Destination Moon was one of the first Sci-Fi movies that actually took the prospect of space travel seriously. The film; produced by George (War of the Worlds) Pal and based on the novel by Robert A. (Starship Troopers) Heinlein tells the story of the first attempts at space exploration by man. It’s all about a bunch of guys that get together, build a rocket, blast off for the moon, and come back. It’s all done very matter-of-factly with all of the conviction of a docudrama rather than a Sci-Fi movie. In other words; there’s more emphasis on the Sci than the Fi.
I have a soft spot in my heart for 50’s space exploration movies. A lot of the fun of the genre comes from seeing how much stuff they got wrong. Take the inside of the rocket ship in Destination Moon for instance. This thing is hilarious. The crewmembers all lay in leather bunk bed lounge chairs. How’s that for scientific accuracy?
Silly sciency stuff aside, the effects are pretty good for the time. Even though the rocket looks like an Estes from a hobby shop, the scenes of it traveling through space are rather well done. The weightless scenes aren’t too shabby either; although they are good for a chuckle or two. Speaking of chuckles, how can you not love the goofy faces the astronauts make while trying to simulate the G-Force effects of take-off?
It’s also fun seeing just how many movies blatantly stole ideas from this film. Not only did this flick get ripped off by low budget movies but also classics of the genre as well. The Phantom Planet featured similar scenes of astronauts walking outside the ship while clinging to a rope and Rocketship X-M was so close to this film that it spawned a lawsuit. We also see flashes of Destination Moon in 2001 during the scene when Frank is sent out floating into space. Heck, I even got déjà vu of Apollo 13 while watching this movie because the astronauts have to ditch a whole bunch of junk from the ship in order to make it home (although that’s what happened in real life).
The best part though is the WTF infomercial on the dynamics of space travel starring “one of
Destination Moon does have more than it’s share of slow spots however. In fact, you have to sit through a half an hour of scientists doing calculations and shit before they even build the rocket. But once the crew gets into the ship, the movie finally gets off the ground. (Pun intended.) Once they get to the moon; there isn’t much for them to do except wander around though. Other than that, Destination Moon is a more than passable entry in the durable genre.