|OpenFlix > Flight To Mars|
The first rocket of exploration launched by the United States decides to bypass the moon and head straight for Mars (the reasoning for this curious choice is clearly cinematic; we know there is nothing on the moon in 1951 but who knows what we might find on Mars). The crew for this monumental expedition consists of Dr. Jim Barker (Arthur Franz), who created the rocket, his assistant Carol Stafford (Virginia Huston), a pair of older scientists, Dr. Lane (John Litel) and Professor Jackson (Richard Gaines), and a war reporter, Steve Abbott (Cameron Mitchell). At first I was wondering why these were letting too older guys go on this dangerous mission and I thought it might be because they were old and wise, but it turns out to be because this way only Jim and Steve join Carol in the film's love triangle.
Once they arrive on Mars they discover a complex underground civilization. There are delights to be seen and offers of help from the ruling council, but it turns out to be a sham. The Martians want to use the rocket to get off their dying planet and colonize earth. But that is okay. The Martians might want to take over the earth but Jim gets them back: he teaches the natives how to play bridge ("They will never forgive you," warns one of the professors). Meanwhile, Steve is interested in Carol, but Carol has been pining for Jim for three years. Jim has been too busy being a scientist to notice Carol, but he falls for local gal Alita once they get on Mars. When Carol finally adds up the score she dissolves into tears while Steve spends an hour playing solitaire waiting for her to wise up. Amazingly enough when the rocket was sabotaged and they were all going to die in space or on Mars Carol never shed a tear.
"Flight to Mars" is directed by Lesley Selander, who primarily made Westerns and directed eight other films in 1951. The film is made in color, which matters little except for the red costumes of the Martian's ruling council, which are kind of neat looking. Made during the Cold War there is an inclination to see an appropriate sub-text to "Flight to Mars," especially with those red outfits, but that seems to be a bit of a reach in this case. Again, this film ultimately reminds me more of a Flash Gordon serial than anything else. Besides, it proves once again that not even an advanced civilization on a distant planet can stand up to a small group of Americans with a plan and a strong right hook.
In the far-off year 2000, newspaperman Cameron Mitchell packs up with a group of scientists and heads to Mars in a rocket that resembles a hood ornament from a '56 Oldsmobile. After the rather wobbly miniature takes off, our heroes (clad in khaki uniforms and WWII leather bomber jackets) encounter a storm of asteroids, but soon enough land on Mars. No one seems too surprised to encounter a race of humans on the planet, so the astronauts make themselves at home. The Martians are technically far more advanced than puny Earthlings (you can tell by the abundance of Herman Miller furniture and sexy Mars-girl outfits), but their hospitality masks a hidden agenda: conquest of Earth in order to establish additional lebensraum for their own dying race. Interestingly, this was director Lesley Selander's sole foray into sci-fi, having spent most of his career working on low-budget Westerns. Though the plot is thin, the bankroll skimpy, and the characterizations narrow,Flight to Mars prefigures the '50s sci-fi boom and is interesting for its set design, costumes, and rather washed-out Technicolor. Its 71-minute running time keeps things rolling quickly enough to stave off boredom. For '50s space-opera aficionados, this is better than an hour and 11 minutes spent mowing the lawn.--Jerry Renshaw
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