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  • I recently picked up the DVD of this film for a look. I originally saw it in 1951 when it got to my town on the bottom of a double bill with the western of the day. At that young age, the screaming cave-girl was my most vivid memory, but I liked it. Also saw it maybe 20 years ago on VHS. Still pretty good. Lloyd Bridges was cool, underplayed the whole part. On this last viewing, it's still a good sci-fi flick but from a vastly different point of view. The science as since provided by the real rockets that have been put into space was fairly on the money, especially the two-stage rocket explanation. Since special effects are practically nil, the look is O.K. The fiction, on the other hand was way, way out there. Please note, that all instruments were manual and mechanical and calculations were done with pencil and paper. Not a digital instrument or computer in sight. The idea of doing the Mars locations in Sepia-tone was as brilliant as it was cheap, as well. Lloyd Bridges and Morris Ankrum were head and shoulders the most talented actors in the cast of otherwise good players. Ankrum especially ,always under-rated, could read a grocery list and make it sound important. It also didn't hurt that Kurt Neuman put the whole thing together, either. This film probably inspired in it's own way a lot of young people to explore science and space exploration for real.
  • Sterno-28 October 1999
    Warning: Spoilers
    Rocketship X-M should be viewed by any serious movie buff for the following reasons:

    1) It is one the first -- and the few -- movies not to have a happy ending. Doubtless the effect was more profound in post-World War II America than it would be today, but nonetheless the sad ending adds to the film's message.

    2) It is also one of the first movies to deal with space travel in a serious fashion, using space as a valid setting for drama. The lack of scientific background notwithstanding, the movie stands on its own as dramatic fare. It's not so much a space drama as it is a drama set in space.

    3) The anti-nuclear war message is delivered in a serious manner that is not lost in sfx involving large grasshoppers, men, or animal. The effect of Martian society from nuclear devastation is starkly and frankly presented. The fact that the survivors from the expedition crash land and as such are unable to preach the lesson learned on Mars adds another element of sadness to the tragic ending.

    Sterno says take a ride on Rocketship X-M.
  • Rocketship X-M is a solid film, and is a darker, less optimistic effort than 1951's "Flight to Mars". The 50th anniversary DVD edition is amazing, and the "Sepiacolor" scenes on the martian surface are quite effective.

    Buffs will notice that the very brief (5 second) image of the ship on the surface is a different image than in the original. The use of Death Valley for the Martian surface (at dusk) is much more effective that in scenes from Flight to Mars, which were probably all shot in a studio. Lloyd Bridges is in love with himself even more than he is with the German girl scientist on board - which is kind of nauseating - but overall, the film is a favorite.

    Classical music lovers will take note of the music score by Ferde Grofe, better know for his Grand Canyon Suite and other orchestral works.
  • Writer-Producer-Director Kurt Neumann put together an excellent ensemble cast, and accomplished having Lippert Pictures finance this $96,000 venture in 1950. This is a simple picture that works due to fine direction, players and technical staff. Karl Struss, one of Hollywood's most admired photographers, lensed the picture. One of the best known American composers, Ferde Grofe, wrote the musical score, and one reviewer found it more original than John Williams' STAR WARS score. Although the technical knowledge that exists today dates the picture somewhat, this picture is not campy because it has a serious tone to it, and most audiences key in on that. The original soundtrack recording of the score received an LP release on the Starlog label during the 70's. There are now moves underfoot to re-record the entire score for a CD release, possibly in 2001.

    ROCKETSHIP XM received some updates in the 70s, when some new special effects scenes were shot and released on VHS. This version is currently available from video sources.
  • Despite what we would now consider laughable scientific goofs, this science-fiction film carried itself well as a dramatic film. The actors were all solid professionals. The Martian settings were believable. The sentiments, while a bit pretentious, were sincere and laudable. It was an early attempt at mature science-fiction and succeeded better than many more polished, but cynical efforts that came later on.
  • Some films are blessed (though the producers would argue) by having less money with which to work. "Rocketship X-M" (the initials represent "eXpedition Moon") relies therefore upon, ahem, a real Story, with Acting, rather than flash and effects. That's why a half-century later, the well-remembered "RX-M" has held up so well. (An analogy could be drawn with the co-incidental 1949-1955 television series "Captain Video and His Video Rangers", where the bulk of budget also went towards quality writers and cast.) John Emery is - surprise!- a good guy here.

