12/9/06

201 Rocketship X-M

(1950, SciFi/Religious, b&w)

Let’s all run like fools, towards the danger!

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

An accidental visit to Mars teaches mankind the evils of nuclear war.

Summary:

By this time my lungs were aching for air.First, we’re introduced to the cast. There’s the professor (who resembles Walt Disney), his beautiful young assistant (a cold young woman with an eastern European accent), the pilot (Lloyd Bridges), the navigator (a whiny square-jawed fellow), and the engineer (an irritating Texan with a Yankee accent). The five astronauts prepare to take off for the moon by giving an expository press conference for most of the countdown and then jumping into their rocket with only two minutes remaining.

Once in space they engage in dreamy philosophical musings, punctuated by lengthy irrelevant anecdotes from Lloyd and the professor. We learn that zero gravity only affects coats, and then the engines die due to the beautiful young assistant’s bad fuel mixture calculations. I guess two minutes of preparation just wasn’t enough. Repairing the ship takes more calculations, dreamy musings, anecdotes, and floating objects (zero gravity also affects harmonicas and wrenches). They screw up the new calculations as well, resulting in acceleration-related pratfalls that would make Shatner proud.

Days later, they wake up with Mars looming up ahead of them instead of the Moon, and they explain away the astronomical unlikelihood (not to mention the sheer physical impossibility) of their finding their way to Mars while they were unconscious by saying that it’s due to the “intervention of a higher power.” Apparently, Mars is a desert with one half of earth’s gravity and enough atmosphere to walk around in oxygen masks and army fatigues, so they land and go exploring. They discover the irradiated ruin of a Martian city and decide to spend the night.

During the night, they see shadowy figures running around and decide to investigate. It turns out that humans inhabit Mars, but radiation has turned them into blind cavemen. The Martian cavemen hear well enough to squish the irritating Texan with a big rock and split the professor with an axe. Squarejaw gets squished too, but he’s just hurt, so Lloyd and the beautiful young assistant help him back to the ship.

On the way back, Squarejaw gets feverish while the young assistant and Lloyd engage in further dreamy musings. As they approach the earth, it turns out that beautiful young assistant screwed up yet again, leaving the engines on just a little and using up all of their fuel. They radio ahead their findings from Mars and then confess their love for each other just before their fiery deaths over Nova Scotia.

Back at the base, reporters ask how the mission could result in failure. The base commander replies that the mission was not a failure, for the knowledge of blind, irradiated cavemen on Mars will save the world.

Introduction:

Yoooooo an yuah daughtah aaagggh doooooommmmmmd!Joel introduces the newly redesigned Satellite of Love. They’re working on Tom’s voice box. Crow has a toothache, despite of his lack of teeth.

Host Segment One:

Tom Servo tries out his new voice. “Excelsior!” he cries. TV’s Frank introduces himself and loudly proclaims, “I’m the god!” before asking if they want fries with that. Joel and the ‘Bots have almost convinced him to bring them back to earth when Dr. Forrester shows up and punishes him. Joel shows off his latest invention, a mobile drum-set suit called the BGC-1.9. Frank shows off his latest invention, which is the same thing. He stole the idea from Joel. Dr. Forrester punishes him again.

Host Segment Two:

A tribute to the reporters of the film. It goes on and on and on and on…

Host Segment Three:

Joel delivers a lecture on “selective gravity” and proceeds to test the ‘Bots on what objects are funny or not funny while floating.

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots engage in dreamy philosophical musings, quoted from other films. Valeria from Robot Holocaust pops up in the Hexfield Viewscreen. She waves a skull and rambles about how “Yoo an yua dawtah ah dooomd” until Joel puts her off with some old scientist-ish grumbling. They ask her to help them get down to earth, but she mutters something about the “Daahg Wahn” and leaves.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots are upset that Dr. Forrester sent a movie about a spaceship crash to a bunch of guys in a satellite. They read some letters. Frank learns to push the button.

Thoughts:

Good thing Mars has such an Earth-like climate.What is that thing that Dr. Forrester punishes Frank with? Is he pulling a ripcord out of his butt? I don’t know. Anyhow, the host segments of this episode are a little inconsistent, but they pretty much represent all of the extremes of the early episodes. The tribute to the reporters of Rocketship X-M is lengthy and boring, the funny or not funny while floating sketch is one of their funniest sketches ever, and the Valeria sketch starts off amusing and makes a left turn into the completely non sequitur. It makes more sense if you’ve seen Robot Holocaust, but it still leaves you scratching your head at the end.

Sure, the movie’s scientifically inaccurate, misogynist, and self-righteous, but for a space exploration film made in the 50’s, it’s not all that bad. It has a followable plot, clear-cut characters, and an identifiable theme. In a nutshell, God makes a crew of space explorers miss the moon and hit Mars so that they can learn the evils of nuclear war. I know it sounds stupid when I put it like that, but it’s still a cut above many of the other films they’ve viewed.

This episode marks a number of changes in the series, most notably the addition of Kevin Murphy and Frank Conniff to the cast, both of whom add a great deal of energy to the show. I felt Kevin’s influence on the show during the first movie segment when he burst into song during the opening credits, and then continued to do so every few minutes throughout the film. His frenetic energy was a welcome addition to the show, mainly as a balance to Joel’s funny but very laconic style. Joel does a lot of laconic musings during the film, perfectly mimicking the pretentious philosophical discussions on screen, and Crow blurts out, “By this time my lungs were aching for air,” whenever Lloyd Bridges is in the scene. This is a fun, if occasionally slow and frustrating episode as far as the movie is concerned, and an important episode to watch as far as the cast changes are concerned.