Rocketship X-M (1950)

Rocketship X-M (1950)

“You must get back to Earth, and tell them what we found.”

Synopsis:
While on an eXpedition to the Moon (X-M), an astronaut (John Emory) and his flight crew — including a mathematician (Osa Massen), a colonel (Lloyd Bridges), a navigator (Harry Chamberlin), and a flight engineer (Noah Beery, Jr.) — find their rocketship heading towards Mars instead.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • George Pal Films
  • Nuclear Threat
  • Science Fiction
  • Space Exploration

Response to Peary’s Review:
Viewed by many as an irredeemably “bad movie”, this dated sci-fi flick is primarily notorious for beating out George Pal’s Destination Moon (1950) as the first of the “fifties science fiction cycle”. In his review, Peary insists that Rocketship X-M — despite its much lower production values and infinitely inferior scientific credibility — is “at least as entertaining” as its Technicolor counterpart. While this is true to a certain extent, the number of sexist comments directed towards the lone female on board the ship made it difficult for me to focus on anything else:

Dr. Lisa Van Horn (Osa Massen): I suppose you think women should only cook, and sew, and bear children.
Col. Floyd Graham (an annoyingly smug Lloyd Bridges): Isn’t that enough?

In terms of the plot, blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo framed the story as a cautionary tale about nuclear power: once the explorers arrive on Mars, they find that a nuclear holocaust has caused the “once advanced civilization” of (conveniently) humanoid Martians to revert to a brutish cave-man existence. Unfortunately, the scenes on Mars — actually shot in the American Southwest with an added sepia tint — are underdeveloped, slowly paced, and largely unsatisfying.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look for its place in film history.

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One thought on “Rocketship X-M (1950)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Considering just about nothing of real dramatic interest happens in this early space mission flick, I can’t see how even those taken with the subject would find themselves intrigued. It’s ponderous, slow-moving, somewhat silly in terms of science, and contains a fair share of silly dialogue. Much of what the crew says to each other during their flight might be what average people would say, but certainly not those on a space mission. There’s also an inappropriate budding-love angle which certainly feels wrong. Once the crew lands on Mars and finds itself pitted against ‘the enemy’, it’s time to throw in the towel on how hopeless this film is.

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