    Osa Massen, one of the screen's most photogenic stars ever, is radiant. The whole cast carries through the forgivable inconsistencies with style. Ferde Grofé's music takes us from exultant triumph to eerie mystery and, finally, into bitter realization of what the RX-M crew discovers, the utter waste of an entire civilization. (Remember the real-life "face" on Mars?) Grofé well-illustrates the withering madness in the crew's panicked escape and return attempt. And the final moments aboard the doomed RX-M are of the stuff that makes for great film. I saw this in theatrical release, and you, too, will find "Rocketship X-M" one of your most memorable. Highly recommended to all.
  • This is one I've carried in my memory for years.

    Without the Technicolor budget of George Pal and Robert Heinlein's "Destination Moon," "Rocketship X-M" succeeds in becoming a far more meaningful and memorable pre-"2001" science fiction film.

    "Destination Moon" attempts a "scientific" preview of man's first lunar visit. Of course, this effort seriously dates the movie (I also smile at the rather whimsical, seat-of-the-pants, "outsider" endeavors of our heros as they manfully put forth, launching their rocket one-step ahead of the narrow-minded "authorities." Okay, so much for that!).

    Rocketship X-M had to vie with "D.M." for entertainment bucks at the box office. X-M's b&w budget (with special effects courtesy of White Sands V-2 stock footage and model-making of the string and cardboard variety) didn't allow the producers to throw a lot of "science" at us, however. What they did have going for them, however, were a few excellent character actors doing star-turns for a change of career-pace, a script by Dalton Trumbo, music by Ferde Grofe, and excellent -- and evocative -- sound and camera work...etc.

    Granted: The film's overall messages are a bit simplistic -- nuclear war is bad and should be avoided and the human spirit for exploration and discovery cannot be put down by failure and difficulty (I guess they never considered budget shortfalls as a "failure of spirit"). These ideas are, at least, given voice here during what was, after all, a dangerous era in American politics. Remember, Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted!

    The science? Okay, it sucks. Who cares!? Science fiction, to my liking, is less about science and numbers than it is about people and life. This has all of that and carries it forward with distinction and class.

    When I first saw this movie as a kid, I remember being truly frightened by the bleak view of a post-apocalyptic Mars and shivered in disbelief then terror at the onrushing tragedy of the about-to-crash rocket bearing the two doomed lovers and their sole-surviving crew-mate (a young Hugh O'Brien) to a fiery demise over the Ural Mountains. The producers did a terrific job with what they had and they deserve a great deal of credit.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Rocketship X-M was released about the same time as Destination Moon at the cinemas and was one of the first movies that started the 50's sci fi craze.

    A rocket blasts off to the Moon, but because of a malfunction, they end up on Mars instead. When on Mars, they explore and discover a ruined city of a past civilization and are attacked by some cavemen type creatures. These are the survivors from that civilization. After exploring, the crew head back to the rocket to return to Earth but it crashlands after running out of fuel, killing all on board.

    The movie is tinted red for the Mars sequences and the special effects are quite good considering the low budget.

    The movie stars Lloyd Bridges (Sea Hunt, Around the World under the Sea), Osa Massen as his love interest, Morris Ankrum (Invaders From Mars, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers), John Emery (Kronos), Noah Beery Jr and Hugh O'Brian.

    I found this movie rather enjoyable and is worth checking out.

    Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 5.
  • This movie is great in its predictions of how space travel would take place in the future (remember, it was released in 1950, way before any manned rocket launches). Of course there are some mistakes, but overall I am impressed how accurate they are. The plot is extremely simple, but the ending is in style with the realism it portrays (although not very hollywood-like) Acting is adequate, but stereotype of its age.

