3 Classic Sci-Fi Films Of The Silver Age: Missile To The Moon * Earth Versus The Flying Saucers * Planet Outlaws (DVD triple film review)

May 29, 2015 | By | Reply More

I’m looking at these small collected volumes as a cheap means to look at some early Science Fiction B movies. Here, we have three on one DVD.

3ClassicSFFilms-DVD

Missile To The Moon (1958)                         68 minutes

cast: Tommy Cook, Gary Clarke, Michael Whalen, Richard Travis, Cathy Downs, K.T. Stevens, Nina Bara and Leslie Parrish

MissileToTheMoon

Two escaped convicts, Gary (actor Tommy Cook) and Lon (Gary Clarke) hide in a space rocket but the scientist Dirk Green (actor Michael Whalen) tells the police the rocket is empty when he spots them. Green persuades them to become his crew and launches for the Moon and takes two of his associates, Steve Dayton (actor Richard Travis) and June Saxton (actress Cathy Downs) when they get on-board to see what is happening.

They aren’t joking about it being a missile as the stock footage reveals as V2. After evading a meteor shower, Green is killed by some falling equipment but passes Dayton the message not to change course.

On the Moon, the remaining four are attacked by polyst…sorry, rock beings. Escaping into a cave which has an oxygen atmosphere, they can shed their spacesuits. Gary tries to leave and unseen to them is captured while they succumb to gas. All four of them wake in the palace of Orlando and the blind Ledo (actress K.T. Stevens) is the queen. It is an all-woman society and Ledo thinks first of all that Dayton is Green because he has the latter’s diamond medallion. With a limited air supply, anyone who isn’t functional is killed but Ledo wants their spaceship to escape in. Dayton thinks it safer to pose as Green but after one of the women makes a move on him, June attacks and the secret is out. Alas, there is also a rebellion by Alpha (actress Nina Bara) but Ledo is stronger willed for now.

Gary, meanwhile, has come across their supply of diamonds and is eager to take some back to Earth showing his criminal ways. Did I say there was a giant carnivorous spider? Only one, mind you. Alpha tries to hypnotise Dayton but stopped by the Ledo but is ultimately assassinated. Zema (actress Leslie Parrish aka Marjorie Hellen), though, is determined to save them.

Back in 1959, little was known about real space travel but it hit on some things like exploring gee-force and evading meteorites. No one corrected them that in space that they are still called meteors but that was a common misconception even today. Their spacesuits are also a bit primitive but, then, even NASA was still working that out.

The print has a little damage but it’s also kind of rare. The film is atypical B movie fodder but watchable. Oddly, the rockmen are implausible but great fun.

EarthVsFlyingSaucers

Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)                                  85 minutes

cast: Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Morris Ankrum

‘Earth Versus The Flying Saucers’ is probably of more note for Ray Harryhausen’s special effects than either the plot or cast and I suspect he did it more for the money than personal taste. After all, no dinosaurs or fantasy creatures, purely flying UFOs. The plot is given away in the title. I’ve seen most of the effects movies Ray Harryhausen contributed to but this one was the exception and can’t recall being shown on UK TV and only even saw the odd photograph.. This film is based off Donald E. Keyhoe’s novel. Aliens come down to Earth, a brief spell of negotiation and then all-out war with a scientist coming up with an invention that can beat them. You can’t help watching this film and recognising its later day children like ‘Independence Day’ as having a similar plot.

Rocket scientist Russ Marvin (actor Hugh Matlowe) and his wife/secretary Carol (actress Joan Taylor) have a close encounter before the eleventh rocket launch of Project Skyhook which puts a satellite into orbit. Brigadier General John Hanley (actor Morris Ankrum) reveals to Marvin that previous satellites have been destroyed and something is going on. It makes Marvin ever more eager to send a twelfth rocket up to find out what was going on in orbit.

It’s very much in the ‘B’ movie category with a straight path from problem to solution with no one worried about the fatalities at end. Harryhausen’s effects are pretty effective even in black and white. Things were a lot simpler in the 1950s.

 

Planet Outlaws (1953)                                   69 minutes

cast: Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe, Jackie Moran, Constance Moore

This is the first 1939 ‘Buck Rogers’ serial condensed into a single film as ‘Planet Outlaws’. Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe plays the Colonel and his side-kick George ‘Buddy’ Wade is played by Jackie Moran.

PlanetOutlaws

Transporting a top secret gas, their airplane crashes and they are in suspended animation until 2500 and get recruited by the rebels against the dictator ‘Killer’ Kane. Of course, it’s Buck who gets most of the good ideas and the future people back him. Across the hour, they visit Saturn and convince its people to not trust Kane’s people and get them on their side. Don’t forget, even back in the 1950s, it was still thought that there was life on other planets. Do I need to tell you how the story works out?

Although the spaceships look like flying irons and the squibs flying them certainly didn’t look effective, I couldn’t spot the wires. There was even a couple ray blasts which I was surprised at them being capable of at the time, especially when there were moans at the expense of doing phaser blasts in ‘Star Trek’ a little over a decade later. The ideas of what the future looked is still very much…er…Buck Rogers but depended more on the comicstrip then working out from scratch.

Having not seen the original serial, I have no idea if the introduction and ending by a man saying that future wars would be fought in space and that space travel would be a regular occurrence by the year 2000. Well, just a little. It probably fed the imagination of the kids at the time that even when we moved out into space that we would still be fighting amongst ourselves.

Overall, these three Science Fiction films present an interesting selection from the ‘B’ range that probably won’t appear on televsiion mostly, I suspect because they are in black and white. Getting them in one cheap package is a lot cheaper than buying them separately.

GF Willmetts

May 2015

(pub: Classic Entertainment CE 040. 1 DVD 3 black and white films. Price: about 10p (UK) if you know where to look)

Category: Films, Scifi

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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