Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Monday: Flight to Mars

For this week's Movie Monday we take another trip to the red planet in 1951's Flight to Mars!

Flight to Mars opens up with a pre-credits sequence, with two science-y looking guys staring into a massive telescope:

...and what are they staring at? Why, Mars, of course!

Yes--man is preparing its first trip to the red planet!
The crew on this historic mission consists of five people--four scientists and a newspaper reporter(?) named Steve, played by Cameron Mitchell.

There's a whole lot of talk before our intrepid explorers make it to Mars, to the point where its almost a half hour before they reach their destination. Flight to Mars is only 71 minutes long, so you're wondering how much story there can be left in the film!

Anyway, the rocket is damaged during the journey, forcing a rough landing on Mars. The explorers find a huge temple on the surface of Mars, proving there is--or at least was--life! As they try and decide what to do next, they are met by...actual living Martians!!
sg, yeah, these are the Martians: other than some goofy clothes, they look exactly like humans. So I think its obvious they didn't have a lot of money to spend on this movie.

The Martians explain that their whole society was forced to move underground after the planet's surface became too inhospitable. The Martians are friendly and warm to their guests, but soon we see them have a private meeting where they plan to keep the Earthlings prisoner on the planet!

While their ship is being repaired, one of the explorers, Dr. Jim Barker (Arthur Franz) falls in love with Martian girl Alita (Maguerite Chapman), who is the daughter of one of Mars' ruling council named Tillamar.

Tillamar doesn't want to kidnap the humans, but the council's militant leader Ikron (Morris Ankrum) sways the rest to his side, and plans to sabotage the ship's repairs to keep the humans on the planet longer. He then plans to take their ship, go to Earth, and conquer!!

Barker, via Alita, learns of this and shares this information with his fellow explorers. They try and hide their progress on the ship so as not to tip off Ikron.

Despite the film's obvious meager budget, there are some nice matte shots featuring some way-cool 1950's-style futuristic stuff:
But, sadly, most of the film is taken up with the Martians and Earthlings running back and forth on the same two or three sets, overhearing things and sneaking around. The costumes on the women are classics of the time:
...that's gotta be cold!

Eventually, the explorers sneak back onto their rocket. Ikron's men manage to grab Alita, but Dr. Barker risks his life by going back and rescuing her, bringing her aboard, where they all head back to Earth.

This film was produced by Monogram, which was one of the lowest of low-rent "B" studios in Hollywood. Shooting a film with all these costumes and sets--not to mention in color--was a huge expenditure for them (even if some of the sets are re-used from 1950's Rocketship X-M and costumes from 1950's Destination Moon).

The print used for the DVD would have made Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino proud: its full of splits and splices, with chunks of dialogue skipped when the film jerks from one frame to another. I'm guessing Monogram didn't spend a whole lot of effort caring for their back catalog.

Overall, Flight to Mars is worth seeing only to enjoy so many of the sci-fi cliches films of later decades would reference and goof on: the stilted dialogue, the short skirts on alien women, etc. It doesn't provide much excitement because so much of it is talk, talk, talk, but hey, sometimes long trips are kinda boring!

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