    All in all, an enjoyable movie for SF fans
  • Hot on the heels of George Pal's publicity blitz for "Destination Moon" producer Lippert punched this quickie out in an attempt to cash-in at the box office. Pal threatened to sue if Lippert took his rocket to the moon at Pal's advertising expense;Lippert decided to avoid the court and 'knocked' his rocket off course-hence a trip to Mars ensues. Or so the legend goes! what remains is a tight sci-fi soap opera featuring a great supporting cast, and an ominous prediction for our future. By today's standards it is better than "Destination", and made for a fraction of the cost.
  • irv_l20 October 2005
    Ferde Grofe, one of America's great composers, was somehow persuaded by Lippert Productions to write the music score for their low budget production of ROCKETSHIP X-M. It is a wonderful operatic score, because RXM, after all, is a space opera. The main title is heroic in nature; the weightless music conveys that feeling perfectly, and there is a lovely tune, begun by a solo violin, that suits Lisa and Floyd's mild flirtations perfectly( very similar to THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY by Tiomkin, but written two years earlier). When the ship approaches and lands on Mars, the theremin is included in the orchestration for music that truly sounds alien. As the crew faces doom as they attempt to return to earth, the music takes on very dramatic moods. The picture's music ends with an upbeat Hollywood thrust. This is truly one of the outstanding sci-fi scores, and except for an original soundtrack LP album on the Starlog label (released in the 1970s) it has been virtually ignored. This score deserves a new and updated recording.
  • I've seen some scenes from this movie in a documentary about 50's sci fi movies called Watch the skies. Directors such as George Lucas, Spielberg or James Cameron talked in this film about his favorite sci fi films and Rocketship X-M was one of their favorite ones. So, i decided to downloaded it from Edonkey, because i live in Peru, and here is IMPOSSIBLE to find this kind of films. Unfortunately, i saw the film without Spanish subtitles, so, i didn't understand the dialogs well. Despite that, i think the plot is quite understandable. The tragic ending is great and the vision that the producers of this film had, 17 years before the first trip to the moon and even 6 years before Yuri Gagarin was the first man in the space, makes this an essential film. The plot may be not so "scientific", but i think is an unforgettable film. I could see this film again in a TV channel or in a cinema.
  • Got to remembering this old flick lately and decided to try to find a copy. Imagine my suprise when I found it in a dual pack which included "Destination Moon" (1950). Bought them both in a heartbeat! Although both are "primitively" produced I personally think they did a good job for what they had to work with. I would be a gas to see a remake of both using todays technology.
  • I low-rated this film for years -- but for all the wrong reasons. There's one key scene in the film, and if the viewer misses the point of this scene, the whole story seems ridiculous and badly done. Some sci-fi fans tend to reject stories that have a spiritual element in the plot. Don't reject this one until you've given it a fair chance. The story involves a lunar mission which suffers engine failure en route. After repairing the engines, the ship accelerates too fast, causing the crew to black out. When they regain consciousness, they discover that the ship is within a few hundred thousand miles of Mars. This is the part that used to bother me. How the heck could a ship accidentally go to Mars? The odds against this are about the same as the odds against evolution being true (oops, that different soap box. Continuing...) But the scientist in charge of the mission specifically states that the only way this could have happened was by the act of a `higher power'. Most reviews do not mention this important idea. The rocket did NOT accidentally go to Mars. You'll have to watch the movie to find out why the `higher power' brought them to Mars. Suffice it to say, the reason was good enough to have been copied by dozens of later films. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. And while your watching, keep your ears open for the great music by Ferde Grofe, with the very first use of a therimin in sci-fi films. During the 1970s, the rights to `Rocketship X-M' were bought by Wade Williams for $2,000 (what a deal!). He had seen the film as a child and loved it. Williams shot a series of redone special effects scenes which are now part of the prerecorded tape and DVD. He even makes an on-screen appearance as one of the characters in a long shot of the ship on the Martian surface. Consider the irony in this -- Williams saw the movie as kid, and LATER he actually appeared in it! Marty McFly, eat your heart out!
  • Okay, the special effects now look incorrect, and the science now looks erroneous, and the men are pigs, but the big point of the movie is still valid. The hogwash talk of needing an "unassailable base" on the Moon is also found in Destination Moon (a more-expensive comedy with a cartoon and sidekick), and Lippert's other (silly) Project Moonbase. But this movie has more to say. I was startled as a kid seeing this when it came out, and still love the love story (Lloyd B asked the director to excise it, for Heaven's sake), and especially the red-filtered (sepia tone on DVD) sequence of the sandstone-hills marchers. The DVD is so clear that you can see a Pleasantville city in the matte-painting distance?! Anyhow, I bought a Geiger Counter and went into Big Science because of this movie. Destination Moon, on the other hand, kept me from joining the Military! (See October Sky for the other side of the story.)
  • Despite this picture being produced quickly and cheaply in order to capitalize on the publicity generated by George Pal's big budget 'Destination Moon,' this movie is better than a lot of scifi flicks produced today costing tens of millions of times more and having our 21st century futuristic technology for special effects.

