Directed By: Kurt Neumann
Starring: Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery
Tag line: "The Future is Here!"
Trivia: In the 1970s businessman Wade Williams acquired the rights to this film and proceeded to produce new special effects sequences to take the place of the film's original effects scenes
Released in 1950, Rocketship X-M was rushed into production so that it could capitalize on the publicity surrounding George Pal’s newest film, Destination Moon, which told a similar story of space travel. As it turns out, Rocketship X-M was released before Destination Moon, and while the special effects are certainly inferior when compared to Pal’s picture, there’s no denying this movie weaves an interesting story, which it then tells very well.
A rocket, carrying four men (Lloyd Bridges, John Emory, Noah Beery Jr. and Hugh O’Brien) and a woman (Osa Massen), is on its way to the moon when something goes very wrong. Before any of the crew knows what’s hit them, their rocket, designated R X-M, has veered off-course and is headed straight for Mars. Led by Dr. Karl Eckstrom (Emory), they decide to take advantage of the situation by exploring that planet’s surface, where they find the ruins of an ancient civilization and make the startling discovery that there is, indeed, life on other worlds.
With a reported budget of around $90,000, the special effects in Rocketship X-M are understandably on the cheap side, which the film makes up for by focusing instead on the human element of its story. Moments before liftoff, we’re given a close-up of each of the five passengers, revealing their apprehension as mission control counts down to zero. A few modern viewers may cringe at the movie’s overt sexism (in one scene, Dr. Eckstrom gets into an argument with Lisa, the character played by Osa Massen, over their differing calculations. Lisa angrily insists her numbers are correct, and then abruptly apologizes for her outburst. Eckstrom, assuming a tender, fatherly tone, asks why she’s apologizing: “For momentarily being a woman? It’s completely understandable”). Yet, in spite of its ‘50s mentality, the film perfectly captures the drama of hurtling uncontrollably through space, which, along with the fine performances of its leads, makes Rocketship X-M an effective early entry in the space exploration sub-genre.