Friday, January 31, 2014

Flight To Mars

Cameron Mitchell claimed FLIGHT TO MARS was filmed in five days. It certainly shows signs of a quickie production. It has a whole lot more sitting and talking than action, which may be a more realistic portrayal of space travel, but it sure isn’t as much fun. Many of the sets and costumes are swiped from previous science fiction movies, and the prolific hack Lesley Selander shoots most scenes in long or master shots with little coverage.

Still, Monogram, one of the most resilient of Poverty Row studios, deserves credit for attempting an outer space story on a Monogram budget. The special effects are cheap, of course, but I’ve seen worse in movies with more money to work with than FLIGHT TO MARS had. Mitchell plays the male lead, Steve Abbott, a tough-guy newspaperman who accompanies a four-man (and woman) crew to Mars.

Immediately upon landing their crippled rocket on the Red Planet, Abbott, commander Jim Barker (Arthur Franz), and scientists Lane (John Litel), Jackson (Richard Gaines), and Carol Stafford (Virginia Huston) are met by a Martian coterie dressed in DESTINATION MOON costumes and speaking English. Nobody seems the slightest shocked or awed by their first contact with an alien race. Turns out most of the Martians are mean and want to steal the rocket to invade Earth. But some, like miniskirted Alita (Marguerite Chapman), are good and fight against the traitors to help the Earthlings get home.

Selander, who made dozens of westerns and crime films, but no other science fiction, directs with little sophistication and no effort to make the “alien” furniture look any different than the d├ęcor in your grandparents’ rec room. The acting isn’t bad, and Mitchell and Huston (Jane in TARZAN’S PERIL) are quite good.

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