    It's interesting to note that the film was directed by the German-born Kurt Neumann and features the beautiful Teutonic actress Osa Massen in the female lead. The original version of this film, screened by American audiences 5 years after the surrender of Germany, contains footage of the WW2 German V-2 missile, used in lieu of FX miniature shots of the titular rocketship. The V-2 footage is not from WW2, however. The V-2 film comes from the American rocket program, which in 1950 was still using captured V-2's for testing and development, due to the fact that even 5 years after WW2, the USA still did not have anything that could touch it.

    These facts are interesting because Germany was hugely important to space exploration movement of the 20th century. It was a clique of German rocket experts in the 1920's who first proposed plausible trips to the moon for humans, and who served as advisors for German director Fritz Lang for the silent 'Frau Im Mond,' the first attempt at a serious cinematic depiction of space travel. The space enthusiasts were co-opted in the 1930's by the Hitler regime, eventually designing the A4, which rained indiscriminate technological death upon England in a manner similar to way US drones rain indiscriminate technological death upon the villages of Pakistan and other Muslim nations.

    The German rocket experts were all captured by the US and Russians as Germany finally fell to the Allies in 1945, and they were forced to share their expertise with their captors. One German rocket expert, Werner Von Braun, did well for himself in the USA, designing the mighty Saturn V, which eventually took the first humans to the moon.

    In this film, the lustful American pilot Lloyd Bridges, dressed in military fatigues, spends a lot of screen time trying to put the make on the serious German rocket scientist Osa Massen. It's kind of a metaphor for the USA, ostensibly seducing but perhaps also coercing the German rocket program for it's own uses.

    There are some long, dull sections of this film in the beginning and middle where Neumann should have compressed things...probably he had orders to make this film over 1 hour so that it might pass for an 'A' picture (in those days, 'B' pictures were frequently just at the one hour length). And there are numerous scientific boners, like a zero gravity environment where a jacket floats but humans don't.

    At the same time, there are a number of visuals, such as the meteor scene, where you can appreciate the ingenuity of the filmmakers, who created these images with almost no money and almost no time, and none of our futuristic technology. The acting is, overall, pretty good, and there are some very nice uses of language in certain parts of the script.

    The scenes filmed at the launch center and inside the rocket, are spartan and atmospheric in a way that makes the film seem more realistic than it actually is. (The later Lippert feature, Flight to Mars, which used the same rocket sets, is inferior to this film.) As is often the case, black and white film stock gives this feature an unintended documentary quality, toning down the unrealistic elements.

    The Martian sequences, filmed at Death Valley, contain some artistic visuals and there is a nice use of the theremin sound, the earliest example I know in scifi films.

    Many others have noted that this is the first scifi film to discuss the possibility of earth being destroyed by atomic war. It should also be noted that this film touches upon all the other major themes of science fiction films of the 1950's: human space flight, alien races, the planet Mars, and atomic mutants.

