's true identity (he's unfamiliar with the Brooklyn Dodgers!), they're eventually forced to ditch their craft on the Moon, and Bill and Wernher go EVA to set up a communications relay. Throughout all this we get lots of nicely realized spaceship and moonscape sequences, conceptually on par or better than anything in a comparably-budgeted movie, forgiving a few laughably obvious gaffes. I also love how it appears that people on the ship's view screen seem to be simply sitting behind a hole in the wall, and late-night TV junkies will fondly nostalgia-trip on the B&W "target" test pattern they occasionally display. It all climaxes (spoiler alert) with an incredible only-in-the-50s "family values" denouement wherein the downed craft is proclaimed Moonbase #1; the now-clinching Bill and Briteis are "ordered" to get married by Dr. Bellows, er, General Greene since they'll be cohabiting on the Moon until a rescue mission can be mounted; the president of the United States turns out to be a woman (!!); and Maj. Moore jumps Col. Briteis just as the closing titles fill the screen. While not as patently ludicrous as Cat Women, Fire Maidens, or Queen of Outer Space, Project Moonbase is similarly bent in its own unique way, and easily as entertaining (the 63 minutes fly by). Fans of cheap B&W 50s space epics cannot fail to be entertained. Highly recommended.
This is another in Image's generally outstanding Wade Williams Collection and doesn't fail to impress. For a movie of its poverty-stricken pedigree the print is spectacular, with excellent black level, contrast, and brightness; rich gray values and crisp shadow/highlight detail; and virtually no damage save some very light speckling and spotting. As near to pristine (as claimed on the case) as could possibly be expected. The only extras are 12 chapter stops and a lightly speckled and lined but otherwise very nice looking trailer. A bare-bones yet essential addition to the DVD library of any 1950s SF aficionado."
Wretched/Quaint by modern standards, but...
A. S. Templeton | Seattle, WA USA | 09/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a 1953 follow-on to the 1950 Destination Moon (see also), this work is interesting in that it features the va-va-va-voom Donna Martell as Heinlein's typically strong but ultimately submissive female lead. Not necessarily bad unless you're a feminist, I guess; still she, like other Heinlein heroines, comes across sharp as a tack compared to the rather obtuse hammer-sack jocks she's compelled to work with.The paternal commander played by Hayden Rorke (aka Dr. Bellows in I Dream of Jeannie) is obviously a stand-in for Heinlein himself -- think of SiaSL's Jubal Harshaw in uniform -- who bizarrely shows his kink in threatening to spank his unruly female subordinate. Definitely creepy.This work anticipates Kubrick's 2001 etc by 15 odd years, but scans like the other straightforward, stiffly acted clunky space operas typical of the time. The plot and situations are adult and so I would not recommend this movie for preteens."
Spies in space
Dr. Freeman | Perry, Iowa United States | 12/15/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Shorts, tight t-shirts and funky skull caps are the uniform that will be worn for space flight in the 1970's. Actually this movie was somewhat accurate in the depiction of space flight. As seen through the eyes of people in the 50's im sure this was pretty high tech thinking. A commie spy forces a landing on the moon and the astronauts must find a way to survive for they cant get back to the space station. All in all a charming slice of cheese from a time at the hight of the cold war."
Thomas L. Booker | Texas | 02/17/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Curious thing about this film. It made an effort to be accurate. At least as accurate as the gut-level understanding of space flight could be in the early 1950's. There was an effort made to show the loss of a "ground reference" in (what we now call micro-gravity), and by golly there is no sound in the vacuum of space. There was no rocket roar from the ships in transit to space station, and the moon. Wireless telephones are in evidence, but they will make the viewer laugh...out loud! Aside from the "technical" efforts at accuracy, the socio-political content was woefully juvenile. This is post-McCarthy era science fiction. There are evil commies, and there is no domestic security available to intercept their plot in a timely fashion. There is a woman space commander, but the then extant culture was unable to cope with such a concept (Robert Heinlein was apparently struggling just to allow a professional woman in this script.) She does look great in the cuffed hot-pants that are the speculated unisex ship-board attire. The guys look dumb in the same outfit.
Watch this film. It is a history lesson.
Leadership, For a Change
Mr. Richard D. Coreno | Berea, Ohio USA | 02/10/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"An expedition sets out in 1970 to orbit and survey the Moon while setting a foundation for future U.S. missions. But a mechanical problem forces the craft to land on the Moon's surface and the race is on to solve several mysteries - that includes espionage and plans in the Soviet Union to derail the U.S. project - while rescuing the astronauts.
Author Robert A. Heinlein co-wrote the screenplay (based on a story he penned), with the "film" - edited pieces of an unsold Sci-Fi television series, Ring Around the Moon - being released in 1953. Directed by Richard Talmadge, it features women in a variety of top leadership positions - on the mission and in politics - while exploring the possibilities of space travel in a realistic manner.
Through the Sci-Fi genre, it ultimately is a neat peek into the concept of leadership - for a change - through a superpower rivalry on Earth that takes spycraft into outer space."