Missile to the Moon (1958) dir. Richard E. Cunha
Starring: Richard Travis, Cathy Downs, K.T. Stevens, Tommy Cook
Review by Greg Klymkiw
Truly great science fiction is rooted firmly in science fact. “Missile to the Moon” is just such a motion picture. Directed with passion and panache by the great Richard E. Cunha, audiences will thrill to the care and effort taken to plunge us into a celluloid world that reproduces – blow by blow – what it truly must be like to travel in space and to walk, ever-so-boldly on the surface of the Moon. What especially will blow your mind is the astounding accuracy of what actually exists beyond the boundaries of our atmosphere.
First and foremost is the painstaking attention to the details of what an actual space program must be like. Even though the picture was released in 1958, it’s so ahead of its time that one can only apply the word “visionary” to its awe-inspiring use of fact and fiction to transport us to a reality not quite achieved either before or after this picture was made. At the beginning of the movie, a group of scientists are seen on the cusp of sending a missile to the Moon. The chief scientist reveals to his colleagues his incredible rocket and while some might mistake it for a crudely carved phallus against a cardboard backdrop, they would be … well; uh … they would surely be mistaken. Many missiles look like phalluses (or is the plural “phallusi”?) and who really knows what anything looks like from the launch bridge of a place like Cape Canaveral. Unless one has actually been there personally, it might well all look like painted cardboard.
Secondly, how can one possibly ignore the accuracy with respect to security at the launch site? In a world where crazed terrorists can hijack passenger planes and fly them into buildings, surely it is possible to believe that the crew of the first missile to the moon could be manned by two petty criminals who wander into the top secret launch site and hide in the missile itself. In light of the realities of a world where Osama bin Laden continues to reign supreme and plot his revenge upon the infidel, does it not take a visionary like Richard E. Cunha to show how a missile can be manned by a scientist and his girlfriend who accidentally find themselves on the launch pad and eventually in the ship itself?
Thirdly, the travel into space itself is handled with customary adherence to fact – everything from the accurate use of seatbelts to the meteor shower of paper-mache-like boulders that threaten the missile and finally, how it does not really affect the missile’s use of fuel and/or resources to have several unaccounted-for passengers on board.
And last, but certainly not least is the stunningly accurate rendering of the Moon itself – a world where the rocks have arms, legs and pointy heads and appear to have been brought to life by Art Clokey himself, a world with giant spiders (and unless we’ve seen one up close, how do we know they don’t look like puppets?) and an entire race of babe-o-licious women who rule the Moon with firm, but gentle hands.
Is this picture a pile of crap? It sure is. But what a pile of crap! This is no guilty pleasure. One must feel pride in relishing every delightfully absurd moment of this undeniably entertaining movie that is so idiotic that, like the work of Ed Wood, it’s impossible to believe that Cunha and his collaborators had no idea of what they were doing. Of course they did, and for the good of the picture, and for entertainment value that has spanned the decades since its first release, Cunha and company delivered a fast, fun and insane little picture.
The Legend Films DVD is also a lovely way to see the picture. It presents both the black and white version and a colorized version in addition to the inclusion of some 50s TV commercials as extras. If truth be told, however, and in spite of the excellent colorization job, I preferred the black and white version, because the colorized version chooses to deliver all the babes on the moon with skin that is colored green. Green just doesn’t inspire the proper degree of manhood engorgement that the straight-up black and white rendering of the babes most certainly does.
"Missile to the Moon" is available on DVD from Legend Films. Buy it here: Missile to the Moon