22 November 2011

MISSILE TO THE MOON /1958/RICHARD E. CUNHA

MISSILE TO THE MOON

1958/Director: Richard E. Cunha/Writers: H.E. Barrie, Vincent Fotre

Cast: Richard Travis, Cathy Downs, K.T. Stevens, Tommy Cook, Nina Bara, Gary Clarke, Michael Whalen, Laurie Mitchell, Leslie Parrish   

1958's Missile to the Moon is usually considered to be a remake of Cat-Women of the Moon. I guess back in 1958 a remake was not as big a deal as it is now since there was only couple real decades of film making to swipe ideas from and in the sci-fi department the picking were no doubt thinner than lets say the western or crime categories. He title is a little strange really in that I suppose there is some difference between a rocket and a missile but, as stated above, Cat-Women of the Moon was also released under the title Rocket to the Moon and so maybe there was some copyright issues involved with the title. I cannot find anything online to verify that useless theory but maybe there is something out there if anyone wants to research this. In fact the very same puppet spider used in Cat-Women reappears here to menace the astronauts in perhaps the very same lunar cave. But there are a few differences in the storyline and way the film is made that makes Missile to the Moon a stand alone movie. Missile to the Moon tries to be slightly more serious in tone than Cat-Women and that only adds to the cheesy quality of the film. Both films have their charms and some people prefer one over the other. I am simply torn and recommend the films as a double feature one night and you must make up your own minds.

The crew is about the same as the first film but with some variations in the characters. We again have five people and one of them is a female. However in this case it is not a government backed mission but actually a private mission run by civilians Dirk Green (Michael Whalen) and Steve Dayton (Richard Travis) who are running out of time to prove that the big rocket he built in Dirk's backyard can blast off and make it to the moon. One night while discussing the issue after a military officer has informed them that the government will be taking over their project (since NASA is less capable of building a spaceship than a couple hobbyists) a couple escaped juvenile delinquents make it across the barren, hostile desert to the launch pad of the rocket and decide it would be a good idea to climb aboard and hide in the spaceship until things settle down. One kid is Lon (Gary Clarke) who is the incorrigible punk and the other is the mixed up rebel without a cause but basically nice kid Gene (Tommy Cook from How to Make a Monster). To make a long story short the lot of them wind up blasting off to the moon. Seems Dirk is not happy with the government's intervention in his project and he now has a qualified crew: Steve and his untrained girlfriend and two escaped convicts who never even graduated high school and whom he helped in the decision to become overnight astronauts by pointing a gun at them.



One twist in the plot is that old guy and leader Dirk is killed off on the trip to the moon by when a battery crushes his skull. This leaves only four people to explore the moon later and only one, Steve, who bows what the hell he is actually doing. After roaming around a not too bad looking lunar surface for a while the gang wind up I a valley inhabited not only by lumbering rock monsters but contains sage brush and desert plants, the type you find in back-lot studios around Los Angeles. They panic at the site of the slow moving rock people and wind up in a cave with puppet spiders and luscious moon girls. This time they are not dressed in black leotards but in swim suits and togas. The moon maidens are made up of various beauty pageant contestants in one sequence they march out before the camera as though they were walking out before a panel of judges. Over all the film at this point really becomes indistinguishable from Cat-Women (if it has not already). Gene falls in love with a moon girl but the romance is doomed. Lon wants all the diamonds he can carry back to earth and his greed costs him his life by slow moving rock monsters that an old lady in a wheelchair could escape from. The moon women are a dying civilization and Queen Ledo wants Steven to become her King but everyone escapes at the last minute and make it back to Earth safely.

Both movies are full of goofs about the moon and space travel that we in our enlightened age know all about. But that is real fun of a film like this in the first place. Who knew back then, for certain, that throwing a book of matches from the dark side of the moon to the light side (as in Cat-Women) that it would not burst into flames. Well, probably anybody that went to two years of college at least but the films are lots of fun and not bad looking. They epitomize the white guy in the lost civilization of hot babes sub-genre more than most any other film did hat I can think of off the top of my head. As stated the films influenced many other movies that followed in the 60's and still to this day what red blooded male would not like to be the sole source of DNA for a lost race of sexy gals in black leotards or silky togas?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cat Woman may have been re-released under the title Rocket to the Moon, this was often done when films were re-released, maybe to give the impression that it is not an old film being released again.