Missile To The Moon (1958)

Missile to the Moon

Directed by Richard E. Cunha

Screenplay by H.E. Barrie and Vincent Fotre

Tagline: "Adventure into the Unknown"

Run Time: 78 min

This horrid, contemptible, shameless rip-off of Cat-Women of the Moon is a lovely example of a truly awful sci-fi flick. Almost every aspect of CWOTM has been "borrowed" without giving any credit to the original film: Telepathic society of Amazon-like women on the moon, air-filled caverns, giant moon-spiders, diamonds as common as granite, and so on. (OK, in CWOTM it was "gold" not diamonds, but the point is the same.) To think that these guys weren”t sued boggles the mind. Maybe the people who worked on CWOTM wanted nothing to do with this crap and just let the whole mess collapse under its own weight of ineptitude.

The film was released by Astor Pictures, which oddly enough was also responsible for Cat-Women of the Moon which it released 5 years earlier in 1953. Oh yeah, they also presented Robot Monsterthat same year. Go figure.

Missile to the MoonThe cast pulls off a perfunctory performance. No wait, "perfunctory" implies that there is some sort of purpose behind their actions. In this film, there is no purpose except to complete the scene and move on to the next. Leading man Richard Travis sleep (Mesa of the Lost Women (1953) and Cyborg 2087 (1966)) sleep-walks through his role as Steve Dayton, while his fiancee, June Saxton, played by B-movie regular Cathy Downs (The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues and The She-Creature (both 1956)), fulfills her female obligations of being weak, falling down and not being able to get up, shrieking when monsters come into view, and so on.

In what must be a satire of "The Hollywood Cover Girls" who played the Cat Women in the original film, the Moon Women in this putrid tale are credited as the "International Beauty Contest Winners". Said winners include Miss Minnesota, Miss Yugoslavia, Miss France, and others. Well, I will say this, they are pretty hot, and are probably more comfortable in a low-gravity environment, if you know what I mean. I have to admit that I doubt the validity of such a "contest". Really, think about it, when is the last time you saw a beauty contest pitting Miss Yugoslavia vs. Miss New Hampshire? See what I”m getting at?

The special effects are jaw-droppingly awful…from the foam rubber lunar "Rock Creatures" (with obvious eye-slits so the "actors" inside could see out), to the giant cave spider suspended by completely visible wires. Never mind the lunar landscape itself…complete with occasional scrubby plants (!) and clouds in the sky.

Open with a murky shot showing lone patrol car cruising down an isolated desert road. As the car pulls to a stop in front of a fairly obvious painting of a desert, Sheriff Cramer (played by veteran Western actor Lee Roberts) calls into headquarters. It turns out that a pair of escaped convicts are in the area. Cramer decides to check out the residence of the local rocket science (I”m not making this up, people), Steve Dayton, before returning.

Missile to the MoonMissile to the Moon

Rocket scientists Steve and Dirk

At the so called "Dayton place", an Army General is trying to convince Steve and his partner Dirk Green (Michael Whalen) that rocket science is "government business". In fact, General No Name informs the pair that a group of government "experts" (Ha!) will be arriving the very next day to take over the project. (Huh? I”m not really sure that”s allowed, but whatever.) Dirk won”t have anything to do with the government. In fact, the rocket is standing in the back of the house (conveniently) fueled and ready to blast off, if only the government would stop sticking its nose in his business.

A knock on the door and Sheriff Cramer enters to ask permission to search the property. Steve smiles and tells Cramer to go ahead and poke around for the escaped convicts.

Well, Cramer”s already looked around the grounds but now wants to look "within the electric fence".

Missile to the Moon"Around the rocket ship?" Steve helpfully exposits for the viewer. (How many electric fences do they have? It”s kind of like if you had an elephant in the back yard and somebody said "Hey, can I look at your elephant?" and you were to ask, "The one in the back?".)

As Dirk goes out to cut the power to the fence so that Sheriff Cramer can look around, Steve pulls draws back a curtain in the living room to reveal the rocket to General No Name. (The rocket is supposed to be a gigantic missile outside in back of the house, but you can obviously see that it”s a card-board model in front of the actors. It”s so, so, so bad here. Steve doesn”t help matters when he looks at the rocket and tries to sound ”awestruck” while saying, "You”ll have to admit that”s quite an accomplishment!")

