The first mission to Mars, will be
manned by Dr. Lane (physicist and project leader); Jim Barker (engineer); Carol
Stadwick (Jim’s assistant); Professor Jackson, and Steve (newspaper columnist covering
The mission itself is described as being
“terrifying” and that there is probably “an outside chance of getting there,” not
to mention metaphorical references to climbing a mountain and trying to get
back down. The realisation that there is a negligible chance of returning to
Earth is exemplified by Jackson wanting to do a television interview, the
profits from which he intends to leave to his ailing wife and two
grandchildren, in the event that he does not return.
forty-eight hours in space the moon's gravitational pull requires the crew to change
course. Contact with Earth is eventually lost causing some concern.
sombre mood descends on the crew as Jackson believes he will never see his
family again. In fact, he believes that “this rocket is (his) coffin.” Meanwhile,
Carol longs both for Jim's attention and for a family (“wife, home,
grandchildren”) of her own. Steve (the cad!) then takes the opportunity to
flirt with Carol.
The Mars mission’s rationale becomes
apparent when Lane reminds the crew that their “Flight to Mars” is
essential to humanity's understanding of the universe and their place in it. There is a great deal of talk concerning the
theory of endless universes extending both outward and beyond as well as inward
and within. In addition, after a (noisy,
inevitable and required!) meteor storm damages their landing gear, the crew
must then decide whether to crash-land on Mars or turn back. Jackson is for
continuing and fulfilling their primary mission of data collection. The
decision is made to crash-land on Mars.
On on the surface of Mars, they discover
that there exists an advanced underground Martian civilization populated by
human-like beings who have learned Earth languages from studying Earth's radio
broadcasts. Their own attempts to contact Earth have only been registered as
"faint signals coming from Mars."
The wonders of the Martian civilisation
become apparent when the crew learn that the Martians life-support and other systems
rely on a mineral called corium and that they possess automated systems for
preparing and delivering meals which are made from hydroponically grown food. (This begs the question of why they are
unable to adequately transmit signals to Earth as well as develop
interplanetary space flight!)
Soon the crew seek the help of the council
to salvage and repair their ship. However, as the Martians have almost exhausted
their supply of corium, the planetary leader Ikron suggests that they help the human
crew repair the ship, seize them before take-off and construct a fleet of
duplicate ships to evacuate their own people to Earth. Even though such an
invasion plan will require warfare with Earth, the council votes in favour of
Ikron's devious scheme. As we have already learned, the inhabitants of the red
planet represent a dying civilization of Martians.
A crew of workmen is assigned to the
humans to “assist” with repairs to the ship. Unknown to them they are also
being monitored and reported on to the council by Terris who is assigned to spy
on their progress.
After discovering the deception, the
humans (together with Alita who was earlier assigned to assist them) concoct a
plan to rig an explosion inside the ship. This is designed to create the
impression that the take-off will have to be postponed. In actual fact, they
plan to take off much sooner than the Martian’s have been led to believe! An
important outcome of the counter-deception plan is for Tillamar to transmit a
series of radio broadcasts from Earth calling on the Martians to overthrow
Will Jim and Alita’s relationship blossom into something more?
Will Carol (“what I want to see is the kitchen!”) realise that she is just wasting time on Jim?
Will Carol (“No dishwashing! I love Mars!”) stop crying long enough for Steve one day to eventually “collaborate?” with her?
Will Terris uncover the humans’ plan and report to Ikron, thereby preventing the take-off?
Will the take-off plan actually succeed?
Will Tillamar and Alita be able to join them?
Points of Interest
we went to the moon with Destination Moon.
Then we side-stepped the moon and inadvertently wound up on Mars in Rocket ship X-M. And now we are
deliberately setting our sights on the red planet Mars with “Flight To Mars.” (Yes, I know about the eventual order!)
was obviously a concept popular way back in the early 1950s as you might have
noticed that “Flight To Mars” reuses much
of the rocket ship cabin interior from Rocketship
X-M. The rocket itself was reused in at least three other 1950s movies: `Queen of Outer Space', `World Without End',
and `It ! The Terror from Outer Space'. And
haven’t we seen the spacesuits / costumes from Rocketsahip X-M and Destination Moon?
Rocketship X-M, with its regressed
primitive and barbaric civilisation being a result of an ancient global nuclear
holocaust, this film depicts a Martian civilization which is superior (and a
menace) to human civilisation.
You can’t help but love the outfits worn
by the female Martians. Lashings of gorgeous long legs cascading out of
micro-mini skirts rivaled even the original Star Trek series! They certainly helped to take attention away from
the more ordinary and banal aspects of the film. But I digress….
Flight To Mars was shot in just a few
days which in other circumstances could
have led to the production of a totally dreadful film. The end result was a
comic- book style fantasy film shot using the Cinecolor process and was the first color film featuring a mission
to Mars. It must be remembered that a film like this in the context of the
times was instrumental at taking audiences from the world of Flash Gordon serials and movies and
introducing them to the brave new world of film SCIENCE FICTION.
Morris Ankrum (from `Rocketship X-M') plays
a Martian leader who comes up with the plan to invade the Earth. We know him
from his frequent roles as a general defending Earth’s interests in many 1950s
sci-fi films that will be featured in this blog.
Space travel is depicted as being a run-of-mill
quaint affair as seen from the way the crew saunters on to the rocket before
lift-off with a “good-bye” and “good luck” to send them off. I love their
casual work wear with their hats and jackets and skirt for Carol. The equipment
is comforting with big dials to read, switches to flick and knobs to turn
accompanied by determined clunking sounds. You can almost hear the vacuum tubes
humming and buzzing! All very far removed from the whiz-bang gadgetry we are
familiar with in modern science fiction. But we do have the grand solution to
the absence of gravity: A device to “equalise gravitational pull!” Take that Rocketship X-M!
Earth is depicted a being a dirty brown
ball in space which is far removed from the precious blue jewel we are familiar
with. Mars is shown as being covered in snow and as being a planet that one can
get around on just by wearing an oxygen mask and pilot gear. A lot different to
the radiation-bombarded red planet with the ultra-thin carbon dioxide
atmosphere we have discovered it to be. However, the idea of Mars having cooled
off and losing much of its atmosphere is essentially correct. Also correct is
the prospect of failure discouraging future flights to Mars. This indeed almost
happened in relation to Mars with the frequent mission failures as well as with
the slim prospects of finding evidence of life on the red planet that seemed to
be the case from early Mariner orbital flybys and the Viking landers. By the
way, those robotic explorers which have
failed, presumably by crashing into the planet obviously didn’t fare as
well as the rocket ship in the film which crash-landed on Mars by smacking into
the side of a mountain, causing an avalanche! And the crew survived! Thank
goodness this didn’t happen to Spirit,
Opportunity or Curiosity!
universes, alternate realities, String Theory and so on. Such theories have
become the staple of modern Science Fiction. The crew in the film Flight To Mars, devote some time
discussing the possibility of endless universes which on the surface seems to
diminish the significance of what they are trying to achieve and of all human
endeavours. Whatever one might believe or however much one’s head tends to hurt
contemplating such things, one thing we can be sure of: they are worth contemplating
with a view to finding some of the answers to the questions they raise and
hopefully by doing so, finding out something about ourselves and our place in the
scheme of things.
Overall, “Flight To Mars” is a moderately interesting story that tends to
lack real originality, with rather
ordinary action sequences and few characters for audiences to really identify
with. Cartoon animations, matte work and a model pulled by strings in front of matte
shots and transparencies comprise the bulk of visual effects, and it looks like
it too! Worth a look, but don’t get too distracted by the legs!