Destination Moon

Destination Moon (1950)
Image Entertainment
Cast: John Archer, Warner Anderson, Tom Powers, Dick Wesson
Extras: Theatrical trailer and liner notes by science fiction film historian Tom Weaver

’Destination Moon’ was an early attempt to realistically depict a manned mission to the Moon. Co-written by science fiction legend Robert Heinlein, with other-worldly artwork provided by Chesley Bonestell, this is serious, speculative sci-fi. With the benefit of hindsight, the inaccuracies of the script may appear almost comical but bear in mind that this movie was released in 1950, a full 11 years before man first went into orbit, much less ventured to the Moon.

After a previous rocket test fails due to Cold War sabotage, American industrialists are secretly enlisted in building the spaceship ’Luna’ for a trip to the Moon. After a very hasty lift-off, the four astronauts begin their voyage and encounter the usual set of emergencies in space. After landing and wandering about in their Technicolor spacesuits for a bit, the intrepid explorers discover that they might not have enough fuel to return to Earth.

The video on this DVD is very hit and miss. Colors are always accurate and vibrant but a number of frames are seriously scratched. Fortunately it comes and goes so stretches of the film are relatively clear.

The disc contains a mono audio track that is presented in a 2.0 channel presentation. Given the ago of the movie, it is hardly surprising that the audio has a very limited frequency response without notable low end. As a result dialogue and sound effects, as well as the music sound unnatural and overly harsh. The noise floor of the material is also quite audible, creating a constant hiss during the presentation. Nonetheless, dialogues are always understandable and well integrated.

So, the movie is a bit goofy, with wooden acting, an implausible script, and mediocre video and sound. Why then is it worth watching? Well, for one ’Destination Moon’ is important in the history of science fiction cinema. It won an Oscar for special effects and ushered in a new era in which spaceships didn’t have to look like pie pans or carry little green men (although most still did).

But beyond that the movie also had a very real impact on the general public’s attitude toward spaceflight. Early in the film the American industrial tycoons are very skeptical about man going into space. In order to get them behind the project they are presented with a short feature starring Woody Woodpecker in which the facts of space travel are very accurately, and amusingly, laid out. (If you’ve seen ’From the Earth to the Moon’, then you caught a snippet of the Woody Woodpecker short that NASA actually used in later years). ’Destination Moon’ itself had much the same impact upon its release in 1950 and helped to lay the groundwork for public support of manned space flight.

The DVD includes a theatrical trailer and some interesting liner notes that describe in more detail the importance of this film. A true science fiction classic, ’Destination Moon’ was very much a movie before its time (19 years to be exact) and, despite its flaws, is well worth watching.