Spaceways (1952) (DVD review).

Have you heard of the 1953 British film ‘Spaceways’? neither until recently. It shows how much exposure this film gets, and perhaps this is one of Hammer Film’s early SF films.

In the past, people believed that Britain had its own top-secret space programme. At that time, we decided we had the expertise, but no one thought about the cost. However, we underestimated the true cost, and we needed military support to launch a satellite into orbit.

At a celebration, amid the cigarette smoke, we see the main players and how they get along together—not all happy. Dr. Stephen Mitchell (actor Howard Duff) knows his wife Vanessa (actress Cecile Cheverau) is unfaithful to Dr. Philip Cranshaw (actor Andrew Osborn). She, in turn, thinks her husband has the hots for Dr. Lisa Frank (Eva Bartok).

Control explains the actual three-stage rocket launch, reducing the need for too many effects and highlighting what goes wrong when it doesn’t complete all its stages. The rocket enters a high orbit and is considered a failure. 630 miles up is a long way to go for orbit. Even our current space stations aren’t that far out. Cranshaw and Vanessa Mitchell are missing. To replace Cranshaw, actor Alan Wheatley sends in Dr. Smith, who is actually undercover and holds a degree in biology, his first love. e. Because he asked too many questions, being undercover didn’t last. Smith also thinks Mitchell killed the pair, stashed them in the rocket, and drained off fuel to get the right balance. We don’t really see much of Smith’s investigation, although he knows Cranshaw had a German degree in engineering and was a spy. Mitchell is hardly cooperative. Lisa Frank has worked out what went wrong, but not the dead body theory. Her theory seems more practical, though, with the fuel tank plastic acting as a catalyst. Mitchell suggests going up in a second rocket to bring the first one back, and Smith agrees, volunteering to go. Smith is experiencing a persistent nagging feeling and exploring alternative options, but this would be too revealing.

Lisa tries to persuade Dr. Toby Andrews (actor Michael Medwin) to go with Mitchell. Although reluctant, he agrees to go, but Lisa convinces him otherwise, and he wears his spacesuit. More spoilers.

All very stoically British. This is more of a detective story than science fiction. Oddly, for its time, the science is pretty accurate. When you check the three writers, SF writer Charles Eric Maine is among them. The majority of the effects remain obscure, yet they provide a hint of what’s happening.

The extra is from 1959. ‘Operation Universe’, running for nearly 26 minutes, explores radioactive material. Quite why the focus on the isotope carbon-14 beats me. Then they shift to showing how boat prototypes are tested in the same place as the dambuster bouncing bomb. They do similar work on aircraft designs. Zeus, a primitive computer, is a sight to behold. We also get to see Jodrell Bank’s radio satellite. There is also an examination of volunteers’ ability to tolerate stress during high-speed space flight. Using medics rather than pilots is odd. Looking at this now, I was appalled at the lack of safety at the time, but it was a learning curve.

I consider watching ‘Spaceways’ to be a significant milestone. After all, it is a Hammer film. Checking up on the film, even the production team wasn’t happy with it. Despite putting pages of logic aside to focus on the work and give the actors something to do, this doesn’t mean it’s not a passable detective movie. It will leave you pondering what happened to the couple for a while.

GF Willmetts

February 2024

(pub: Home Entertainment, 2005. 1 DVD plus extras 76 minute film and a 22 page booklet. Price: varies. ASIN: DD20484)

cast: Howard Duff, Eva Bartok, Alan Wheatley, Michael Medwin, Philip Leaver, Cecile Cheverau, Anthony Ireland, Andrew Osborn and many more


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 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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