Conquest of Space (1955)

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Conquest of Space (1955)

Post  BoG on Thu Mar 11, 2010 10:54 pm

In his book, Keep Watching the Skies, Bill Warren writes that this film had the worst script, as far as producer George Pal's films. That may be - it's a matter of opinion, but may explain why I felt so unsatisfied after each viewing (I've only seen it a couple of times). Warren also mentions Pal's fondness for cliches, perhaps pandering to a wide audience, and I do get that sense from the weak characters in this one. All the supposedly full-grown men behave like moronic teens - well, except for the general (Walter Brooke) in charge. Instead, he is suddenly gripped by a religious mania about halfway in.
The first act takes place on this huge, magnificent space station. In the plot, they decide to skip the whole 'go to the moon' pesky business; no, they say, let's just aim for Mars from the nifty space station. And it is nifty. Gotta hand it to the FX technicians on this one - of course, this is from George Pal, who'd just unleashed The War of the Worlds on us a couple of years earlier. So, the space graphics, the ships - everything - it's no surprise they're stunning. On my DVD edition, space had rarely looked so sparkling.

However, as mentioned, the human characters are another matter. And, the acting tends to be over the top. Brooke as the general (just promoted) is the stern father figure to all the overgrown kids, but he goes nuts in a religious frenzy halfway in, mostly out of left field. Eric Fleming as his commander son is as stiff as he usually is. The rest are badly-drawn caricatures, either loud or plain obnoxious. However, Benson Fong steps up for a couple of minutes to deliver a mesmerizing little speech - but that's 2 minutes out of the film. Watch for Ross Martin (Wild, Wild West on TV) in a small role as one of the astronauts, whose mother bids him a tearful farewell.
A crew eventually does reach Mars but their problems are not over; this is wrapped up with some unlikely events, building on the religious tone. This was Pal's last film for Paramount. He went on to Tom Thumb (58) and The Time Machine (1960). BoG's Score: 5 out of 10
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