Say hello to Steve”s fiancee, June Saxton, who enters the room. A few useless lines of exposition are half-heartedly thrown about, basically restating things we already know about. This is a good time to get a beer, if you hurry. Boy, you sure wouldn”t want to miss any of this movie!

Outside, Dirk goes to switch off the power to the electric fence. It turns out that the switch to shut off the power is located right beside the electrified gate itself. Not only that, but the breaker cabinet is secured with a single, tiny pad-lock. Well, not even "secured" since the lock is hanging wide open on its arm. Not only that, but the gate itself is also unlocked. Argh. C”mon, really guys. This is just plain insulting.

Cut to inside the rocket. The two fugitives, Gary and Lon, have taken refuge inside the rocket. Let me repeat that: Two guys, on the run from the police, decide to hide in a rocket

Missile to the Moonsitting on a launching pad! Egads, good people, please don”t hold me responsible for any damage to your brain cells while watching this film. Well, the tougher of the two brainiacs, Gary, decides he”d rather hide somewhere else besides a fully fueled and operational missile. No s**t, Sherlock. They make to leave but seeing that the sheriff and Dirk are poking around the launching pad, they are forced to retreat back inside the vessel, where they try to hide inside the control room.

Unfortunately for Lon and Gary, Dirk spots them peeking out the hatch, but oddly doesn”t mention their presence to Sheriff Cramer. Oh, gentle reader, what devious plans are perculating in Dirk”s tortured psyche? Can”t wait to find out, eh?

The control room itself was obviously sponsored by ”Generic Dial, Switch, and Lever Corp.”, if you know what I mean. Every wall of the (incredibly) spacious cockpit interior is covered in dials, lights, switches, and toggles. If you ever seen any other cheap 50”s sci-fi movie, then you know exactly what I”m getting at here.

Anyhoo, Dirk, wanting to talk to the convicts without the sheriff knowing that they are in the ship, tells Cramer that he”ll go up into the ship and look around alone. When Sheriff Cramer insists on accompanying him, Dirk tells him it”s better if he goes by himself since there is so much "delicate equipment" aboard. Despite being an experienced lawman, Cramer falls for the paper-thin ruse and agrees to wait outside until Dirk returns. Once inside the ship, Dirk finds Lon and Gary in the control room, sneers at them, and much to Lon and Gary”s amazement, calls out to Sheriff Cramer that the ship is empty. On his way out of the ship, Dirk locks the young fugitives inside the cockpit. (Probably not too smart to keep your prisoners in the control center of a rocket ship, but then again, nothing really makes much sense in this movie.)

Once Sheriff Cramer heads back to the police station, Dirk climbs back into the ship and tells Lon and Gary that he plans to launch the ship that very night…"to the moon!" Dirk explains that even though he could fly the ship by himself, it would be "easier" with Lon and Gary”s help. When they refuse, Dirk pulls a gun and shanghais them into service.

Sensing Lon and Gary”s reluctance (duh!), Dirk explains that once they get to the moon "coming back will be easy." (Oh, really?) After a second or two of thought, Gary and Lon realize that if they go to the moon and come back they”ll be "heroes". (They seem to forget the fact that they”ll also still be escaped convicts. Unless there is some obscure clemency law regarding an escaped convict”s space travel.) With a change of heart, they agree to help out and quickly change into a pair of convenient space suits that just happen to fit them. (Of course.)

Missile to the MoonBack inside the ranch house, Steve and June are finishing up their drinks when suddenly a (totally bogus) control panel in the living room begins to flash and beep in a rather un-scientific manner. Yes, once again, that is supposed to be a window looking out over a full-size rocket on the launching pad. No, that is not a model. Really.

Steve realizes that somebody is "mucking around" in the ship, grabs a gun (!), and hurries out the door. Using yet another throw-away line designed to cover completely unrealistic actions by the characters, June explains that she”s scared to be in the house with those "two convicts still running loose." Seeing that the story requires a female character to go to the moon, Steve doesn”t even give it a second thought, and immediately agrees to let her tag along.

