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

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

Missile to the Moon

Studio: Image Entertainment

Alternative title: Rebel Without a Rocket


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


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


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.