Destination Moon (1950)
Archer Fires to the Moon
I'll sit up there with you and twiddle some knobs - Joe Sweeney
It's not often that I wish I was older but watching "Destination Moon" made me wish I had been a young boy when it was released. Released over a decade before cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made the first manned space flight and almost 2 decades before Neil Armstrong took those first steps on the moon it is a fantastic movie. Technically "Destination Moon" is science fiction but not the over the top action science fiction of more recent times, in fact two thirds of the movie seems almost educational as we are taught the various mechanics of space flight and different atmospheres, thanks to a little help from Woody Woodpecker. And then we get the drama as well, what you could say is now quite typical as we have some fuel issues but it makes for a fantastic ending to what is still quite a fantastic movie even though some of the things mentioned have been now proven to be incorrect.
For 4 years Dr. Charles Cargraves (Warner Anderson - A Lawless Street) has been working on a rocket to allow America to make it into space but a failed test leads General Thayer (Tom Powers) to approach aviation engineer Jim Barnes (John Archer - Blue Hawaii) to come on board with a revolutionary new atomic rocket system. But this time they don't just want to go into space they want to land on the Moon and claim it in the name of the USA before another country beats them to it and uses it as a launch pad for missiles. Whilst problems arise along the way, from illness to objections the rocket is built and takes off except a miscalculation means there is not enough fuel on board to get them back if they get to the moon.
Where most sci-fi movies tend to be more fantasy than realism "Destination Moon" is very different because for the first two thirds it delivers almost a lesson in the theory of space travel. As such we have the wonderful scene where Jim is trying to get the support of his financiers to fund the work and does so with the aid of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Now that may sound tacky but it certainly isn't and does a wonderful job of simplifying how a Rocket works and how it could get to the moon. We get similar educational aspects later on when the men venture for a little space walk and we learn that in space you can be travelling 1000's of miles an hour but feel like you are stationary.
This educational side is then accompanied with what is to be honest some space race drama as the fear that another country will claim the moon for themselves causes the financiers to patriotically agree on the spot. It is now a little bit corny watching that but I am sure that worked back in 1950 when the World was a different place. And on the subject of cheesy let me just say a certain rescue mission using an oxygen tank as a form of propulsion is bad, simply bad and whilst I am sure young children back in 1950 must have loved it now it is seriously corny.
Now for two thirds "Destination Moon" is all about the education, the delivering of knowledge of how space travel would work but accompanying this is the drama. Again watching "Destination Moon" now it almost seems a bit stereotypical that they will have issues over a lack of fuel but it does make for some excitement. Well I say excitement but also some drama which again now seems cheesy but would have wowed me as a 9 year old boy.
What this all boils down to is that whilst certain elements of "Destination Moon" are now quite cheesy but overall it is still a brilliant movie. The fact that for the most it tries to deliver realism in how space travel would work is brilliant especially considering that back in 1950 man had not yet travelled in space yet set foot on the Moon.
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