The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast: S1E4

Riders to the Stars: A 50s sci-fi moive.

The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast: S1E4

Start of Transcript:

Hello, and welcome to the 1950s Science Fiction Podcast. During the fourth episode of the series, I will be discussing a favorite movie of mine. Riders to the Stars was produced by Ivan Tors and released by United Artist in 1954. So far, I hope that you have been enjoying my podcast. As I have said before, I am new at this so, I am still learning about how to create a good podcast. I do ask for your patience when it comes to editing flaws and other mistakes on my part. I hope the podcast is audible to everyone and clearly understood by anyone. Please feel free to send any feedback by messaging me on whatever app you listen to your podcast. Now on the episode.

Lobby card.

Riders to the Stars Introduction:

Riders to the Stars was made independently by American movie producers but used a well-known studio for its release. The movie was co-produced by Maxwell Smith and Herbert L. Strock, with Ivan Tors being the principal. Ridders, directed by Ricard Carlson, who starred in it as well. The film co-started William Landon, Martha Hyer, and Herbert Marshal. The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmak, from an original story by Ivor Tors. The movie got released on January 14, 1954, with a running time of 81 minutes. Riders to the Stars was shot in color for theatrical release but had B&W prints made for TV broadcast. The movie is number 2 in a 3 part series produced by Tors. The other two I may discuss in a future podcast.

A government worker looks over a print with a selection of names.

Riders to the Stars Introduction:

Riders to the Stars was made independently by American movie producers but used a well-known studio for its release. The movie was co-produced by Maxwell Smith and Herbert L. Strock, with Ivan Tors being the principal. Ridders, directed by Ricard Carlson, who starred in it as well. The film co-started William Landon, Martha Hyer, and Herbert Marshal. The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmak, from an original story by Ivor Tors. The movie got released on January 14, 1954, with a running time of 81 minutes. Riders to the Stars was shot in color for theatrical release but had B&W prints made for TV broadcast. The movie is number 2 in a 3 part series produced by Tors. The other two I may discuss in a future podcast.

The Begining:

The movie starts by showing technicians tracing a space probe via radar. After the probe lands, it disintegrates on impact. This effect baffles the scientists in charge of a top-secret project. The project is a government-funded program designed to put humans into outer space. The head of the project, Dr. Donald Stanton, played by Herbert Marshall, decided that the problem lies with cosmic radiation. Upon the suggestion of a female scientist, Dr. Jane Flynn, played by Martha Hyer, that meteors may hold the solution to the problem. They believe that meteors have certain metals that protect it from breaking apart on entry into the atmosphere. Therefore Dr. Stanton decided on a course of action and contacts the Pentagon in Washington.

Dr. Stanton on the right.

Upon receiving the request from Dr. Stanton, the dept of defense conducts an intensive search for qualified individuals. The results yield 12 men who may possess the needed skills for the secret project. A government agent dispatched to each of the chosen persons presents an invitation to participate in a project should he decide to accept. The agent explains that he knows little about the project, and secrecy is paramount. Each recipient is transported to an undisclosed location and meets with Dr. Stanton along with his associates.

Dr. Stanton explains that he still can not reveal the reason why they are there. However, he does ask for the applicant's patient and cooperation; he further explains that special tests are needed before they can proceed in the selection. While waiting in a large room, the group is told to make themselves comfortable and will be called for soon. During this time, the group is under observation by a person within the applicants. The observer is not one of the applicants but an expert in human behavior. After observing the group for two hours, he checks in with Dr. Statnton and gives his results. He eliminates a chain smoker and one other applicant who panicked after he tried to leave the locked room.

James Best plays a selectee who doesn't like to be locked inside a room.

The slection contuines.

Once the first round of tests is over, the selection process continues with fewer applicants. The next round of tests is more physical and endurance in nature. The tests include putting a man in a centrifuge to see how well he can stand mutable G-forces. The applicants undergo a hand and eye coordination test as well. One of the test subjects, Dr. Richard Stration, who is also the son of the project head, does exceedingly well in the centrifuge test. He can withstand 13 times the gravity of Earth, as demonstrated by the centrifuge instruments. The result gets the attention of the project heads and, they realize he is a prime candidate for their mission.

The staff monitors the test.

The decision.

After some more testing, the applicants become narrowed to four candidates for the project. These include Dr. Stanton's son, Dr. Jerry Lockwood, played by Ricard Carlson; and two other candidates. Now it is explained to the candidates what the project is all about. Dr. Stanton explains that each of the chosen men will pilot a rocket ship to capture a meteor in flight and bring it back to Earth. Dr. Staton emphasizes how dangerous the mission will be to anyone who accepts the position. Therefore one of the requirements for the job was for the applicants to be single. All of the applicants are not married, however,

Dr. Jerry Lockwood was considering a marriage proposal. He does persuade the project heads that this will not cloud his judgment. Therefore he does get selected.

Dr. Lockwood tells his fiancee that he will be gone for a while.

