In the not-too-distant future of 1970, the United States is considering building bases on the Moon, and send a female colonel and two men to investigate. One of the men turns out to be a foreign spy, and the entire operation--and the future of the free world--is in danger.
Donna Martell ... Col. Briteis
Hayden Rorke ... Gen. 'Pappy' Greene
Ross Ford ... Maj. Bill Moore
Larry Johns ... Dr. Wernher
Herb Jacobs ... Mr. Roundtree
Barbara Morrison ... Polly Prattles
Ernestine Barrier ... Madame President
James Craven ... Commdr. Carlson
John Hedloe ... Adjutant
Peter Adams ... Capt. Carmody
Robert Karnes ... Sam (enemy agent)
John Straub ... Chaplain
Charles Keane ... Spacom operator
John Tomecko ... Blockhouse air controller
Robert Paltz ... Bellboy
This minor little early fifties space picture was compiled of episodes of an unsold TV series titled "Ring Around The Moon." This explains the films awkward bifurcated structure. The producers claim they thought these episodes look so great, that they decided to release it as feature film instead. While this may be true, I think its more likely the producers couldn't find a sponsor or a network that was interested. Which is a bit odd. For an early fifties T.V. show, this really doesn't look all that bad when compared to other early fifties shows like "Rocky Jones: Space Ranger" or "Tom Corbett Space Cadett." PROJECT MOON BASE (or "Ring Around the Moon.") seems to have slightly higher production values and more ambitious special effects than other TV shows from the period. From watching this film, its seems there was an attempt to make something more adult than other shows on TV at the time. However, these sets and special effects must of looked inadequate when seen on the big screen even in 1953.
There are some surprises here. The fact that the space commander is women is unusual for a film from the early fifties, although back in the early seventies when I first saw this film I didn't think that was so odd. What did surprise me was at the end when the president is shown to be a woman. One enlightened soul in this forum called this film "sexist" and "paranoid." I wouldn't call a film that features a women as space station commander and a woman as president "sexist", and I don't see what is so paranoid about this film. Then again, maybe I'm clueless. Then again the term "paranoid" has been used by so many pedantic critics to describe just about every 1950's sci fi/monster flick almost as if by rote.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about PROJECT MOON BASE is some of the names in the credits. The name almost always mentioned is the famed science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlan, who is credited as co-writer. It's a shame that this minor little film is one of the few times Heinlan ever worked on a film. The other name is Richard Talmadge who directed. Talmadge's career goes back to the silent period where he was one the silent periods great stunt men. He also was a star back then in his own right. Over the years Talmadge, acted, directed, produced, wrote and worked as a unit director on all kinds of films.
Over all, PROJECT MOON BASE is a rather tedious film. I recently watched it on video and sat through it with only minor interest. Unless your a fifties sci fi buff, or a fan of Heinlan, or interested in the career of Richard Talmadge, PROJECT MOON BASE will probably be rough going. It's a minor curiosity, and a footnote in the career of Robert Heinlan.
Even by the standards of classically cheesy 50s cold war sci-fi propaganda movies; this one totally takes the cake for being the worst of the bunch.
The portrayal of the bad guys is both bland and hammy at the same time (which is a remarkable feat in itself). The models look like cheap constructor-kit toys. And don't let me get started on the MARRIAGE scene. I seriously wanted to hurl at that bit.
And the final proof of badness? Hayden TRoarke looked more credible playing the psychiatrist in I DREAM OF JEANNIE (a sitcom) than he did playing this serious drama story! Nuff said.
This is a very odd sci-fi movie from the 1950s because those involved really tried very hard to make the movie plausible and set it in the near future. Instead of bug-eyed aliens, this film concerns the American space program and our attempt to go to the moon. Interestingly enough, in some ways the film wasn't too far off--indicating we'd have a working space station and were almost ready to attempt a moon landing in 1970 (whereas we were on the moon in 1969 and put a space station up just a few years later). Time and again, details were important and the film, at times, looked more like a government training film.
However, when it came to plot, the movie really fell apart. First, while they were never called "Communists", the space program was attacked and infiltrated by "enemies" bent on destroying it. This was pretty topical for the time, but was executed very crudely and made little sense. The whole side story involving the professor who was replaced with an enemy agent was stupidly executed and made no sense at all--particularly later in the film once they were stranded on the moon--his behaviors made absolutely no sense at all. Second, while the film at times tried to be very egalitarian when it came to gender (such as making the President and the first pilot of the moon shot women), the film was so sexist and stupid when it came to the lead female character, Colonel Briteis (pronounced "Bright Eyes"). While described as competent and efficient, most of the time throughout the film she seemed to be a dip-stick with a bad case of PMS! Plus, she seemed to be picked for the film just because she looked good in shorts and a t-shirt (the standard garb for astronauts in the film). My wife just cringed at her character and I found it to be unintentionally funny. Plus, the Major, who you KNEW was destined to marry her, was an annoying sexist who only seemed happy when he was not serving under
her (forgive the crude humor) but was her superior in rank! Uggh. The film just died when it came to the human interactions and became tedious and silly.
So, although I love the sci-fi genre of the 1950s, I must admit this film is fatally flawed. Under no circumstances should it be viewed by a rabid feminist, as it might result in an apoplectic fit at the sexism and stupidity of the characters. Otherwise, watch at your own risk.
# This movie and Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) were made using the some of the same sets and costumes. The two films were then released within one day of each other.
# This was initially intended as a pilot film for a TV series to be called "Ring Around the Moon". When science-fiction movies suddenly became popular, producer Jack Seaman added enough footage to the film to bring it up to feature length. This was done without the knowledge of writer Robert A. Heinlein, and he disowned the result.