Monday, February 23, 2015

Missile To The Moon

In 1958, Hawaiian-born Richard Cunha made a quartet of science-fiction films that are legend among fans of bad movies. Cunha's filmography is strange, starting with these four films in the same year and ending with just two more credits spread across the early 1960's.

But with Cunha, quality--as in "lack of"--definitely wins out over quantity, as GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN, SHE DEMONS, FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER, and MISSILE TO THE MOON have won legions of devoted fans, despite--or, I should say, because of--their incompetence.

Check out this plot for MISSILE TO THE MOON, as concocted by screenwriters H.E. Barrie and Vincent Forte. Middle-aged scientist Dirk (Michael Whalen) is pissed off when the government steps in to confiscate the rocketship he constructed with his partner Steve Dayton (Richard Travis), who seems content to slurp up bourbon with his fiancé June (Cathy Downs).

Determined not to allow his baby fall into the hands of the military, Dirk steps into the rocket, which is parked in his backyard, and discovers a pair of juvenile delinquents hiding out in it. Lon (Gary Clarke) and Gary (Tommy Cook) are prison escapees who go on the lam inside the ship, because Lon had read about it in the newspaper, and, hey, who the hell would look for escaped cons inside a nearby rocketship?

Dirk forces the pair to help him fly his ship, which also includes among its crew Steve and June, who become reluctant stowaways. Needless to say, the inside of this ship looks like it wouldn't drive a go-cart, much less a space vessel traveling to the moon. A stupid accident inside an asteroid belt kills Dirk, but the remaining foursome lands safely on the moon's surface, where they encounter large rock creatures that appear to be made from rubber and chase the landing party at an approximate speed of .15 miles per hour.

They hide inside a cave, where Steve discovers the atmosphere is breathable (!), so the party ditches their spacesuits, just in time to be captured by a society of sexy space honeys in skintight clothing. Most of them, especially the youngest and hottest, have never seen a man before, which raises the libidos of young Gary and Lon.

Meanwhile, the ladies' leader, the Leto (K.T. Stevens), wants to steal the rocket and bring all of the women to Earth. Her conniving assistant, Alpha (Nina Bara), wants to whack the Leto and become the new moon boss. She also wants a piece of the Stevester, which makes June so jealous that she accidentally gives up a vital piece of secret information in her green rage. Women.

MISSILE TO THE MOON is only about 75 minutes long, but still manages to include a pointless if sexy dance number, a giant spider called the Dark Creature that attacks June, a cache of priceless diamonds, a sizzling race across a fatally hot moon desert (!), another encounter with the "ooooo...scary" rock men, and a misogynist final scene. The special effects are particularly pathetic. In fact, the rocket landing on the moon's surface is depicted by running its takeoff from Earth in reverse. The problem with that is that the launching pad is plainly visible on a lunar surface where one shouldn't be. The sets are beyond cheap, the dialogue is ripe, the performances are undistinguished, and the credits proudly proclaim the presence of (alleged) international beauty contest winners, including Miss Illinois (yay), as Moon Girls.

The credits also hide the appearance of actress Leslie Parrish, who appeared in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and many other films and TV shows after MISSILE TO THE MOON. Parrish is billed using her real name of Marjorie Helen, just before she changed it to play the pivotal role of Daisy Mae in LI'L ABNER. Sci-fi fans will remember her as dishy Carolyn Palamas, the Enterprise lieutenant who fell in love with Greek god Apollo in the STAR TREK episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?"

1 comment:

Grant said...

It took me forever to see it, and that was due to finding the "RiffTrax" version (which is a very funny episode), but I'm very glad I did. The first part feels like one of those Victorian space stories, where the character literally builds a spaceship in his backyard and somehow it works, which is part of the fun.
You're right about the June character. Even though you aren't supposed to take this movie a bit seriously, every time her jealousy makes her such a weak link I want to yell at her to shut up.
The "Alpha" actress reminds me very vaguely of Kathy Griffin, or rather, some other comedienne IMITATING Kathy Griffin!