Not all of the candidates agree with the goals of the project. One, in particular, doesn't agree with Dr. Stanton at all and believes that he is using the technology to weaponize outer space. The candidate decides to quit the project leaving only three pilots.

During the discussions, Dr. Lockwood brings up the question of why do you need a human pilot when you could try a computer-controlled ship. Dr. Stanton states that the needs of the mission require a human being because only a human can make crucial split-second decisions. Also, a computer would be too large for the rocket ship as well, considering this was the early age of computers and micro processers haven't become of age yet.

Dr. R. Stanon discusses the rocket with a tech.

The Flight.

So now, three of the candidates get themselves ready for flight. During a preflight briefing, Dr. Stanton shows a film depicting mice during weightless while in a test capsule fired into space. He talks to the pilots about the effects of zero gravity on the body and how it would affect them. Should the mission become successful, they will be the first human beings to fly into outer space.

Dr. Stanton and his son.

During the preparation and testing phase of the project, Dr. Richard Stanton strikes up a romance with Dr. Fyln. The two become very involved with each other despite the danger he faces. It creates another plot point in the story.

The timing of the flight is contingent on a group of meteors headed to Earth. The swarm of meteors is under observation by the Mount Palomar observatory. Dr. Stanton plans to time the flight to the closest approach of the meteors. It will call for split-second timing for every pilot to execute their command at the controls of the rocketship.

Getting ready for blastoff.

The Interception.

After Dr. Santon learns the meteors' time of approach, he calls for the pilots to be ready for an early blastoff. Tensions are running high at this instant, and the rocketship is checked and rechecked. Dr, Stanton tells his son to be careful and follow the instructions by the ground control.

behind the controls.

All three get suited up in a specially designed spacesuit. All men are nervous but confident they will succeed. The men take off at the same time and head straight for the meteor swarm. Once they are close enough, they will use a scoop inside the nosecone of the rocketship to capture a meteor. The first one to get close is Walter Gordon, the third man to accept the mission, played by Robert Karnes. Unfortunately, his rocketship explodes on impact with the meteor. Next up is Dr. Lockwood, who is about to try an interception but suffers a mental breakdown after seeing the dead body of Gordon floating toward him. He then panics and tries to exit the rocketship only to steer it away from Earth, headed for deep space.

Gordon's corpse floating in space.

One chance left.

Now there is only one chance left to intercept the meteor, and that lies with Dr. Richard Stanon. Stanton maneuvers his rocketship toward the swam and the scoop ready, but he misses the swarm.

However, he sees a fragment crossing his flight path and decides to capture it. He informs ground control of his intentions and ignores their objections; ground control is concerned about his fuel usage and whether or not he can return safely. Stanton manages to capture the fragment in the net of the nosecone. Then makes his way back to Earth while low on fuel. He starts re-entry into the atmosphere with great difficulty, his helmet fogs up, and almost all of the power is gone. He nearly loses control but crashes in the desert near the rocket base. A recovery team raced to the scene and found Dr. Richard Stanon unconscious in the pilot seat. He receives a dose of oxygen from medical technicians and recovers quickly. His father looks over the wreckage for the nosecone and finds the meteor fragment intact inside the net, thus accomplishing their mission. The movie ends at this point.

The wreck of the rocket ship, notice that Richard Stanton is inside the wreckage.

My thoughts on the movie.

I first watched this movie on a late-night Saturday evening during the Horror host featured movies from a local TV station. I watched the film in its Black and White version and later in color. I was in my early teens at the time. I loved watching the movie the first time, and I continue to enjoy it even today. What I love about this movie the most is the use of hard science though out the film. It gives the movie a very realistic feel and authority to the plot. Riders made creative use of stock footage of rocket launches and related activities. Most of it was rocket testing at White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico. However, one of the more striking sequences I watched in Riders used a radioactive pill that Dr. Richard Stanon took while in the centrifuge. An X-ray machine showed how his month and lungs worked during the increased gravitational forces.

Overall I think it is a good movie for its time. The writers stayed on the cutting edge of science in technology for plot points in the story. It was not unlike the techo-thillers we see today. Riders are the type of movies that inspires children to grow up and become scientists and engineers. Also notable was the role of Dr. Jane Flyn her character was there to do serious scientific work. The romance between her and Richard Stanton was secondary. As to the main plot of the movie, I don't think that scientists ever captured a meteor to examine its contents to see if it had material that would strengthen metals. I did some fact-checking and found that materials for space probes were from materials such as kevlar and other materials, not from meteors. However, I did learn that the harsh environment in outer space can erode metals over time, and cosmic radiation does play a part in it. So the movie was not too off its mark.

Conclusion.

Well, that is all, for now, thanks for listing to my podcast. I hope to return as soon as I can with another podcast episode on 50s sci-fi. Please, feel free to subscribe and leave comments. Also, check out my vocal media profile page, where you can get a written transcript of the show and extras as well.

End of Transcript.

The movie.

scifi movie
Edward German
Edward German
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Edward German

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

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