Back in 1969, NASA spent roughly $28 billion dollars to send men to the Moon, that’s $280 billion dollars once adjusted for inflation, but for Hollywood to achieve the “same” result it costs considerably less and in the case of some studios even less then what you’d pay for a used car, which resulted in some less than stellar examples of the genre. Basically, the quality of 1950s space adventure film varied from the amazing works found in George Pal’s Destination Moon to the micro-budgeted film we will be looking at today, Missile to the Moon.
Remakes are about as old as the film industry itself and while most remakes fail to capture the magic of the original there are a few that not only match their predecessors but surpass them as well, John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly for example, not so the case with Astor Pictures’ science fiction film Missile to the Moon, a remake of their low budget sci-fi entry Cat-Women of the Moon and a colossal failure in its own right. Not only did the studio spend less money on this remake but they also tried to appeal to the “teen audience” which they not only failed at that but they also much failed at every other aspect of storytelling and filmmaking. The movie opens with Col. Wickers (Henry Hunter) explaining to scientist Dirk Green (Michael Whalen) and his partner Steve Dayton (Richard Travis) that “Missile experimentation is strictly government business” and that “Tomorrow morning a team of government experts will take over and you will see that all your information is turned over to them.” Needless to say, Dirk takes this news badly.
Lucky for Dirk a pair of escaped convicts, Gary (Tommy Cook) and Lon (Gary Clarke), had decided that the best place to hide out from the law was passed an electrified fence and inside a rocket ship. If this seems a tad ridiculous to you gets even more so when Dirk notices the two criminals hiding in his ship but instead of pointing them out to Sheriff Cramer (Lee Roberts), he decides these guys would make perfect crewmembers for a very impromptu launch into space, so at gunpoint, he forces them to help get his ship ready to go. Unbeknownst to him, Dayton had noticed the launch panel lights going on and he goes out to the ship to investigate, bringing along his fiancée June Saxton (Cathy Downs), and they become another pair of unwilling astronauts as the ship blasts off into the great beyond.
Because no self-respecting journey into space would fail to have a meteor shower our hero’s trip to the Moon is caught in a swarm of meteors and this results in Dirk being accidentally killed when a piece of equipment falls on his head, but before he dies he tells Dayton that he must land in the pre-set coordinates and then hands him a strange medallion before uttering a rather cryptic dying declaration “My Lido, forgive me.” And with that mysterious moment Missile to the Moon is off and running with our quartet of idiots landing on the Moon, fleeing from Gumby looking rock monsters, seeking refuge in a cave system, one that surprisingly enough has oxygen, and then being captured by a lunar race of beautiful women that are ruled by a sinister female known simply as the Lido (K.T. Stevens ) a woman who is bound and determined to save her people, all of which seem to be beauty contest winners.
In a fantastic twist, our heroes soon learn that Dirk was originally from the Moon and that he was part of a scientific expedition sent to Earth to see if our planet was a suitable replacement for their dying home and things then become even more complicated when Alpha (Nina Bara), the Lido’s second in command, wants to claim not only Dayton as her mate but the throne as well. What follows is a lot of silliness involving June becoming jealous of Alpha’s interest in her man, Gary discovering the caves are simply littered with diamonds, Lon falling in love with a Moon Girl named Zema (Leslie Parrish) and her mental battle with Alpha – this lunar race determines their leaders by their ability to control minds – and to say any of this is at all compelling, or the least bit engaging, would be a lie as nothing on screen is even remotely credible, from the bad acting to the threadbare sets it’s all pretty laughable, and when the giant cave spider puppet from Cat-Women of the Moon makes its appearance no one should be the least bit surprised.
• It’s one thing for the government to step in and prevent a private citizen from launching a missile into space but they can’t also demand that they hand over their entire rocket and space travel research as well, that’s taking eminent domain a little too far.
• That Dayton and his fiancée don’t try reaching the control room before the launch makes this pair even dumber than the two escaped convicts who thought a rocket ship would be a cool hiding place.
• Gary is a self-professed car thief but committing sexual assault aboard a spacecraft seems something even the dumbest criminal wouldn’t ponder.
• They somehow are able to hear the rock monsters approaching despite sound not being able to travel through the airless landscape of the Moon.
• When they discover that the cave they entered has oxygen Dayton states “First thing to do is get out of these suits” but why? They are in an unknown world and getting rid of your spacesuit seems to me to be the height of carelessness and that they are almost immediately gassed into unconsciousness illustrates just how bad an idea this was.
• Laurie Mitchell, who plays the Moon Girl Lambda, would play the Queen of Outer Space which came out the very same year as this film.
• Due to the dwindling air supply and resources citizens of the Moon are executed if they do not serve a purpose but as there seem to be no men left in this “lunar society” I guess having a penis is no longer important when it comes to procreation.
Reusing sets and costumes from previous space adventures movies was nothing new at the time but to borrow plot elements from your own film, one that was released only five years ago, was a new low even from a studio as cheap as Astor Pictures, that additional plot element of the Lunar people running out of resources and needing our heroes spacecraft to escape their doomed world was stolen from the 1951 film Flight to Mars makes it all the sadder. On the plus side, it’s a fairly short movie and it definitely falls into the “So bad it’s good” category as it can provide some great riffing material for fans of cheesy science fiction films. Basically, if goofy rock monsters and even goofier giant spiders are your thing then you will probably get a kick out of Missile to the Moon.
Missile to the Moon (1958)
Movie Rank - 4/10
If you look past Missile to the Moon’s idiotic premise, its cheap sets and laughable monsters it’s still a pretty terrible movie but it does provide a laugh or two that will make its 75-minute running time bearable.