The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast S:3:E1
Movie Review: Rocketship X-M
Hello and welcome back to the show. I have been absent from podcasting for a little while due to working a busy schedule. I spend a good portion of my off time remodeling a new home I recently purchased. I am also working longer shifts at my job and less time to podcast. However, my house will compete soon, and I hope to resume a more frequent schedule of shows. Since there was a long pause between episodes, I decided to create a new season for the show.
Today I will discuss and review the movie Rocketship X-M. Rocketship X-M was one of the first sci-fi movies of the 50s. It was released just before the premie of Destination Moon in an effort for the producers to cash in on public interest in space travel. The film was rushed into production to beat the deadline for Destination Moon's release.
Rocketship X-M was released on May 26, 1950, produced and directed by Kurt Newman. I have mentioned him in a previous podcast on the movie Kronos. The male lead is Lyold Bridges, as Col. Floyd Graham. The female leed is Osa Massen, as Dr. Lisa Van Horn. The supporting cast members include John Emery as Dr. Karl Eckstrom, Noah Beery, Jr. as Maj. William Corrigan, Hugh O'Brian as Harry Chamberlain, and Morris Ankrum as Dr. Ralph Fleming. The runtime is 78 minutes and was shot in Black-and-White.
It all starts in the deserted.
The movie starts at the White Sands missile base in New Mexico; four men and one woman undergo a quick medical examination and proceed to another room where a press conference is in progress. The project director, Dr. Flemming, discusses the project while the countdown continues in the facility. Dr. Flemming states that a rocket ship designed to reach the moon, and five people have been selected to go, will depart this evening to land on the moon. The press is allowed to interview the crew before embarking on the rocketship.
The crew consists of the rocket designer, Dr. Eckstrom, the pilot Col. Graham, and Flight engineer Maj. Corrigan, the navigator, Harry Chamberlain, and the only female, Dr. Van Horn, a chemist. Dr. Van Horm aided in the design of the rocket fuel; she is also Dr. Eckstrom's assistant. After the conference, the crew loads onto the rocketship.
Rocketship X-M launches dramatically as the press corps and the project personnel watch from the safety of a block house. The launch is flawless, and the crew experiences g-forces while they lay in military-style cots; moreover, their attire is military-style in design, and they don't wear space suits. Rocketship X-M pushes into outer space and jettisons the first state of the rocket while the crew experiences weightlessness for the first time. Then the rocket engines shut down, and the ship is motionless in space just short of the moon. Dr. Eckstrom and Dr. Van Horn recalculate the rocket fuel mixture to start the rocket back into motion. The two scientists work hours to perform the correct calculations and do so without the help of electronic computers. Also, the ship has no radio contact with mission control due to the transmitter being out.
Not the Moon, Mars.
The two scientists complete their calculations and re-configure the amount of fuel needed for the trip; Dr. Eckstrom orders the navigator to set a new course for the moon. After a new course is determined, the pilot is instructed to accelerate the rocketship. In doing so, the ship exceeds the required velocity and the gravitational force causes the crew to pass out. When they awaken, they find they are en route to Mars instead of the moon. Dr. Eskstrom decides the rocketship must continue to Mars instead of trying to return to the moon. He states that this would be an opportunity lost if we didn't press onward. The crew agrees, and preparations for a landing goes forth.
The ship makes a landing on Mars.
RocketshipX-M continues to Mars, achieves orbit, and makes a flawless landing. At that point, the crew decided to don their gear and make an excursion to the Martian surface. The air on Mars is breathable but thin; however, the crew doesn't use pressure suits but dresses for high-altitude mountains. The attire consists of oxygen masks and heavy jackets with gloves. The Martian surface consists of a desert-like terrain with a red hue in the sunlight.
While the crew is exploring the surface, they find the ruins of an ancient city; outside the ruins is the head of a statue. The two of the crew members examine the statue's head and discover it is hollow and metallic. When they reach the city, some form of hieroglyphics is written on the walls. Dr. Eskstrom determines that civilization became extinct due to atomic warfare. He cites the level of radiation indicated during a Giger counter sweep after landing. Dr. Eskstrom explains how if there are any survivors, they are mutated in appearance. The crew decided to rest for the night and resume the next day. Due to possible dangers, one crew member stands guard while the rest sleep.
After the X-M crew goes to sleep: the navigator, Harry Chamberlain, takes the first watch. He nearly falls asleep when he notices something moving in the Martian landscape; to his amazement, he sees humans. Harry wakes Dr. Eskstorm and the rest of the group, but the humans disappear before being seen. The crew goes to investigate Harry's report, but once they are out in the open, they're attacked by a primitive tribe of humans. The tribe uses rocks, spears, and axes to attack the crew. Dr. Esckstrom and Maj. Corrigan encounters a blind woman during the attack. Her screams alert the tribe of their location, Maj Corrigan is injured and, Dr. Esckstrom is killed while he goes for help. He finds the rest of the crew just before he falls dead with a stone ax in his back. Col. Gram, Harry, and Dr. Van Horn start searching for Maj. Corrigan. Harry gets attacked by a fallen boulder pushed by one of the tribe's men and is injured; they cease the search and head back to the rocket.
A quick departure.
The last three survivors get back to Rocketship X-M safely and make a quick launch into outer space. The rocket is in transit back to Earth, and all seems to be going well. As they get nearer to Earth, Dr. Van Horn notices the fuel gages are reading empty. They soon realize that the ship will not be able to land safely. Col. Gram sends a radio message to project control and informs them of the situation. As Rocketship X-M burns up in the atmosphere, the project director tells the press corps about the mission. When one reporter states the project is a failure, the director announces that is not a failure at all and is a step in the process; he orders rocketship M-2 to start tomorrow.
Some final thoughts.
Rocketship X-M was a decent science fiction movie with a good storyline and good actors. However, it was produced on a low budget but took advantage of production delays Destination Moon experience. Destination Moon, I think, was a far better movie and more realistic in scope. While Rocketship X-M was more adventure with some good science thrown in. Rocketship X-M did have an anti-nuke message in the story, this was not uncommon in some science fiction stories back in the 50s. Atomic war and doomsday were on everyone's minds since the Cold War had just started. Overall, I would recommend any sci-fi fan to watch this movie despite any flaws it may have.
If you want to know more about the movie, there is an interesting article printed in the vintage magazine Starlog. The article explains how film collector Wade Williams managed to save the print from destruction. Williams loved watching Rocketship X-M since childhood and sought to collect it. He had to spend time and money on locating the master copy of the movie. Once he got the copy, he preceded to reshot effects shots and remaster the movie in an era before digital recordings
Well, that is all for now, thanks for listening to the podcast. I plan to return as soon as I can with a new show. Remember, you can follow me on social media, @EdwardGerman3 on Twitter, and shutterbug 1681 on Instagram. Please feel free to follow and support or send me a voice message via Anchor.FM app.
About the author
A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writting on other subjects than sci-fi.
you can follow me on Twitter @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Sciecne Fiction Podcast on Anchor.FM