Rocketship X-M (Kurt Neumann / U.S., 1950):

"Donít underrate it: moonlight is potent." The countdown to blastoff is already on at the beginning, no time to waste, gotta beat George Palís Destination Moon to theaters. To "control world peace" is the interplanetary projectís stated goal, Kurt Neumann dispenses with formalities and hustles the crew into the top-secret metallic Roman candle. Into the darkened vacuum of Styrofoam meteors for Rocketship Expedition Moon, egghead commander (John Emery), chauvinistic pilot (Lloyd Bridges), resolute chemist (Osa Massen), stalwart astronomer (Hugh OíBrian) and obligatory comic relief (Noah Beery Jr.) all marvel at the cosmos right outside the porthole. The wry joke is that the futuristic vessel veers as off-course as Columbus, so that Mars replaces the original lunar landing for a snapshot of Earth down the atomic path. Exploring the New World in skimpy oxygen masks and aviator jackets, the voyagers encounter their own self-destructive reflection in the red planetís belligerent, depleted humanoids. (Scraggly Death Valley panoramas are tinted copper for the alien topography, a reminder that Zabriskie Point is indeed a science-fiction fable.) Kipling is explicitly quoted ("The Wind that blows between the Worlds..."), Percy Shelley is reworded ("Rock and sand, sand and rock"), and still Dalton Trumboís screenplay saves room for a paraphrased Einstein warning ("From atomic age... to stone age"). The plunge back home strikingly reverses the loversí ascent in Cocteauís La Belle et la BÍte, just the fecund note of doom and wonder with which to launch a new decade of cosmic visions. With Morris Ankrum, Patrick Aherne, and Sherry Moreland. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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