Thursday, March 22, 2012

I've been ordering all the old '50s sf movies I can get from Netflix. The last two were "Rocket Ship X-M" featuring a very young Lloyd Bridges, with a plot so inane that you wonder if the writer finished high school. It begins as a trip to the moon with the rocket heading straight up then making a 90 degree turn to head to the moon. None of that silly orbiting for our heroes. Somehow the ship gets off course and heads to Mars, by incredibly lucky change. There's no mention of where the extra fuel and air came from, but they get there and land only to find an ancient civilization destroyed by war, leaving only stone-age hostile troglodytes. They lose two or three crew members but get back to the ship and take off to earth. This time, their navigation is better and they are able to contact Earth when they get back, but they have insufficient fuel to land and end up destroying their rocket ship. Apparently all the people in the 1950s weren't too sanguine about exploring space. Now I'm watching Flight to Mars, from 1951, statrring Cameron Mitchell and Arther Franz. This time the rocket is aimed at Mars and hits its mark, literally, in a crash landing. The ideas of space flight are wonderful; no space suits, not even uniforms. Earth women have calf length skirts, but they encounter a developed civilization on Mars which welcomes them but withholds it's intentions to follow them back and take over Earth. The Mars women dress like WWII pin-ups, with dress that barely cover their buttocks. There's a romantic triangle with a lady scientist in unrequited love with Arthur Franz. Cameron Mitchell is a reporter invited along for the ride who senses at once what the situation and is drawn to the lady scientist himself. Meanwhile Franz's character meets a Mars maiden and falls in love. She leaks the secret plans of the Martian leaders, but is reluctant to return with the earth men. Instead one of the Martians sends his daughter, Franz's sweetie, to go back and develop trade relations between the two planets, while he remains behind to overthrow the hostile ruling group who wants to invade Earth. Mitchell keeps working on the lady scientist, played by Virginia Huston, and they develop a romance. Meanwhile the plan to leave with Alita (Marguerite Huston) the Martian babe is discovered and she and her father are taken aboard and the ship takes off as the Martians try to stop them. As you can see the second is actually not too bad in terms of a plot. It was produced by Walter Mirisch and despite typical campy effects and sets, the story makes it tolerable, with all the amusing fallacies believed by 1950s writers. It also features an interview with Cameron Mitchell from something called Sinister Image which discusses some of the old drive-in flicks he had made, such as Nightmare in Wax and the rest of his career. He was very good in Flight to Mars and reminds one of Captain Kirk and Kirk Douglas. One wonders why his career didn't take off. Probably because he got cast in a series of heavies parts and some bad horror films. Now I want to see Gorilla at Large.

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