Meanwhile, back in the ship, Dirk is walking Lon and Gary through the launch procedures. ("Seatbelts fastened?"…"Check!") Lon asks if they need oxygen masks. Dirk explains that it won”t be necessary since the control room "is sealed and contains its own oxygen source." OK. That”s good enough for me! The gripping launch sequence continues: "Lon! Flip up all the switches marked ”Astro”!" (At this point I”m trying not to think of all the other movies I could be seeing right now.)

Missile to the MoonSteve and June make their way through the electric fence and into the space ship. (Both Steve and June grasp the metal gate without checking if the power is turned off. I guess that part of the movie isn”t so important anymore. Lucky for them that the juice wasn”t turned on.) Once inside the entry chamber (I can”t call it an air lock, it”s just a room with a ladder and a couple of lockers (!)), June and Steve get locked in as the ship is about to lift off. "Quickly, there”s no oxygen in this compartment!" Steve shouts with a lung-full of oxygen. Fortunately there is a pair of "face masks" hanging on the wall. Despite the fact that there is no oxygen tank attached to the face masks, June and Steve tug the surplus Air Force masks in place and settle in for the ride.

Missile to the MoonTo make a long story short, Dirk and the boys launch the ship. The launch itself is realized by, yes, stock footage of a V-2 rocket taking off. It didn”t seem to bother the film makers that the rocket in the footage looks absolutely nothing at all like the rocket that is supposed to be going to the moon. Shameful!

Blah. Apparently the g-forces overcome Steve and June and they fall unconscious. Why Dirk and the others survived the tortuous lift off with only grimaces on their faces is not explained. Once Steve and June are discovered (after some more totally bogus sci-fi mumbo-jumbo), they are brought up into the control room (which is fitted with bunk beds!) where they eventually regain consciousness. Steve thinks Dirk is mad to have actually launched the ship, June, on the other hand, seems quite content that everything is going as planned.
Later we see that both June and Steve have changed into their own perfectly fitted space uniforms which Dirk apparently had the amazing foresight to include in the ship”s inventory.

After a series of unconvincing events (Steve and Lon go topside to check the "neutron indicators" while Dirk goes below to fetch something or other), Gary is finally alone with June in the control room. Making the best of this golden opportunity, Gary jumps down from his bunk and roughly kisses June on the mouth. June pushes him away and half-heartedly yells, "That”s quite enough!" Oh gee, yes, Dirk returns at that moment and a fist-fight breaks out. Gary quickly gains the upper-hand over Dirk (who is at least 40 years his elder) and is proceeding to pound the daylights out of him when all of a sudden the ”meteor detectors” start going berserk. Well, they at least begin flashing and beeping.

A poor decision on behalf of the film makers results in a scene showing the, *ahem*, meteors, hurtling through space towards the ship. It doesn”t take too much effort to immediately realize that the meteors are nothing more than balled up wads of aluminum foil. As the ship is battered by the balls of aluminum foil, a box of something is knocked loose and konks Dirk on the noggin.

As Dirk lies on the floor, gasping his last, he explains that the ship is on a pre-set course and that Steve should not deviate from this route. Dirk also hands Steve a medallion, mysteriously mentioning that he”ll need it "where you”re going." Oh boy, I can”t wait. "Lido…my Lido…forgive me! Forgive me!" Dirk manages to gasp before passing on into the great unknown.

Missile to the MoonThe ship makes its final descent towards the surface of the moon. Steve and Judy try to express their feelings of overwhelming awe with such wonderful lines as "It”s a dream come true," and "I”m so happy I don”t know what to say!" Yes. I hope the writers were nominated for an Oscar for this dialog. Steve breaks the silence by barking, "Break out the space suits, Lon!"

To give you an idea of just how crappy this film really is, take a look at the rocket "landing" on the moon. First off all, yes, it”s the same V-2 rocket launch footage…just played in reverse. But worse, they haven”t bothered to remove the bottom of the shot showing the actual fence and maintenance booth from the original footage. This is truly a new low for contempt of the viewer.