    Despite the primitive FX and numerous scientific boners, Neumann and his writers achieved a tone that is adult and dramatic, all the while avoiding the embarrassing emotional excesses of George Pal's later, big budget Mars film, 'Conquest of Space.' Also, the ending of this film is very different than most scifi films of this period, containing a nice bit of poetic dialogue. This film should be on the curricula of any 1950's scifi film buff.
  • It's good to have the location scenes (filmed in Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon) restored to their original theatrical red tints in the current DVD release. That's certainly a considerable improvement over the washed-out prints circulating on TV in the late 1960s. The black-and-white scenes look great too.

    One thing, alas, that has not improved is Lloyd Bridges' overweeningly smug, self-satisfied, aren't-I-just-too-heroic performance. Mr Bridges here packs all the charm of a cheap carnival barker. Normally he's a very reliable player and I don't know what possessed him to show off. Director Neumann should have imposed some restraints. Although equally hampered by Mr Hampton's tired, if tried and true, additional dialogue, the other players, even Noah Beery, Jr., seem engagingly realistic, even when the story wanders from the highly unlikely into the utterly impossible.

    Still, although the movie pretends to offer scientific and astronomical facts, its sole purpose is to entertain and this it does reasonably well. In fact, production values look so impressive overall, it's a wonder to me that the picture came in at a negative cost of only $94,000! Lots of "crowd artists" pack the benches in the briefing scene, but many of these "reporters" are actually behind-the-camera personnel who have been suddenly (if briefly) thrust into the limelight. There was no sign of photographer Karl Struss in the crowd, but I think I recognized producers Lerner, Lippert and Neumann.
  • Soon to celebrate its 50th anniversary, this landmark film can still hold an audience with its tightly-constructed plot, well-sketched characters, and sense of awed adventure.. .
  • I´d been dying to see this movie for many years, but never really got to the point of bying it..until now. I feared that it was going to be a bit boring and down on earth to much. But it wasn´t that at all. Instead we got 77mins of highly powerful space stuff. The engines shut down and they drifted off into outer space. And finally they found themselves near Mars instead of the moon that was planned. So they land on Mars and explore a bit. They find buidings of a acient civilization and soon they stumble on....well maybe I shouldnt tell you all the good stuff, you´ll have to see for yourself. Anyway Rocketship X-M is a great sci-fi movie and I give it 8.5 of 10
  • skallisjr3 April 2005
    I first saw this when it came out in the theater. Though only 13 at the time, I was an avid reader of "hard science" science fiction stories. The technical gaffes of the film are burned into my memory.

    Some of the following may have significant spoilers.

    Even as a youngster, I knew the premise is silly. The rocket takes off for a lunar mission, in a cosmos where there is always a gravitational effect on the crew (though loose objects float as in zero gravity) and because of that, the "cabin" (the area with the controls, whatever they called it) was gyrostabalized to maintain the "correct" orientation (so that when they landed, why didn't they land standing on their heads?) and where, at least in near-earth space, the rocket engines had to be running continually -- with propellant combusting away without an oxidizer. When the engines quit, the rocket stopped _dead_ in space, and couldn't start going until a PhD chemist determined it needed at a little oxidizer. This time, the rocket recalled it had momentum, and the next thing our heroes know they're near Mars (even a 13-year-old nerd knew such a minimum-energy trip would take over 200 days).

    They land, find the air was breathable (though at the time scientific data revealed that the pressure, even if the atmosphere were pure oxygen, would be too low to do any good). They decide to camp outside the ship, and even build a campfire. They come armed, even though they were supposedly going to the Moon, where firearms wouldn't be needed.

    They get a sight of a collapsed civilization, encounter stray martians who look just like people, develop an anti nuclear war philosophy, and those who survive try to get back to the home planet, and die in the attempt by crashing on the Earth! To do that would require such a long orbital period, they'd have died of starvation long before approaching their destination.

