12/6/06

109 Project Moon Base

(1953, SciFi, b&w), with:

Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Seven, Camouflaged Destruction
(1952, SciFi-Serial/Children, b&w), and:

Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Eight, Enemy Planet
(1952, SciFi-Serial/Children, b&w)

SPACOM: wood fill and meat substitute!

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

Shorts: Cody struggles against gangsters on earth, then steals Lunarium from the Moon.
Film: A space explorer and her misogynist copilot establish a base on the moon.

Short Summaries:

The first short is Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Seven, Camouflaged Destruction. In our last exciting episode we saw the thug Graber (a.k.a. the Lone Ranger) knock Cody over a cliff with a football-sized rock. This episode starts with Cody turning on his jet pack and flying off before he hits the bottom. Moon Man Krog has his thugs go back to their previous activity of blowing up troop trains with their ray gun while Cody and his pal Ted go out to stop him in a rented plane. The thugs aim their ray gun upwards and blast the plane out of the sky. The end? No.

Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Eight, Enemy Planet begins with footage of Cody and Ted leaping from the plane at the last minute, escaping unharmed. They give up on trying to track down the thugs for some reason; instead, they return to the moon, hoping to steal a box of that amazing ray gun element of the Moon Men, Lunarium. Cody captures a Moon Man on patrol and takes him back to his ship. The Moon Man proves compliant, trading valuable information and his uniform for a meal cooked by Cody’s lovely young assistant. Cody manages to steal some Lunarium and get away with it in a hijacked plywood tank. The Moon Men pursue them in a deadly plywood contraption of their own; they force Cody and Ted into the rocks. Ted escapes, but the Moon Men blow up the tank while Cody’s still inside. The end? Again, no. By now we’ve figured out that Cody probably escaped while we weren’t looking.

Film Summary:

General Arthur Q. Condescension.Far in the unknown reaches of the future (which Project Moon Base purports is the year 1970) the United States has established a military base in orbit and hopes to soon establish a military base on the surface of the moon. Fearing the enormous tactical advantage that an orbital base provides the U.S. military, an unknown nation of sinister men in toddler-sized neckties plots to destroy the base. They finally succeed in kidnapping a prominent scientist scheduled to travel on the next space flight and replace him with a look-a-like saboteur.

This is a three-person mission, which includes Colonel Briteis as pilot and Major Moore as co-pilot. Some astonishingly misogynist exposition reveals that Major Moore and Colonel Briteis used to be sweethearts, but now hate each other because she (Briteis) was promoted to a higher rank. Nothing much happens during the actual flight, except for some fancy split-screen photography that shows how magnetic shoes can simulate gravity; people walk on the walls and ceiling and so forth. Finally, during some “guy talk,” Major Moore stumbles upon the obvious conclusion that, since the scientist look-a-like doesn’t know about the Dodgers, or anything about science for that matter, he must be a spy. Things go haywire for a minute and there’s a ridiculous slow-motion wrestling scene while they land on the moon.

Unfortunately, it’s the dark side of the moon [insert Pink Floyd reference here] and they don’t have enough fuel to take off again. Briteis goes all to pieces, so Moore takes charge. He and the penitent spy hike out to some lunar mountains to plant a relay transmitter. The spy either nobly sacrifices himself or clumsily and stupidly dies (I couldn’t figure out which) and Moore barely makes it back to the ship alive. They reestablish contact with the orbital base where the powers that be decide that, rather than rescue them, they might as well just occasionally drop them food and call them the Moon Base
. At the insistence of the authorities, Briteis and Moore get married. Moore is promoted to General so that he won’t have to be outranked by his wife.

Introduction:

Spit and polish.Joel cleans up Tom and Crow for the experiment, wedging them into laundry baskets.

Host Segment One:

Joel juggles water with ping-pong paddles. Quoth Dr. Forrester, “I’ve seen more impressive things in a box of Cracker-Jacks.” The Mads show off their Insect-a-Sketch, which is a combination of an Etch-a-Sketch and an ant farm.

Host Segment Two:

Tom wears a Commando Cody helmet and calls Joel Ted, insisting that he fly him around the set. Crow is Moon Man Krog, but would rather be Cody so that he can fly too.

Host Segment Three:

Joel demonstrates all kinds of strange futuristic neckties.

Host Segment Four:

An infomercial for SPACOM, the amazing multihued substance that can do just about anything!

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots read letters, with Tom and Crow hanging upside down.

Thoughts:

Lawn furniture...OF THE FUTURE!All of the host segments are at least decent, with a low point in the stupid “juggling water” gag, and a high point in the fast-paced and very funny SPACOM infomercial. It’s amazing all the marvelous things this wonderful substance is supposed to do.

Recycle, reduce, reuse seems to have been the motto of Commando Cody’s producers. The plot seems to have gone into the ditch somewhere around the second episode, but keeps hitting the gas anyway while its wheels spin hopelessly around and around in the mud. One has to wonder what the U.S. government is thinking (or at least, what that one spectacled guy who represents the government is thinking) when they continue to hire Cody as he persists in accomplishing absolutely nothing while the Moon Men destroy the Earth’s defenses with impunity. Fortunately for us, Joel and the ‘Bots rise to the challenge. Included are the Commando Cody theme song, Tom’s familiar cry of “nipple, nipple, tweak, tweak, fly!” whenever Cody takes off, and the observation that Cody’s been “saved by the editing” in between the two episodes. Joel has also made large cutouts of the words “Biff” and “Pow” which he holds up during the lengthy fistfights.

Moving on to Project: Moon Base, how do two people stranded in a derelict spaceship on the far side of the moon constitute an important military advantage for our country? Who knows? Judging by the clothes and accents of the enemies in the movie, I’m guessing that the evil country they represent is somewhere in Southern California, or maybe Washington State. As far as women are concerned, the film is strangely both progressive and regressive. Progressive in that women are pilots in the military. At the end, we find that one was even elected President of the United States. Regressive in, well, just about every other aspect of the film, most notably the expository scene where a General threatens Colonel Briteis with a spanking. We get another odd bit here where he tells her that Major Moore is a better pilot than she is and that “if he weighed 90 pounds instead of 180…” inferring that she got ahead as a pilot because she weighs less. Now, this may be nitpicking, but ignoring the physical insignificance of a few pounds of difference in a rocket ship that weighs several tons, Moore is a slight, slender young man who does not look 180 pounds and, more significantly, the equally slight Briteis doesn’t look anywhere near unhealthy enough to weigh only 90.

Joel and the ‘Bots help us out here, too with jokes about the tiny neckties, the silly name of the Space Military organization (SPACOM!) and the oddly flatulent noises that doors of the future seem to make. Joel pulls out props for the movie as well; when the General delivers his rather stilted briefing about the orbital base, Joel holds up cue cards for him. There’s also a hilarious Dr. Strangelove quote at the end. Both the shorts and the movie are dull and sterile 50s fare, but really funny comments by Joel and the ‘Bots make this one worth watching.