Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

MISSILE TO THE MOON


MISSILE TO THE MOON (1959). Director: Richard Cunha.

Missile to the Moon is one of a series of astronauts-encounter-beautiful-women-on-a-sinister-planet films of the fifties, which include Queen of Outer Space, Fire Maidens of Outer Space, and Cat-Women of the Moon (of which Missile is a loose remake). None of these would be considered great movies, but they are fun to watch if taken in the right spirit. For one thing, many critics over the years seem to have ignored the fact that these films – certainly Missile to the Moon – were made for juvenile audiences. Some critics, such as Bill Warren in his entertaining “Keep Watching the Skies!,” rant about the ineptitudes of the film and its dumb science, which seems besides the point when you consider that it is clearly a fantasy “comic book” movie geared for children. Missile is actually entertaining in its own dopey way, far more so than its model Cat-Women of the Moon. We have a collection of gorgeous women trapped in an oxygen-rich cavern inside the moon; a giant spider “dark monster” that eats sacrifices; rock monsters that blend in with cliff walls and then pull away to clunk after their victims; a cat-fight between the heroine and the moon bitch who has her eye on the hero; and the enormous bosom of said bitch Nina Bara, who stabs her leader (or “Lido”) in the back so that she can be ruler of the dying (all the men are gone) little moon community. Years before he made this film Richard Travis co-starred with Bette Davis in The Man Who Came to Dinner; his career went on a downslide that never quit (at least Jim Davis, who had been with Bette in Winter Meeting, eventually wound up on TV's Dallas). In Missile Travis plays a scientist who inadvertently goes along with his girlfriend (Cathy Downs), their colleague who built the rocketship, and two escaped convicts on a trip to the moon. Tommy Cook is fairly vivid as the nasty little Gary, and Gary Clarke is competent as his fellow jailbird, Lon. Laurie Mitchell, who played the Queen of Outer Space, has a small role in this and gets eaten by the unconvincing, wiggly prop spider and Marjorie Hellen, another one of the moon gals, betrays some sensitive acting skills that are generally unappreciated in movies like this. (Later she changed her name and became better known as Leslie Parrish.) Nina Bara chews up the scenery (some might say she acts with her breasts) but she's undeniably vital if not downright operatic. Travis merely proves that he really wasn't much of an actor. Several alleged beauty contest winners were chosen to fill out the cast but they are merely decorative; not one of them gets to say a line. Cathy Downs gets the best dialogue: Looking around at the gorgeous moon women, she says “ If I'd known there was going to be this kind of competition I'd have undressed for the occasion.” {DVD available from Image Entertainment. Includes some interesting publicity and backstage shots in a photo gallery extra.}

Verdict: Entertaining nonsense. **1/2.

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