    The film it preceded, Destination Moon, used real science most effectively (even though their "rescue" with the Oxygen Tank forgot about the moment arm from the tank's center of gravity to the output nozzle). This film showed woeful ignorance of even the most basic science. Only the most technologically illiterate should think of it as a science fiction film: it's on a par with the old Flash Gordon serials where their rocketships took off from their bellies and climbed in spirals, and whose engines were always on.

    The story on this one I considered banal, and I can recommend this only as a film to be shown to students for them to pick out technical gaffes.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is one I've carried in my memory for years.

    Without the Technicolor budget of George Pal and Robert Heinlein's "Destination Moon," "Rocketship X-M" succeeds in becoming a far more meaningful and memorable pre-"2001" science fiction film.

    "Destination Moon" attempts a "scientific" preview of man's first lunar visit. Of course, this effort seriously dates the movie (I also smile at the rather whimsical, seat-of-the-pants, "outsider" endeavors of our heroes as they manfully put forth, launching their rocket one-step ahead of the narrow-minded "authorities." Okay, so much for that!).

    Rocketship X-M had to vie with "D.M." for its box office. X-M's b&w budget (special effects courtesy of U.S. Army White Sands V-2 stock footage and miniatures of the string and cardboard variety) the producers made a last-minute choice to not throw a lot of "science" at us and to take us deeper into space than the moon. What they had going for them were some excellent character actors doing star-turns for a change of career-pace, a script by Dalton Trumbo, music by Ferde Grofe, and excellent -- and evocative -- sound and camera work...etc.

    The film's overall messages are simplistic -- nuclear war is bad and should be avoided and the human spirit for exploration and discovery cannot be put down by failure and difficulty (I guess they never considered budget shortfalls as a "failure of spirit"). These ideas are, at least, given voice here during what was, after all, a dangerous era in American politics. Remember, Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted! The science? Okay, it sucks. Who cares!? Science fiction, to my liking, is less about science and numbers than it is about people and life. This has all of that and carries it forward with distinction and class.

    When I first saw this movie as a kid, I remember being truly frightened by the bleak view of a post-apocalyptic Mars and shivered in disbelief then terror at the onrushing tragedy of the about-to-crash rocket bearing the two doomed lovers and their sole-surviving crew-mate (a young Hugh O'Brien) to a fiery demise over the Ural Mountains. The producers did a terrific job with what they had and they deserve a great deal of credit.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A perfectly plausible story of five astronauts who take off in a 1950s space ship, make a wrong turn, and land on Mars instead. After that, things get kind of hairy.

    I understand this was rushed into production while George Pal's far more lavishly budgeted "Destination Moon" was being shot, with the aim of beating the bigger and more publicized film into theaters. Well, the haste, the lesser budget, and the lesser thought, shows in "Rocket Ship X-M." Not that it's a BAD movie. I mean, it's not a Buck Rogers serial. But the difference in quality still shows.

    The five astronauts are Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., and Hugh O'Brian. All are professionals and pull off their roles without disgracing themselves, though neither can any be outstanding. How could anyone give an outstanding performance while uttering lines like, "Reduce speed level two"? Lloyd Bridges was evidently lucky enough to have his hair stylist stashed aboard somewhere because his Lenny-Briscoe haircut is never mussed. Noah Beery, Jr., is the requisite ethnic or regional type, in this case the Texan who uses double negatives and brags about the size of his state.

    The script, written by Kurt Neumann with additional dialog by Orville K. Hampton, at times stretches its arms out towards the literary. Osa Masson gives a colorful description of a Swiss lake under the moon, "the water like cold coffee." Somebody had to think about those lines. And Bridges manages a quote from Kipling. Okay -- Kipling -- but the quote is an apt one and someone had to have read the poem before writing the script.

