Missile to the Moon

Missile to the Moon. Layton Film Productions 1958.

Before watching the movie:

This looks like a typical B-movie sci-fi horror shocker. The all-women moon society might be interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how good or bad the monster is, but the most interesting angle is the fact that the ship is stolen in the first place. So that element probably won’t go anywhere.

Before watching the movie:

Dirk Green is a brilliant civilian scientist who’s made significant advances working on his own, with only the assistance of his partner Steve Dayton, whose fiancée June wishes he could spend more time with her instead of Dirk’s rocket. The night before the military appropriate the rocket, two escaped convicts, Gary and Lon, flee the law into Dirk’s compound and hide in the rocket capsule. Dirk shields them from the police, but tells them that he intends to launch the rocket immediately, and he is effectively conscripting them into assisting. Investigating the activity in the rocket, Steve and June climb on board just before liftoff, and they’re all bound for the moon. Dirk is mortally wounded in a scuffle with one of the convicts on the way, and gives Steve a medallion that will be very important where they’re going. On arrival, the group find a society of Moon Women, the last survivors as the caves they live in lose oxygen, and by the medallion,they mistake Steve for Dirk, their scientist sent to evaluate the Earth as a possible new home, and betrothed to Alpha, the next in line for ruler of the Moon people, but not if June has anything to say about it.

The monster elements were played up, so I was expecting a sci-fi horror, but this is actually a proper adventure story. The gang, pressed together into a journey to an unfamiliar world (that looks a lot like Vasquez Rocks) they didn’t sign up for, encounter a variety of dangers, but they’re just trying to get home. 

There are two monsters used in the story: rock giants and a giant cave spider. The rock giants are actually quite impressive visually, until they move and they’re clearly an actor in a foam rubber suit, but really good work for the time and budget. The cave spider, featured in the poster, looked like something that would be ridiculous on screen, and it did not disappoint. It looks like a one-string marionette made of paper maché and pipe cleaners. The actors earned their pay pretending to be afraid of it.

Apparently, the movie was not originally in color, but the version I saw has since been colorized. I’m not sure if the Moon people being blue-skinned is entirely an effect created by the colorizers or if makeup was employed to give them a slightly-off skin tone at the time. The costuming aesthetic of their society is vaguely Orientalist, but I couldn’t say if it goes so far as to be problematic by modern standards, or just general light appropriation of unfamiliar cultures for the purpose of looking alien.

It’s further unfortunate that aside from one power-hungry woman, they don’t pose a threat, yet their entire race is ultimately destroyed. Stories of this time are often xenophobic beyond their own logic, because proving our superiority to the Not-Us was so much of the cultural background radiation of the time.

This is a fun adventure story with some problems typical of its era. The visuals either work with the story or are entertaining failures, and it’s a decent story to follow along with.

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