To be honest, I”m running out of steam regarding this movie. This last bit has really pissed me off, and since this is in all regards a cookie-cutter rip-off of ”CWFTM”, there really is no new ground to cover. I”m just going to go ahead and put this review into a more "abbreviated" mode and save you (and especially me) the agony of sitting through the rest of this clunker.

Missile to the MoonThe foursome puts on silver-painted motorcycle helmets and surplus Air Force face masks. Never mind that their necks are completely exposed. Oh yeah, Gary helpfully notes that "These gravitational boots work like a charm." Yes, I”m sure they do. Oh yes, try not to notice that the"rocket" has now become a simple flat cardboard cutout with a ladder in front of it. You can see where the card-board sections are joined, and the access ladder isn”t even attached to the vessel any more. As a matter of fact, Lon has to hold the ladder up during the scene so it doesn”t fall over. Amazing! This secret of the card-board cut-out is easily apparent when you notice that the ship doesn”t cast a shadow! (See screenshot to the right.)

While trudging across the moon”s surface they are accosted by a group of "Rock Creatures ". Well, basically it”s just a couple of guys in foam-rubber suits with eyes holes cut into the face so they don”t stumble over any rocks. Kind of like a cut-rate version of Gumby, if you can imagine that.

Yes, June falls down and for some reason can”t seem to stand up again without the help of the others. Ahhhh, the 1950”s female stereotype in all of its glory. Viewers never get tired of seeing that one.

Hmmm, I didn”t know the moon”s sky was full of clouds and that bushes grew on the surface. Kind of like it was filmed in a desert somewhere on Earth and they didn”t care enough to bother finding a place without any plants, or even film on a cloudless day.

Missile to the MoonThe rock-men, moving at about 0.7 miles per hour in their foam suits manage to "surround" the crew, forcing them to take refuge in a convenient cave. Once in the cave June whines, "Can we rest a little while now, please?" Ahhh, such a refreshing characterization.

Steve and the others make their way deeper into the, *ahem*, cave. (Strangely, the cave is adorned in copious amounts of cobwebs!)

Lon stumbles over a stick, which Steve identifies as an old torch. (A stick?! On the moon?!)

"Does that mean somebody”s living in here?" June asks in a worried tone. No, June, no. It”s ok, honey. Don”t be scared.

After a few moments they come across a burning torch. After some clever deduction Steve shouts, "There”s oxygen in this cave! Go ahead and take your masks off…It”s OK!" After taking off their masks, they also decide to take off their suits because…well…there is absolutely no reason at all except that the actors don”t have to wear them any more.

Gary runs off and is captured by the Moon Women…the others are gassed and awaken in some pseudo-Grecian temple.

Missile to the MoonIn walks the Lido, who as we quickly discover, is the leader of the Moon Women. Oh yeah. She”s blind too. Why? You”ll see. The Lido welcomes them to her humble domain, Orlanda. With a pull on a satin rope, a gong sounds (unsynched with the pulls on the cord of course), and in stroll the other Moon Women, bearing silver trays of all manners of lunar fruits and vegetables.

One of the women notices that Steve is wearing "the medallion". (Yes, the one Dirk gave him back on the ship.) "Yes, it is Dirk!" the Lido gushes. Alas, since she is blind, the Lido doesn”t know that it”s really somebody else. Ahhh, the irony! The irony! The Lido invites Steve to her private chambers…Steve goes along with the ruse in order to find out just who the hell these wacky broads really are.

So let”s have a recap of the Lido”s wonderful exposition: Dirk was actually a moon-man sent to Earth "a long time ago" in order to gather information on the planet so that the Moon Women could one day colonize it. You see, the peaceful kingdom of Orlanda is losing its oxygen, and soon the entire moon will be "barren…and lifeless…"

It further turns out that Dirk was to marry one of the young moon girls, Alpha, when he got back from Earth. Well, the wedding is still on, and the Lido plans for Steve, thinking he”s Dirk, to tie the knot with Alpha as soon as possible.