    What the film has in the way of the odd sparkle in the dialog, it mostly lacks in science. Robert Heinlein was not the technical adviser here, as he was on "Destination Moon." When "meteorites" zip past the errant space ship, they do so with an ear-splitting WHOOSH. The distant earth looks like a map in a high-school geography text, with starkly etched tan continents and primal blue oceans and not a cloud in sight. ("Destination Moon" got that right.) The astronauts walk around in outer space as if they were in their living rooms, although some objects have a habit of arbitrarily popping up into the zero-gravity air.

    Osa Masson, an attractive young scientist, gets some occasional needling from the men. There are comments about her icy devotion to science and her "feminine intuition." She asks if they think she should have stayed home and baked and raised children. "Isn't that enough?", asks Bridges. It's very un-PC, naturally, but Bridges ends up suggesting that it's possible "to go too far in the other direction too," a fairly reasonable observation, not exactly anti-feminist.

    Osa Masson is a tough babe and can take care of herself. What was far more disturbing was Morris Ankrum as the Big Mahoff back on earth, briefing the reporters on why we need to go to the moon. His explanation? "To establish unassailable bases" so that we "can control the peace" -- just as we're controlling the peace now, I guess.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The pioneering 1950 sci-fi film "Rocket Ship X-M" was way ahead of its time in regards to its message and also in terms of serious dramatic content provided by an "outer space" movie. Considering the low budget (even for 1950) for this "B" movie, the cast is solid with Lloyd Bridges, Hugh O'Brien, Noah Beery Jr. and Osa Massen along for the ride. The plot seems simple enough; a spaceship lifts off for a mission to the moon with five astronauts aboard. During their flight, they encounter a severe meteor shower which violently pulls their craft out of its orbit and points them towards Mars instead. Of course, that scenario is slightly scientifically implausible in today's modern physics, but this is 1950 and anything's possible. After landing on the Red Planet, the astronauts discover the remnants of a technically advanced civilization that was far superior to anything ever developed back on Earth. The astronauts soon surmise that somehow the civilization destroyed itself, possibly by a nuclear war. What happens next is the crux of the film and lingers with viewers long after the final reel. There are survivors from Mars' past after all, but now they're nothing more than primitive cavemen. Frightened by these "intruders," they attack the astronauts and send them scurrying back to their ship. Dangerously low on fuel because of their long detoured journey to Mars, the astronauts blast off and attempt to return to Earth. But there's no happy ending for Rocket Ship X-M.

    This movie makes some obvious points about the Cold War atmosphere of the early 1950's and the constant threat of nuclear war. There's no question that the filmmakers wanted the audience to understand exactly how drastic things would change if something like that happened. Living as cavemen wouldn't be too far off the mark. Although this film has certainly dated since its release nearly sixty years ago, its message holds true today just the same as it did back in 1950. It wouldn't take much to send us all back to the Stone Age. So next time you vote for president...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film beat the more highly publicized Destination Moon into the theatres in 1950 and thus kicked off the tidal wave of science-fiction movies that followed. It may not have been as realistic as the latter, but it was sure as heck a lot more fun. Despite some really hokey dialog and wildly improbable developments (aim for the moon, but hit Mars!), Rocketship does what every good movie should-- it holds interest throughout.

    The opening scene is especially impressive with its well-stocked news conference and especially the booming countdown to blast-off. Already there's an air of thrills to come. Sure, the characters are a collection of movie stereotypes-- the jet jockey (Bridges), the likable yokel (Beery Jr.), the sexy scientist (Massen), the stern chief (Emery), and the rather unsteady engineer (O' Brien). Nonetheless, each is played with conviction, and in a real casting coup, there's the lordly Morris Ankrum back at command central.

    Lippert Pictures was a budget-minded company to put it kindly. Thus it's to producer-writer-director Kurt Neumann's credit that he gets so much out of the material. Note the early scene where the crew climbs up to the control compartment. The opening shot of the rocketship interior could have simply placed the crew already in that central compartment and saved some money. But it doesn't. Instead Neumann has the crew climb through the rather impressive guts of the ship, thereby creating a more believable and eye-catching transport. It's touches like this that help compensate for the occasional triteness.

