Project Moon Base (1953) – Friday Night At The Home Drive-In

Poster for Project Moon Base (1953)Project Moon Base (1953) by #RichardTalmadge
co-written by
#DonnaMartell #HaydenRorke #RossFord

A saboteur posing as a scientist strives to destroy the world’s first space station.

“They found romance 100,000 miles from the earth!”

“The Next Frontier of Adventure!”

#SciFi #Espionage #Thriller

Project Moon Base (1953) opens with a quick history lesson that starts in 1948 and goes up to 1970. In case you didn’t notice, this movie came out in 1953, so this history lesson was entirely fictional and speculative, and of course (as we now know), completely inaccurate. But that’s the nature of science fiction (or speculative fiction). Some visionaries, like Jules Verne, manage to predict things like electric submarines and television newscasts. Others, like the makers of Project Moon Base, well, here’s what they saw coming…

“In 1948 the Secretary of Defence proposed that the United States build a Space Station as a military guardian of the sky. By 1954 atom bombs and inter-continental rockets made it a necessity. In 1966 the first orbital flight was made by Colonel Briteis. By 1970 the Space Station had been built and free men were reaching for the Moon to consolidate the safety of the Free World.”

“But while this was going on, the enemies of Freedom were not idle – they were working to destroy the Space Station.”

Pretty compelling stuff, eh?

Of course, as we all know, the first moon landing took place in 1969. The first space staton, Salyut, was sent up by the Soviet Union in 1971. The first American space station (in other words, the first space station sent up by the ‘Free World’) was SkyLab in 1973.

Reality is boring. What happened in the world of Project Moon Base?

The movie starts with a man sitting at what appears to be a normal desk in a normal office somewhere. He is speaking, through a futuristic looking communication device, to someone called Sector Number 13. But basically, this seems to be taking place in an office waiting room. A Mr Roundtree comes in sits down at the desk. He tells Sector Number 13 that they’ve been trying to get an agent onto the space station, but it’s been impossible.

He also says that he has orders to destroy that eye in the sky and it must be done within two months.

He goes on to explain his evil plan. Roundtree says that he has 300 operatives who are basically look-alike for the 300 top scientist in the field. He figures that one of those 300 scientists will eventually be assigned to the space station, and then he can replace him or her with his or her look-alike.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happens next.

Okay, but who are we rooting for?

We don’t actually meet the good guys until over 10 minutes into the movie  — and this movie is only 63 minutes long.

One of our heroes is a pilot, named Major Bill Moore, and he’s going to be flying this important mission to the moon. General Greene apologizes to him for having bumped him from making the first orbital flight around the moon. For some sort of political reasons, Greene had to give the job to someone named “Bright Eyes”.

“You used to like Bright Eyes,” the General says to Bill.

Bill says he liked Bright Eyes as a captain, but not as a colonel — Oh, so this Bright Eyes must be the “Colonel Briteis” mentioned in the opening prologue….

As if on cue, General Greene gets a message from the White House. It is an order that Colonel Bright Eyes fly the mission instead of our hero, Bill. General Greene insists that Bill be the co-pilot.

Colonel Bright Eyes enters, and we are shocked to discover that she is a very young woman. The General’s words about Bill liking Bright Eyes suddenly take on whole new meaning.

However, Colonel Bright Eyes seems more like a spoiled teenager, than an accomplished pilot — and the general winds up telling her off; calling her a spoiled brat, and threatening to turn her over his knee and spank her. I kept expecting the next big reveal to be that he was her father, but no.

So, is any of this entertaining?

Oh, this is a real camp classic I’ve ever seen one. The outer space outfits that they wear are unbelievable. A cross between school boy/schoolgirl uniforms and… I don’t know what – I can’t believe anyone thought that these were serious uniforms for astronauts.

The Space uniforms in Project Moon Base (1953)

Swimming caps on their heads, shirts and shorts. I don’t even know what purpose those caps would have. They wouldn’t offer much protection. Perhaps they’re like hairnets, keeping their hair out of the working gears of the ship…? Not that we see any working gears…

Shorts and short sleeves…. Is it supposed to be hot in outer space?

Maybe they just wanted to dress the cute female Colonel Bright Eyes in a fairly skimpy outfit, but they felt that they had to put everyone else in the same outfit or else it would be seen as sexist.

Incidentally, the President of the United States is a woman in this reality.

I was worried for a while that they were going to walk around on the surface of the moon in those skimpy outfits, but I was relieved when they put on protective space suits and helmets that at least sort of resemble actual astronaut gear.

Robert A. Heinlein co-wrote this?

Robert A. Heinlein has been called the “dean of science fiction writers”, and is generally thought of as a talented writer who emphasized scientific accuracy in his fiction.

Project Moon Base was originally intended to be the pilot of a TV series, but when sci-fi movies became popular, they decided to add more footage to it and release it as a film. They did this without Robert A. Heinein’s input, and he basically disowned the project.

So, what’s the final word for Project Moon Base?

Project Moon Base (1953) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema if I’ve ever seen it. Not a good movie by any means, it’s wildly entertaining. I laughed out loud several times, and my jaw hit the floor a couple of times. There’s enough so-bad-it’s-good moments to satisfy any hard-core bad movie aficionado. But anyone looking for a high-quality Robert A Heinlein science fiction story should probably steer clear of this one – as he apparently did himself. The rest of you should feel free to immediately add it to your playlist for your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

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