Out in the main chamber, Gary is putting the moves on one of the moon girls, Lambda. He suddenly notices that she”s wearing a hell of a lot of bling-bling. Diamonds, that is. Lambda tells Gary that diamonds are as just laying around everywhere "in the lower part of the caves." Gary asks her to take him to where all the diamonds are and off they go.

OK, let”s see…ah yes. Time for Lon, the more ”sensitive” of the two convicts, to get a girl. Right on cue, in walks one of the moon-girls, Zema, and she and Lon take seat on a coach and begin chit chatting about life on the moon. "How often does the sun shine?" Lon asks.

"Not too often," Zema replies, "It comes up every seventeen nim-noes."

Oh brother. Nim-noes?!

No more for me right now. Beer break.

Oh great, I came back just in time to see Lon and Zema kissing in a back room. I Should have taken two beers.

Moving right along…June sees Alpha grab Steve and put him into a Lunar Lip-Lock, if you know what I mean. Unsurprisingly, a cat-fight breaks out between June and Alpha ("Keep your hands off my fella!"), which is (all too) quickly broken up by Steve. (I don”t know, I have a thing for watching 1950”s women fighting on the floor…)

In a huff, Alpha storms off and declares that she will reveal Steve”s true identity to the Lido…and that they will all be executed. As it turns out, the Lido is a little more forgiving than Alpha, and declares that the Earthlings are to be captured alive and used to pilot the ship back to Earth with the surviving Moon Women as passengers.

Steve doesn”t want to hang around and see what happens, so he, Lon, and June run off to find Gary, get their suits, and get the hell out of there as fast as possible.
Unfortunately for them, Alpha, still bitter after being overruled by the Lido, decides to disobey the Lido”s orders and releases the "dark creatures" (i.e., giant rubber spiders) in order to hunt down the Earthlings and kill them.

Missile to the MoonEnter the "Dark Creatures". One of the films more dubious special effects, and believe me, that”s saying a lot. (According to Jerry Warren”s ”Keep Watching the Skies”, the spider used in this movie was a leftover from the film Tarantula. Although all the hair was burned off for some reason, the producers decided to use it anyway.)

Steve, June, and Lon proceed through the tunnels but find that their suits have been stolen. Somehow Gary just ”happened” to be in the area scooping up diamonds when he hears Steve and the others talking. He runs over and accuses them of leaving without him. (Who wouldn”t?) Anyway, Lambda tried to warn them that the Dark Creatures are approaching, but it”s too late. Lambda runs, but somehow the spider catches her. Chomp, chomp. Bye-bye Lambda. Alpha, watching from a side tunnel, calls off the hairless beast and takes the humans prisoner once again.

Yippee, back in Orlanda. Alpha explains to Steve that she will take the ship by force, but not to go to Earth, oh no. She”s going to go to a different planet where she will be the Lido and Steve will be her husband. Steve woodenly refuses. (Actually, just assume any time I refer to a line delivered by Steve that it”s delivered woodenly.) Alpha puts a moon-whammy hypno-jammy on Steve and takes him under her mental control.

In walks the Lido, and begins chewing out Alpha for disobedience. Bad move, oh blind Lido. I guess you didn”t see that Alpha had a knife. Alpha decides to take matters into her own hands and jams the knife into the Lido”s back. (How sweet. Back stabbing a blind person!) Alpha proclaims herself as the new Lido and schedules her wedding with Steve to take place in the "Execution Chamber" after some sort of "event".

Missile to the MoonThe humans are brought into a room where Steve has been decked out in some sort of Oriental robe get-up. Hypnotized, he proclaims his love for Alpha, much to June”s dismay. In fact, June looks more upset that Steve says he loves Alpha than she did when she was sentenced to death.

Well, the "event" begins as June is lead off to the ”execution chamber” and chained to a pole while one of the giant rubber spiders is released. The "event" itself is an seemingly interminable dance number. Just can”t get enough of those, I tell ya.

Meanwhile, back upstairs, Zema waits until nobody is looking and gives Lon and Gary the key to where their spacesuits are kept, a couple golden grenades that they can fight the Rock Monsters with, and also tells them where they can find June. Why? Because she loves Lon. Why? Because it”s in the script.

