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Don't Open That Door!: #3 - 'Missile to the Moon' (1959)

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Thursday, Jun 28, 2012
Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: humanity bumps up against some unlikely lunar life forms in 1959's Missile to the Moon
cover art

Missile to the Moon

(Image Entertainment)

Alternative title: Rebel Without a Rocket


POSITIVES:
Rollicking romping camp-fest featuring a Slinky Wedding Dance!
A bevy of lunar lovelies aka “International Beauty Contest Winners”!
Laconic James Dean clone with a heart of gold!
Lunar ambulatory rock monsters and a bone-chilling spider o’ doom!
Like sex with Salma Hayek, you just want it to go on and on and on and on


NEGATIVES:
You just want it to go on and on and on—but like sex with Salma Hayek, IT ALL ENDS TOO SOON

  
SYNOPSIS: Wacky home-school advocate and part-time scientist Dirk Green has a dream: to be the first arch-conservative in space. To make his dream come true, he must overcome numerous obstacles, including an intrusive US government (keen to keep space exploration for itself) and a pair of even more intrusive juvenile delinquents Gary and Lon (keen to keep other peoples’ cars for themselves). When these delinquents break out of jail and take refuge in the spaceship that Dirk’s got cluttering up his backyard, hilarity ensues—or all hell breaks loose, depending on your point of view. Meanwhile, those nanny-state Feds want Dirk to quell his cosmic aspirations, but when he grabs his NRA-approved personal firearm and goes stalking off into the night, it seems like he might have other plans.




Following a string of unlikely coincidences, Dirk’s spaceship does indeed blast off, carrying an even unlikelier crew of Dirk, his buddy Steve and Steve’s fiancee June, plus intrusive delinquents Gary and Lon. Space flight can be dangerous, though, especially when half the crew are reform-school rejects, so the trip is not without casualties, daddy-o. But the dangers of the voyage ain’t nothin’ compared to the nerve-tingling horrors present on Luna itself. Said horrors include extremely slow-moving, eight-foot-tall rock monsters, a gigantic cave-dwelling spider (which moves only marginally faster), and a power-hungry tribe of Miss Universes—some of whom are quite spry. Only then do we learn of Dirk’s dark secret, and his inextricable links to the moon beauties and to their leader, Lido—a woman who sports a headgear large enough to exert its own gravitational pull.


Alas, all is not well among this tribe of lunar Amazons, and a power-struggle of civilization-shaking proportions is on the cards. Eluding foam rubber—oops, I mean, rock-slab—monsters and cave-dwelling arachnids is no guarantee of our heroes’ survival here in the Sea of Tranquility. It’s also necessary to endure sudden drops in cabin pressure, hypnotizing mind-controlling cosmic babes, mistaken identities and arranged marriages, not to mention plain old greed, jealousy, lust and spite. Only then is there time for one last dash to the rocket and thence home. Think they’ll make it? You might be surprised.





Best lines of dialogue: “Stop saying that. You’re making me dizzy.”


What gets destroyed: A scientist; some slow-moving, otherworldly wildlife; a cabal of lunar strumpets; a lot of nice furniture; a car thief; any hope of interplanetary whoopee-makin’.


What gets saved: This is not entirely clear.


Party game: Play “Who’s Who” and try to match the moon beauties with their points of origin, as revealed in the opening credits: Miss Yugoslavia, Miss Illinois, Miss New Hampshire (she’s the one building stone walls out of moon rocks), and so forth.


Did you know? Miss France is Lisa Simone, of 1959’s Giant Gila Monster fame.


This reminds me of… …1953’s Cat Women of the Moon, of which this movie is a remake, and which had more spiders but no ambulatory rock creatures.


Somehow their careers survived: Richard Travis (Steve) had appeared in Mesa of Lost Women (1953); his next role, in 1966’s Cyborg 2087, would be his last. Cathy Downs (June) was a ‘50s sci-fi stalwart with roles in Phantom from 10,000 Leagues and The She-Creature (both 1956) and The Amazing Colossal Man (1957).  Michael Whalen (Dirk) also appeared in Phantom, as well as numerous movies from the 1930s and 40s, including something called Omoo-Omoo the Shark God (1949). I will send a dollar to the first person who convinces me that s/he has seen this movie. K.T. Stevens (the Lido) started her career at age two in a pair of 1921 silents, Peck’s Bad Boy and Don’t Tell Me Everything, before going on to greater glory in Jungle Hell (1956) and Corrina, Corrina (1994). Laconic Gary Clarke (Lon) would appear in 1960’s Date Bait (nice title, guys!) and 1962’s The Devil’s Children, as well as Tombstone (1993)—which is a western, not a horror film. Argentinian Nina Bara (Alpha) had lent her truly odd looks to 1946’s The Thrill of Brazil, as well as the same year’s Easy to Wed, in which she played a rumba dancer.




BOTTOM LINE: Rock monsters, moon girls and spiders, oh my! Unexpected twists enliven this truly fantastic voyage: settle in for a hilarious good time.


NEXT WEEK: The Black Scorpion


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