Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
John Archer and Warner Anderson
DESTINATION MOON (1950). Director: Irving Pichel. Produced by George Pal. In Technicolor.
General Thayer (Tom Powers), recognizing that the government is reluctant to spend on space travel during peacetime and after one of their rockets exploded, appeals to the private sector in the form of industrialist Jim Barnes (John Archer) for help. Barnes and a select committee of businessmen employ Dr. Charles Cargraves (Warner Anderson of The Star) to build a new rocket that will fly them to the moon. Thayer is afraid that a foreign power will beat them into space and be able to fire missiles from the moon. Learning that the authorities will block them from performing certain tests, causing delays, Thayer, Cargraves and Barnes -- plus technician Joe Sweeney (Dick Wesson of Starlift) -- take off in their rocket, "Spaceship Luna," in a hurry. They encounter some complications in space, and on the moon come to realize that one of them may have to be left behind ...
pulling away from earth's gravity
Destination Moon, based on a novel by Robert Heinlein (who co-scripted), was one of the very first big-screen sci fi movies of the fifties. Unlike Rocketship X-M, which debuted the same year, it is generally serious and intelligently told. A scene when one of the men, making repairs, floats away from the ship, is suspenseful, as is the ending, when a fateful decision must be made, and the actors are all satisfactory and credible. The FX, including the fairly elaborate moon set, are quite good for the period, and pretty much hold up well today. The movie is low-key but effective, greatly bolstered by Leith Steven's [Julie] excellent and majestic scoring. A very odd moment occurs when the men argue about who should be left behind and Cargraves never even mentions his wife! Director Irving Pichel also appeared as an actor in many movies.
Verdict: Absorbing George Pal production that generally avoids melodrama -- and giant spiders. ***.