Rocketship X-M (1950) was the second of the American science fiction feature films of the space adventure genre begun in the post-war era, in 1950. Because expensive special effects and production value delayed the release of Destination Moon, this black-and-white film was quickly shot (in 18 days) so as to be able to make it to the cinemas first with the story of a moon expedition that instead lands on Mars. In the original 1950 theatrical release, the Martian landscape was shown with a red tint.
The explorers wear U.S. Army-surplus clothing, with gas-masks to represent oxygen augmentation. In the first release of the film, these scenes were shot with color tinting, but the originals were lost. In the 1980s, some fans got some body-doubles to dress up the same way so that replacement, matching, shots could be taken using similar film stock at the same sites in Death Valley that were used to represent Mars in the original.
Curious particulars of this film include the trajectory that is prescribed for going to the moon. From standing on its pad, the rocket goes straight up. Once it escapes the atmosphere, it then makes a 90-degree turn. Simultaneously with the turn, the cabin rotates within the rocket hull around a lateral axis so that the floor is always "down" — oriented as in an airplane. Though a few minor objects float from lack of gravity, none of the crew members float due to weightlessness. A meteor storm makes an audible roar in the vacuum of space. All the meteors appear to be the same tri-lobed rock.
Several scenes involving the interaction between the sole female crew member, scientist Dr. Lisa Van Horn, and the male crew, launch staff, and press corps provide insight to 1950s attitudes toward women, both in cultural expectations and attempts to change them. One notable scene involves Van Horn and expedition leader (and fellow scientist) Dr. Karl Eckstrom rushing to recalculate fuel mixtures after their initial problems. When they come up with different figures, expedition leader Eckstrom decides that they must proceed using his numbers. Van Horn objects to his "arbitrary" decision, but submits, and Eckstrom forgives her for "momentarily being a woman." Subsequent events prove Eckstrom to be wrong.
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KURT NEUMANN (1950)