BILL’s BIZARRE BIJOU
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
MISSILE TO THE MOON (1958)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. Scientists will debate about nearly every scientific theory known to man – climate change, evolution, psychological profiling – but there is one thing that every scientist in every movie ever made can agree on. . . there will be lovely women populating outer space. I have grouped this sci-fi sub-genre into something I call GLOOP (Gorgeous Ladies On Other Planets), and I’ll be focusing on them all through this summer. There will be no debates!
Only five years after the laugh-riot GLOOP film CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON (1953), the American drive-in patron got an even stinkier remake! As if these films didn’t all share very similar plots and characters, now we get to see one with nearly the identical plot and characters . . . and they even re-used the giant spider marionette! From the mind of schlockmaster Richard E. Cunha (SHE DEMONS, 1958 and FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER, 1958), MISSILE TO THE MOON is a dumber film than CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON in almost every way, but that also makes it more fun. Get yourself a trash-can-sized popcorn for this one; you’re going to need it!
In a desert, a police officer is searching for two juvenile delinquents who have escaped from prison. Nearby is a scientist, Dirk Green (Michael Whalen of THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES, 1955), and his younger protégé, Steve Dayton (Richard Travis of THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, 1942 and MESA OF LOST WOMEN, 1953), who have built a missile out back that can supposedly make it to the moon. Steve shows the rocket to a colonel by opening a curtain that displays an obvious wooden model about two feet tall. “Quite an accomplishment,” he says. Yeah, if you’re sending a mouse to the next lawn! At that moment, in walks Steve’s fiancée, June Saxton (pretty Cathy Downs of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, 1946 and THE SHE CREATURE, 1956). The government, in the form of the colonel, wants to take over the plans of the scientists. Fight the power, Steve! Down with the man!
Turns out the two J.D.s—the volatile, sneering, slang-slinging Gary (Tommy Cook of TEEN-AGE CRIME WAVE, 1955 and MOHAWK, 1956), and his pal, the calm, collected, and smart Lon (Gary Clarke of DATE BAIT, 1960 and TOMBSTONE, 1993) —are hiding in the rocket ship. When Dirk checks out the ship, he discovers them, but he doesn’t turn them in to the coppers. Instead, he forces them to be his crew to the moon at gunpoint . . . because these are the kind of mugs you want as a crew on a dangerous mission. Meanwhile, Steve and June notice something is up, and they also go into the rocket at the time it blasts off, making them stowaways! Looks like teen-aged convicts make pretty good astronauts!
Cue stock footage used in hundreds of movies of a rocket taking off.
June and Steve are discovered and resuscitated and they take the news that they have been launched into space surprisingly well. Gary makes the moves on June, but Dirk defends her honor just as they hit the completely expected meteorite shower. There’s ALWAYS a meteorite shower! Dirk is killed by falling equipment, but luckily he has pre-set the coordinates for landing. He dies crying out for forgiveness from Lido. Mmmmm-kay.
They safely land and suit up in spacesuits that leave their necks bare (what? Wouldn’t they die?), and they explore the surface. Rock people pull themselves out of boulders and slooooooowwwwwlllllyyyyy start following the crew. They look like big evil Gumbys! Guns are useless (duh, they’re rocks), so the group runs into a papier mache cave where they find a burning torch. That means oxygen, so they all take off their masks and suits (Good Lord, they ALWAYS do this in these movies!). Gary freaks out, runs away, and is instantly caught by moon women. The rest are gassed.
When they awaken, they find themselves in a big Lego set, reunited with Gary. In walks the gorgeous Lido (K.T. Stevens of JUNGLE HELL, 1956 and PETS, 1973), the blind female leader of the moon women, sporting crazy eyebrows and wearing a fabulous headdress! So, Dirk was the Marie Windsor in this version. Turns out Dirk was a moon man who went to earth with other moon scientists who were sent there to seek help as their oxygen is running out and their men are all dead and the women are all played by international beauty contest winners, like Miss Florida and Miss Yugoslavia! Lido, blind, thinks Steve is Dirk, and another moon woman, Alpha, was his moon fiancé who was a tiny child when he went to Earth.
Gary moves in on the moon girls like a wolf and he discovers there are diamonds all over the place. Lon meets a moon girl, Zima (I hear she’s delicious when you are in high school) and teaches her how to kiss like an earthling. June and Alpha get into a great catfight over Steve, and the moon chicks decide to sacrifice June to a monster. Alpha starts a rebellion against Lido, wanting all the earth people dead, so she releases ‘the dark creatures’ . . . the big spider puppet with googly eyes from half a dozen low budget sci-fi films of the 1950s.
Will the crew get back to Earth? Will Alpha’s revolution work against Lido? Won’t the cops be waiting for Gary and Lon when they return? And where can I get one of those fabulous headdresses?
MISSILE TO THE MOON is a hoot from start to finish, whether it’s because of the crazy cool-daddy slang Gary and Lon use, or the sad attempt of a host of beauty pageant winners trying oh so desperately to act, or because of the visible strings on the spider puppet, or if it’s the hilariously non-seductive dance of the moon maidens…this movie is fun from start to finish, even though it isn’t a quality film in any way. So, I guess the formula works – in order to improve one bad picture (CAT WOMEN etc., etc.) just add juvenile delinquents and stir.
I give MISSILE TO THE MOON two and a half fabulous headdresses out of four.
© Copyright 2017 by William D. Carl