Saturday, February 6, 2016

CONQUEST OF SPACE (1955)


During the Fifties, when you saw the colorful Paramount title screen with its ring of stars surrounding a mountain you expected a spectacle. So it is a bit surprising to find this B-movie on their project list. Predicting what thirty years in the future will be like, this George Pal production also predicted that his phone would not ring much after this disappointment.

With nearly an all male unknown cast, it does star some familiar faces destined for future television fame. So unknown are these actors, the cast is not listed until the very end. Perhaps guilt pushing the producers to add them during their final editing session. Phil Foster, not surprisingly miscast as the “in your face” Brooklyn electrician, is the one actor most hope will not make it back to Earth  He is repeatedly complaining or questioning their mission in a desperate attempt at levity. How this dimwit passed the space program no one knows. Eric Fleming and Ross Martin also star, the latter garnering fame a decade in his future.




In an amazing turn of events, their moon mission changes overnight by an order from command headquarters. They are to go straight for Mars. That is at least an extra two-day drive, buddy! The beauty of science fiction is you can propose anything dreamed up. Still doing that today with the Marvel franchise or the WWF.

Walter Brooke plays the general of the space station and its designer. Now there is an envious resumé. After spending untold millions for the circular station, he now questions their purpose. In Hollywood’s subtle jab at those “odd religious people,” he eventually goes a bit psychotic, thinking man has no right to invade God’s creation and attempts to destroy their spacecraft. His judgement actually impaired due to an illness called, “space fatigue.” I know the feeling after watching this film.




George Pal’s spaceships appear to be created from a Revell modeler’s kit and gleam white against a dark solar universe. These colorful scenes probably provided a bit of awe for baby boomer's parents. Some of the weightless effects do work well and the facial distortions speeding through space are effective, if a bit disturbing. But the Mars landing and landscape is very childlike. The dials on the space station are as big as automobile steering wheels with levers and toggle switches appearing to be built by Fisher-Price.

There is no fantasy quality about this film. If it had such it may have helped all the dreamers become believers. Instead, the approach was to get technical about space travel which only a few brilliant minds could only speculate about in the mid-fifties. Not the worst science fiction movie of the era, it simply went where no movie should have gone. Theaters.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for submitting to the Classic Movie Marathon Link Party.

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