Look, time out. I know you”re probably confused by all the stupid names: Alpha, Lambda, Zema, etc. Just go with the flow. Believe me, I”ve had to pause the film and go back over my notes more than once. It”s all part of suffering through a bad movie…a sensation that I”m all too familiar with.

Back to our feature presentation.

Lon and Gary rush into the execution chamber and see the hairless moon-spider approaching June. In a burst of pistol shots, the creature is killed (amidst a cloud of talcum powder bullet ”impacts” and tangled wire), and June is freed. Lon tells June that Zema is going to try and help Steve break free of Alpha”s Hypno-mambo-jambo. Gary runs off to collect his diamonds.

True to her word, Zema does in fact try to ”out will-power” Alpha. This is all as exciting to watch as it is to write about, believe me. Zema finally gets the upper hand and frees Steve from his mental bonds. Confused, Steve heeds Zema”s advice and runs to the tunnels to join the others. Ho hum.

Missile to the MoonAlpha and Zema continue to battle with their wills. Realizing that the Moon Women are ultimately doomed, Zema pulls out a hand grenade and chucks it at a large window across the room. With a tremendous explosion (sort of), the window shatters and the last of the oxygen rushes out into the lunar vacuum.

Almost done.

The humans make their way back out of the tunnels sans Gary. ("He”ll have to find his own way," remarks Lon, Gary”s best friend.) On the surface the sun has come out and transforms the surface into a deadly inferno. (If you use your imagination. It looks exactly the same as it did before, so I don”t know what the hell they”re talking about.) Keeping in the shadows, Steve, June, and Lon make their way back to the ship. (But the ship is not in the shadows…so how will the make it inside? Stupid movie.)

Alpha makes one last attempt to regain mental control of Steve, but Lon and June manage to stop him from re-entering the doomed city. Gee. That was exciting. The spell is finally broken when Alpha faints and falls on a knife she was holding. Why the hell was she holding a knife? So she could faint and fall on it. That is the type of film we are dealing with here.

A rock man tries to block their way and Lon tosses a silver hand grenade right in its face. Boom. Gee. That was exciting.

Ahhh, now Gary emerges from the tunnel entrance with two large sacks of diamonds in his arms. He is quickly ”surrounded”, if you can call it that, by a couple of Rock Men.

Missile to the MoonInstead of, you know, sticking to the shade and out-maneuvering the clumsy foam monsters, Gary backs into the sun and is reduced to ash and bone. Well, that”ll teach him to try and take uncut diamonds from the moon.

Safely aboard the ship, Steve prepares for lift off. Before they engage the engines, June interrupts and asks Steve if he thinks Alpha was prettier than her.
"Honey, there”s only one thing that I expect to see that”s prettier than you…and that”s old mother Earth looming up on the view plate."

Steve and Gary exchange winks.

Cue V-2 rocket stock footage.

The End.

Dennis Grisbeck (Nov 2005)

6 comments to Missile To The Moon (1958)

  • Shawn

    I just watched this today with Riff Trax all I can say is that it is tolerable with Mike Nelson and Fred Willard’s commentary.

  • Event_Horizon

    That spider looks very similar to “MC Pee Pants” on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

    Frylock: You’re all the things that are in this ad: you’re energetic, hard-working, you like people—

    MC Pee Pants: No, I love the liquid inside people. How many times I gotta tell you this, man? I’m insane! I eat people-juice. No one’s gonna hire a people-juice eater!

  • “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”….more info, please!

  • Freddie Jaye

    I saw this cheese-bomb in a rundown cheapo theater(triple feature of B-movies on Sundays, for 65 cents) in my much-younger days and could never recall the title. But the rock creatures and giant diamonds have stuck with me for years.

    I gotta buy this piece of my childhood; thanks so much for helping me to ID it.

  • guts3d

    I remember this one, and as a kid tried to figure out why sunlight fried people only when someone else said that it would. They ran around in bright sunlight before…

  • Ahhh…but it wasn’t MOON sunlight 🙂

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