(1958, SciFi, b&w or colorized)
Mike Nelson and Fred Willard
Do you suppose on the moon, they get crazy when there’s a full Earth?
In a nutshell:
Scientists and convicts ride a rocket to the moon and find hypnotic blue women.
The brilliant but erratic Dirk has built a functional moon rocket in his backyard. To his dismay, the military notices and declares all such experiments must take place under their purview. His partner Steve agrees, but Dirk would rather launch his rocket secretly than turn over his experiment. To this end, he bullies escaped convicts Lon and Gary—one of whom is “smart,” and the other “shrewd”—into helping him crew the rocket.
Steve notices something wrong and climbs onboard with his fiancée June. Dirk discovers them just after takeoff, and everyone suits up for the journey. Levers are pulled, unwelcome convict advances are rebuffed, and asteroid fields are navigated. Near the voyage’s end, turbulence shakes a box o’ batteries from a wall to crush Dirk’s head. His dying act is to pass a diamond amulet on to Steve, along with a cryptic admonition to convey his apologies to someone called “The Lido.”
On the moon, the intrepid explorers are forced to flee from barely mobile rock creatures into an oxygen-enriched cave. Almost as soon as they discover this, hot blue moon women take them captive. In the scenes that follow, Lon and Gary canoodle with blue moon girls while June becomes jealous of Steve’s apparent betrothal to another. This happens because Steve’s amulet causes him to be mistaken for returning moon native Dirk...though not really. Apparently, the Lido (i.e. queen) only pretends to think he’s Dirk so that she can steal his rocket and relocate their dying colony to an undefined planet.
Before this plan can come to fruition, however, the blue women have some sort of power struggle involving murder, hypnotism, and a marionette spider. An evil blue girl kills The Lido and ascends the throne while a friendly blue girl commits suicide to help the explorers escape. In the end, all the blue ladies asphyxiate, Gary’s greed for their diamond mines (did I mention those?) gets him fried, and the survivors—comprised of Steve, June, and Lon—escape to the rocket.
What is it about SciFi films of the fifties that the friendly natives are always so eager to die that we might live? For a mid-century B-picture, Missile to the Moon is decently put together, but from off-the-shelf parts. The self-inflicted genocide certainly isn’t unique to this movie. Ada deliberately brings about the mass death of her albino Sumerian brothers in The Mole People to save the archaeologists. Exeter abandons his dying homeworld to save Cal and Ruth in This Island Earth. And I just got those two off the top of my head.
Missile to the Moon, of course, has Zema. “Wow, that Zema sure is a heroic gal,” we are supposed to say to ourselves. “Asphyxiating herself and every last blue beauty queen of her subterranean moon colony so that our hapless American heroes can escape. That Elliott kid was a puss; he should’ve destroyed the planet as soon as E.T.’s ship was away. And the scientists in all those Black Lagoon movies should have killed themselves and the rest of mankind so that the creature could repopulate the Earth with his stolen female. If attractive alien women ever come to Earth only to find sinister government agents threatening them with death, I’m gonna help them escape in a way that annihilates the entire human race, just to return the favor!”
If you ever wanted to hear Mike and former MST3K host Joel riff a film together, look no further, as this is probably as close as we’re ever going to get. Mike’s partner on this Rifftrax is actually comedy and improv legend Fred Willard, whose commentary style reminds me a lot of Joel—laconic, bizarre, and off-the-wall. He seems prone to seize on something that has little, if anything, to do with the film, and harp on it for several minutes at a time. Space monkeys and Muppets were my favorites; during the latter, he angrily accuses Mike of not being a Muppet. Mike replies by sadly acknowledging his non-Muppethood. Other good comments come when the convicts think they’re about to be discovered hiding in the rocket and Fred, shouts, “Quick, put on a dress and pretend you live here!” Later, when a desk has yielded not one, but two firearms, Mike exhorts a third character, “Grab a gun; there’s one in every drawer.” They also dedicate some time to trying to figure out which convict is supposed to be smart, and which is supposed to be shrewd. If you’re looking for something hilarious to watch, this isn’t it; the film and the commentary together are amusing, but not particularly memorable. Still, it’s a pleasant enough way to spend an hour and fifteen minutes.
(1958, SciFi, b&w or colorized)