    Speaking of touches, how well I remember audience reaction to the Martian girl when she opened her eyes to reveal two blanks. The audience let out a collective shriek. Of course, that was 1950, still a long time before today's super-sophisticated special effects. But I doubt if any of today's effects produced a stronger reaction than those two all-white lenses. (Question-- is that lipstick I see on the girl in this 1976 enhanced version?)

    There's also a subtle subtext in the movie's latter half. 1949 was the year the Soviets first tested an atomic bomb, thus establishing the possibility of the Cold War going nuclear. Note the pointed comments crew members make about the destructive potential of radioactivity once they discover its effects on the Martian civilization. That would appear to be writer Neumann making some timely observations on a menace then beginning to emerge. On a similar note, Ankrum's closing insistence that space exploration must proceed despite an ill-fated first effort is years ahead of its time, and likely the first such declaration in the movies or any other popular medium. Then too, it was rather gutsy to crash the survivors on their way back to Earth. That unhappy ending warned audiences of the human cost that exploration would inevitably take.

    Setting aside its strictly commercial aspects, the movie does a lot better than would normally be expected of a Lippert production, becoming rather prophetic in its own modest way. I think that's one reason for both the movie's cult status and general durability long after most contemporaries of the 1950's have faded away. Rocketship X-M remains a minor classic to this day.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I like this movie and have watched my copy twice since acquiring it a few weeks ago. But you have to view it in the right context.

    I haven't checked on the dates, but I bet this movie came out after and certainly around the same time as the Collier and Walt Disney popularisations of the vision of spaceflight being promoted by W.Von Braun. This is reflected in the attempt to seem factually correct and scientific. However, whilst certain ideas are put across ( step boosters, for example ) roughly correctly, other things are hilariously wrong.

    For example, we are told that a rocket ascends to an altitude and then turns ninety degrees to enter reaching the top of a flight of stairs and turning onto the landing! Then we are told that by turning in the direction of the Earths rotation the total velocity of the ship is increased accordingly.

    This is an hilarious misunderstanding of what really happens. Most space launch centres are located as near the equator as possible where the Earth and anything on its surface is rotating at roughly a thousand miles per hour, including any rocket departing to space, in an Eastward direction ( the same as the rotation of the planet ). Of course, if the ship turned to travel westwards once in space, its speed in relation to the surface of the Earth would be greater, but it would add nothing to the actual velocity of the vehicle. Decsribed in this movie as "air speed"!

    Similarly, we are told that the travellers only feel free-fall, or "weightlessness" when they reach some thousands of miles from the Earth, outside of the planets gravitational field. Again, comically incorrect. Most crewed spacecraft travel no higher than a couple of hundred miles up, but as long as they ( and, their contents, including crew ) are travelling at an adequate velocity that their momentum in an outward direction balances the pull of gravity inwards, they will orbit in free-fall. Of course, travel far enough from Earth and even a slow object will coast outside the Earths gravity well, but in order to leave Earth orbit, outwards ( towards the Moon for example ) requires the attainment of "escape velocity", around twenty one thousand miles per hour. So the vehicle will have already attained "orbital velocity" ( and "weightlessness" ) by definition.

    But the movie has vastly more hilarious stuff than this. Someone decided it would be more fun if they missed the moon due to a technical problem, fell asleep for a few days and then woke up to find they had accidentally gone to Mars! The captain then ruminates to the effect that this must have been divine intervention! At which point, any pretence to being scientific is torn into little pieces like confetti and thrown upon the wind amid the merry dance of an increasingly barmy plot.

    The strength of a film like this in fact is in illustrating "how far we've come". Not least in attitudes to women. The patronising drivel heaped upon the female crew-member is both hilarious and also shocking.To think that such attitudes were so recently "normal".

    As I said at the start, I find this film very entertaining, as a late night, lights out romp through the romance of travel in outer space, from the perspective of the days before it had actually happened. An antidote to the cold routine of spaceflight as it has now become in the Twenty First Century.

    I won't reveal the ending. It is both brave and shocking for a movie of this vintage and character.
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