Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Rocketship X-M

Cinema Monolith: 6/10 The Monolith
IMDb: 4.9/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on June 2, 1950
Not rated
77 minutes

Directed by Kurt Neumann

Written by Kurt Neumann, Orville Hampton, and Dalton Trumbo

Cast: Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery Jr, Hugh O’Brian, Morris Ankrum, Patrick Aherne, Sherry Moreland, John Dutra, Katherine Marlowe, Bert Stevens, James Conaty, Cosmo Sardo

The first manned spaceship to leave Earth, called Rocketship Expedition Moon, blasts off from White Sands proving grounds in New Mexico with a four-man, one-woman crew: the pilot, the navigator, a doctor of chemistry, an engineer, and the ship’s designer and crew leader. Their plan is to research the feasibility of interplanetary travel, and someday establish a base on the moon that will ‘control world peace’. But after escaping a meteoroid storm, the ship’s engines go out, and after losing consciousness, the crew wakes up to discover they’ve somehow bypassed the moon, and are instead closing in on a particular red-hued planet. One where they’ll make an unexpected—and for some, fatal—discovery.

This was the first film to seriously delve into the possibility of space travel and exploration, beating Destination Moon to theaters by three weeks, and I must say, as entertainment, it wasn’t all that bad. Granted, the filmmakers’ thoughts on the subject were laughable at times, but you had to cut them some slack; the concept was still in its infancy, so a lot of this was merely guesswork. The crew’s lack of spacesuits and helmets, and an absence of weightlessness aboard ship, were the most obvious inaccuracies; adding to the fun was their visit to Mars, where the landing party wore clothes that looked stolen from the Chinese Red Army, and treated their predicament as if they were lost in the Grand Canyon.

But there were some positives here, too. Some of the science—using the Earth’s rotation to sling the rocket into space, and the booster section of the rocket being jettisoned—was accurate, and the X-M design was based on drawings found in a 1949 issue of Life magazine. And credit must be given for what was accomplished with a small budget and a rushed production schedule; director Kurt Neumann kept everything moving, while delivering some nicely-composed shots and offering something new and captivating at every turn. As silly as it was, the sequences on the Mars surface were also rather compelling, and for me offered a few moments that were not only tense, but at one point quite unnerving.

And a show of hands: how many of you knew that the ‘S’ in NASA stood for ‘sexist’? Good lord, it was borderline hilarious how poorly Osa Massen’s character, a top scientist in her field, was treated by the rest of the crew; I was surprised there wasn’t a kitchen on the ship so she could cook the men dinner! At one point, her math skills were questioned by the expedition leader concerning the ship’s fuel mixture; for chrissake, she’s the one who invented the fuel! A veritable pioneer in that regard, and her so-called ‘faulty’ calculations were dismissed…a narrow-minded decision that would have disastrous consequences later.

Rocketship X-M was a quaint but interesting look at space travel, as seen from the dawn of the atomic age, when such an endeavor held promise and excitement, yet was still a far-away dream. Depending on your level of cynicism, this will either be a hit or a miss, but I had a decent time with it all, and could easily watch it again, if only to enjoy its comical take on the future and absurdly high level of cheese. And heads-up for that downbeat ending, which no doubt had starry-eyed kids screaming in their seats back in 1950.  (6/10)

17 comments on “Rocketship X-M

  1. geelw
    4/6/19

    A big fave of mine since I saw it as a kid. Yeah, most of the “science” is awful, but as you noted, the filmmakers were kind of making do with what they knew at the time and Army surplus-ing the rest. I did a review ages back, so we’re on the same page for the most part: https://fanboydestroy.com/2012/08/05/random-film-of-the-week-rocketship-x-m/

    • Todd B
      4/7/19

      A friend of mine had given me the DVD a few years ago, and that was my first time seeing it. I still have quite a bit of fun with these “science” fiction and horror films of the 1950s, no matter how low on the totem pole they sit. Now, I’ll go check out your review…

      • Todd B
        4/7/19

        …and I just checked it out, and I’d say yes, we are on the same page!

  2. I love these old space travel films and I haven’t seen this one yet. It’s fun to spot ideas included in these old films that are completely ridiculous when looked back on now but that is half the fun. Nice to see that you give it more score than the IMDb one. Sometimes I think you can get more of these films just by the pure wonder and the fact they had the nerve and audacity to try out new ideas.

    Haha “and who knew what the S stands for in NASA” lol. Something similar happen with our Raquel on Fantastic Voyage. “I bet you were very handy around the house. Do you cook?”

    It’s a super title Rocketship X-M. I’ve sniffed around it a few years back but now I wanna take that ride into the darkness of space. Great review Todd.

