Amusingly enough, that movie poster on the left calls Rocketship X-M a story about man’s “conquest of space”, but spoiler alert: it’s not quite that triumphant a voyage at all. Yeah, man makes it into space in that fancy silver craft, but if there’s a conquest here, it’s presented in a pretty stark manner that’s not conducive to anything resembling a “happy” ending. That said, this one’s yet another highly recommended classic that’s worth a look if you’ve never seen it before and yes indeed, it’s worth grabbing a few sci-fi loving friends to take along for the ride. Pack that space ice cream, some popcorn and maybe a clean hanky, but leave your thinking cap on that bedpost, buddy…
While the actual “science” in this low-budget 1950 sci-fi flick isn’t exactly realistic and indeed, laughable (hey, we didn’t send a man into space until over a decade later), this is still a pretty powerful film that manages to be memorable for a few reasons. Granted, it was rushed to theaters to beat out the superior (in every technical aspect, at least) Destination Moon, but the anti-nuke/anti-war message presented makes this gem resonate a bit more than George Pal’s classic (which can be seen as the 2001: A Space Odyssey of its time thanks to all that attention to detail). What works in this little film (shot over 18 days for under $100,000) is the script (from an uncredited Dalton Trumbo – look him up if you don’t know who he is) that adds an interesting layer of sentimentality to the characters. Oh, and the acting is first-rate as well all around.
Of course, you’ll probably be too busy rooting for the crew of the X-M to get out of the rather crappy situation they’ve found themselves in after their moon rocket ends up going WAY off course (as in not scientifically possible) rather than look to deeply for hidden messages. Then again, that excellent Ferde Grofe score plus the decent acting are compelling enough reason to sit down and enjoy this one for what it is. In other words, flush the insulting (but yes, quite amusing) Mystery Science Theater 3000 version and watch the original movie instead. Some films deserve to be better remembered for what they were back when they were released and not someone’s bastardized joke-book version that pays no respect to something that tried to bring a certain er, gravity to a formerly not so serious genre.
Yeah, it’s a short review, but this is one of those films that just needs to be seen more and talked about afterward. Enjoy the trip and as the old saying goes: be nice to the people you meet on the way up – you’re going to meet (most of) the same ones on the way back down…