Destination Moon will be on TCM, Sat. 12/12 at 7:30 am. Set your DVRs now.
Be warned if you haven’t seen it before: The science is as spot-on as Heinlein could ever have hoped, but it isn’t much of a movie. It’s more like a lecture than a story.
And we’re, what, surprised by this? This is Heinlein, after all!
Hoo boy, you got that right! I went to see it with a friend at a theater, and all I can remember of it was my friend curling up with her head almost touching her lap and saying, “Oh god! Turn off this shit!”
I believe we were expecting something like Plan 9 from Outer Space. The closest we got was the Woody Woodpecker stuff, and that was just weird as opposed to “bad”.
Yeah, I know, it’s a classic. But we were just dumb teenagers after all.
I enjoyed it, although there’s not a lot of characterization and the pace is a bit slow. You have to recognize it as the great-granddaddy of all the space movies to come. It pretty much set the conventions for the genre, both good and bad.
And in some ways it’s still unsurpassed: when it comes to Horrid Comic Relief, the Joe character is a very strong contender for the championship.
Although I liked Rocketship X-M better–it has more life, and more charismatic actors.
Read Heinlein’s piece about the making of the film – it’s definitely worth it*. But after reading it you’ll be expecting a much better film. Heinlein’s writing is superb on the page. You can blame part of the problem on “Hollywood screenwriters” (As Heinlein points out, this film almost contained singing cowboys and the like. They had to fight to get it taken out), but part of it is that some of Heinlein’s stuff really doesn’t translate well onto the screen. Much as I love his writing, I’m convinced that some of the embarrassing stuff from this and Operation Moonbase can’t be blamed on anyone else. The addition of the Brooklyn guy, to whom everything has to be explained (as a method of allowing exposition for the audience) is kinda clumsy, and none of his lines ring true.
The special effects are a bit dated (the stop-motion is pretty obviously stop-motion, and not particularly fluid) and so is some of the science and engineering (Chesley Bonestell’s Moon crater looks great, except for the weirdly cracked lunar floor. And it’s weird to see that mechanical differential analyzer performing calculations, presumably leading to the creation of the three-dimensional cam they had instead of a digital computer to guide the ship, as described in Rocket Ship Galileo).
Actually, I really did like the Woody Woodpecker cartoon. And some stuff is the genuine, good Heinlein – his argument about the military utility of space, a lot of throwaway stuff about the science and engineering, the drama arising from genuine technical problems. But the movie really could have used the neoNazi bad guys from Rocket Ship Galileo – it really is a chore to sit through.
One of these days they’ll make a really good film based on a Heinlein work. They haven’t, yet.