    • Todd B
      4/7/19

      Thanks, Mikey! As much as you like space exploration movies, I think you’ll have a good time with this one…lots of interesting things going on. And I don’t remember Raquel catching flak in FV for being female, so I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for that (and other Raquel-y things) when I watch my Blu-ray copy.

      And whenever you get to watching Rocketship X-M, remember to wear your jacket and face mask when you enter Mars atmosphere!

      • I’m actually really looking forward to it. I’m bought on that image of them wearing the flight masks and the red tinged hues. ….. Oh dear Raquel I do so love her and her “Raquel-y things” 🙂

      • Todd B
        4/8/19

        CM DISCLAIMER: Red-tinged hues are seen during Mars sequences only!

        But don’t worry, Space Wolf…you’ll still enjoy it, no matter what color it is (which would be black-and-white, I guess). And speaking of ‘Raquel-y things’, I’ve still got to head over to Mike’s Take and check out his 100 Rifles review…

  3. Sun City Doug
    4/7/19

    A very good review to one of my favorite genres. After seeing this movie, every time I get a haircut, I ask the barber to make my hair ‘perfect’ just like Lloyd Bridges in Rocketship X-M. All I get are odd looks after that request. Geez, I don’t ask for much in life. Also, Destination Moon, that you mentioned, is a good sci-fi flick also. Love those old spaceships !!

    • Todd B
      4/7/19

      And all this time I thought you were asking for a Lloyd Bridges haircut from Airplane! And I noticed the same thing: not once was his hair ever mussed, no matter how dire, windy, or physical the situation was. And I don’t think I’ve ever see Destination Moon, so I’ll have to track that one down…I’ve heard it’s a bit more ‘scientific’ than RX-M was.

      • Destination Moon manages to get one of Hollywood’s best known actors to explain to you the science of rocket flight in a five minute sequence! Yep none other that Woody Woodpecker himself!!

      • Todd B
        4/8/19

        Whaaaaaat? Woody Woodpecker explaining rocket science to me? Good lord…I pray it’s an animated Woody(!), and not some guy in a woodpecker suit.

      • Sun City Doug
        4/8/19

        I have Destination Moon in my very small, but sturdy, Monolith. If you would like to rent it from me that would be fine. A weekly rate will be applied for the rental. Destination Moon was the 1950 Academy Award winner for Best Special effects.

        Also…a clarification. When ‘perfect hair’ Mr. Bridges looks out of the window portal and begins to duck from the movement outside, he is ducking from the approaching asteroids, not hemorrhoids. If he were ducking the latter mentioned, he would be making an ass of himself. Can’t do that because his career will be leading him to star in Sea Hunt.

      • Todd B
        4/8/19

        How about, instead of paying some exorbitant rental fee, I just pull it off your shelf when you’re not looking and just walk out with it next time I’m over? It would be so much easier that way, and decidedly less costly. And did the movie win that special effects award for that Woody Woodpecker scene I’ve been hearing so much about?

        Also, thanks for the image of Mr Bridges suffering from a raging case of space piles…I’ll never be able to watch that scene again without thinking about how poor Lloyd somehow cleared his pre-flight physical, and explained to Osa Massen why he never sits down…

  4. How is it possible I haven’t seen this and worse still is the fact that it isn’t tucked away here in some forgotten pile in the movie room!

    • Todd B
      4/10/19

      Say whaaaaaat? After five years of posting reviews on this site, I’ve finally reviewed a film that you haven’t seen AND don’t own? I think this might be cause for celebration…or…something. If you’re going to be in the Phoenix area anytime soon, come on over and we’ll give it a watch…I might even make you your own bowl of popcorn!

      • Maybe if the Coyotes had made the playoffs we could have made this monumental event happen? I know ….. that’s low.

      • Todd B
        4/11/19

        Ahhh, a Habs-Yotes match-up for the Cup might’ve been nice. But the days of Tkachuk, Roenick, Tocchet, Numminen, and Doan are long gone.

        But at least I can say the Coyotes once made it as far as the conference finals; that’s more than I can say for the Canadi…oh. Never mind.

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 214

From the Monolith: 120

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
1930s – 5
1940s – 19
1950s – 32
1960s – 33
1970s – 35
1980s – 33
1990s – 5
2000s – 13
2010s – 39

Movies by Genre

Action/Adventure – 40
Comedy – 34
Crime – 19
Documentary – 4
Drama – 22
Horror – 38
Musical – 1
Mystery/Thriller – 19
Romance – 3
Sci-Fi/Fantasy – 26
Western – 7

Movies by CM Rating

10 star – 10
9 star – 25
8 star – 35
7 star – 30
6 star – 22
5 star – 21
4 star – 22
3 star – 17
2 star – 17
1 star – 12
0 star – 3

Movies by MPAA Rating

Pre-1968 – 84
G – 1
PG – 31
PG-13 – 34
R – 57
NC-17 – 0
TV and Unrated – 7

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