Destination Moon (Irving Pichel / U.S., 1950):

Jules Verne by way of Robert A. Heinlein, the staid harbinger of the Space Race for a "disunited world." Altmanís Countdown is visible in the opening shot, the camera tracks away from a sign to reveal the fenced-in testing site, the rocket takes off and plunges back down into the desert. "The most expensive pile of junk in history" is the current state of interplanetary crusading, science (Warner Anderson) and the military (Tom Powers) team up to change all that. Spaceship Luna has its naysayers, namely a pesky government determined to wrap the titanium firecracker in red tape; a roomful of plutocrats pick up the slack after Woody Woodpecker spells things out ("comic-book stuff"). George Palís knack for adventure needs a less grayish director than Irving Pichel, whose mid-distance shots further chill the square procedural. The sense of wonder comes through nevertheless, long-winded patriotism is alleviated by the illusionism of tiny lights poking from behind a black velvet cosmos. The deadpan ithyphallic gag of the takeoff sequence gives way to humorous nausea in zero gravity, magnetic boots climbing the shipís metallic walls anticipate Astaire in Royal Wedding. Chesley Bonestellís matte artwork envisions icy and cracked surfaces awaiting the astronauts, a glimpse through the porthole gives la terra vista dalla luna, sufficiently stirring. (Dick Wessonís proletarian radio technician scrambles to put the expeditionís amazement into words: "Wow! Geography books were right.") The extensive list of successors (from The Sound Barrier and War of the Worlds to Rally ĎRound the Flag, Boys! and Dark Star) vindicates the closing credit: "This is the end of the beginning." With John Archer, Erin OíBrien-Moore, and Ted Warde.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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