Saturday, July 24, 2010

“If he weighed 90 pounds instead of 180, he'd be a Colonel and a public hero and you'd still be a Captain.”

Goodness, is it time for more cinematic schlock? Why yes, I think it is. Today’s Cold War gem comes from 1953 and was something that science fiction legend Robert A. Heinlein effectively disowned, so you know it’s a winner. Here’s Project Moonbase.

In the distant future of 1970 the USSF (United States Space something-that-begins-with-F) (and their tight fitting skullcaps, t-shirts and bicycle shorts) will be sufficiently advanced enough to have orbiting space stations shaped like Frisbees from which a module will finally perform a survey mission to evaluate the possibility of putting a man on the Moon. However, the enemies of FREEDOM and AMERICA (who aren’t outright stated to be the Russians, but it’s a movie from 1953, so you do the math) will be plotting to destroy the space station and sneak a saboteur onto the project. Can the two legitimate astronauts on board the Magellan Space Module prevent that disaster while sorting out their own unresolved sexual tension?

Yeah, that’s it. That’s the plot. Apparently it was intended as the pilot of a TV series, but when it got expanded into a feature film, Heinlein didn’t take kindly to the changes and disowned it.

“Dr. Werhner”: Larry Johns plays both the actual scientist and the damn dirty fifth columnist who impersonates him. There’s not a whole lot to the character other than he’s a spy who’s not exactly thrilled to be a bad guy who answers to a guy who looks like a cross between Bob Hope & Michael Ironside.

Major Bill Moore: Ross Ford plays our square-jawed hero who wants to be the pilot of the survey craft, but because of politics, he gets bumped to co-pilot in favor of his not-quite girlfriend, not-quite ex.

Colonel Briteis: Donna Martell is the pilot of the Magellan and while a capable astronaut, politics had a part to play in her swift promotion. Still, she’s the only character that has any real kind of backstory/motivation, and she also looks pretty good in those shorts, so what the hell, she’s our badass.

Directed by Richard Talmadge, the film is about what you’d expect from something like this. The astronaut costumes aside from the space suits are ridiculous and the spacecraft are absurdly obvious low quality models. The USSF space station (SPACOM, apparently) looks too much like a Frisbee to be mere coincidence.


Still, the rocket effects aren’t that bad, just obviously fake. There are also some gratuitous split-screen effects on the space station to represent the wacky gravity of the station. Think “Lionel Ritchie Dancing on the Ceiling” only with white people and no dancing.

Robert A. Heinlein and Jack Seaman on story/screenplay duty. There is actually nothing good I can say here. Dialogue is bland, characters are flat and the story is dull, dull, dull. It’s as though Heinlein wasn’t even trying. It is a long 63 minutes.

The original music by Herschel Burke Gilbert is about what you’d expect for a Sci-Fi B-Movie. Nothing more, nothing less.

Well, the Moon Landing (which is, of course, as phony as a heliocentric solar system) took place in 1969, so the movie was only off by 1 year. So…I guess that’s… good…? I don’t know, I’m fishing for compliments. Briteis is cute?

Look, this is just a really, really, really boring Sci-Fi movie. There’s no craziness, no memorable characters, not even laughably bad special effects failures. It’s just a big bag of boring. The only way this could possibly be enjoyable is if three people were watching it and making fun of it.

Hmmm….I’ve heard of that somewhere before.

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