Friday, May 30, 2008

Assigment: Outer Space

It's December 17, 2116, and Spaceship Bravo Zulu 88 is on its way with newspaper reporter Ray Peterson on board, assigned by his editor to report on a normal check of infra-radiation flux on galaxy M-12.
And so begins the Samual Z. Arkoff-produced 1960 film Assignment: Outer Space (also know as Space Men).
Peterson arrives on a space station. The commander doesn't think much of the press and Peterson gets a cold reception, but an errant incoming spacecraft will destroy Earth unless it can be stopped. Somehow, it falls to Peterson to save the day. I guess no-one was really worried about that infra-radiation flux on galaxy M-12 after all.
It's an earnest film, I'll give it that. It's very much a travelogue as Peterson narrates a lot of the action. He explains about weightlessness, vacuum, orbits, etc. Thus the film is full of expository dialogue, and while some might have been necessary for the audiences of 1960, now it makes a slow film even more laborious and ponderous.
The effects are laughingly bad, and the spaceships look horrible. Everyone is weightless on the ships, so the cast all move around in a slow loping walk that looks ridiculous. Their on-board coveralls have their serial numbers on their backs in giant letters, and their helmets are just surplus jet-fighter helmets. In their spacesuits, everyone looks like life-size versions of Major Matt Mason. (And have you checked the price of Major Matt Mason toys on eBay? Holy fish-cakes, they're worth a lot. Damn my mother for throwing out mine! But I digress.)
I really can't summon up any more energy to write any more about this film. They were trying to be serious, they just failed miserably, that's all. If this was the state of sci-fi films in the 1960s, it's no wonder that 2001: A Space Odyssey blew everyone's minds.
The film has not been preserved well. There's a lot of scratches on the film, plus audio dropouts. The colours are horribly washed out -- some of the actors look green half the time. And not because they were sick about what this film was doing to their careers.

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