September 30, 2001
This fifties film features excellent special effects and astonishingly weak writing. The film's plot involves the first manned (well, no women are allowed) expedition to Mars, with a lot of painstaking work to show what it would "really look like." One of George Pal's efforts, typical of his work in the fifties, this film attempted to show audiences what travel in outer space would "really" be like. The result is a fascinating look into the past, with terrific special effects (given how long ago it was), but ultimately a turkey. I remember seeing this film when it first came out. The opening shots of the space station, and the ship coming up from earth with passengers, were terrific. Plenty of weightless space-suited guys (sorry, no women allowed in this version of outer space). Once you're inside the ship, though, the film falls apart because of simplistic writing. The characters have no depth, and a subplot involving religious fervor feels just plain ridiculous.The film also falls apart in set design, but remember, it's the fifties. Somehow I don't think real control panels would be dominated by some big buttons and gauges, leaving a lot of blank spaces on the panel where either the art director ran out of imagination or the producer ran out of money. Ditto on board the space ship. For any lover of fifties sf, however, this really is a must see. It's also a cultural monument in its own modest way. Better Pal films would include War of the Worlds and Destination Moon.