CONQUEST OF SPACE (1955)
Article #170 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-2-2001
Posting date: 1-16-2002
Despite their differences, the son of a space veteran accompanies him on the trip to Mars of which his father is the commander. When a crew member dies en route, the commander becomes a religious fanatic and tries to sabotage the expedition; when his son is forced to kill him, he gains the enmity of Sergeant Mahoney, a long-time friend of the commander.
This outer space epic reminds me of George Pal’s earlier voyage into space, DESTINATION MOON, and it shares some of that movie’s flaws; it’s peopled with cliched characters, and isn’t particularly well acted. It didn’t matter all that much in the earlier movie, as the focus of that one was on the scientific side of the expedition; here, the story is character oriented, and the movie suffers tremendously. The movie was based on a non-fiction science book with illustrations by Chesley Bonestall, and so the makers had to come up with their own story. Three scripts were rejected before this one was chosen, and this one is certainly no gem; it feels to me like a compendium of war-movie cliches. Worst of all, the story hinges on a completely unconvincing change of character on the part of the general in charge of the expedition from a hardened space veteran to a religious fanatic intent on sabotage; neither the script nor the actor (Walter Brooke) were able to make this change of character plausible, and the whole movie suffers for it. This is a shame; I can’t help but feel some affection for a science fiction movie that aspires toward human drama rather than just spectacle or action, but you still need a good convincing story to make it work, and that is just what this film does not have.
On the plus side, it’s nice to see Ross Martin in another movie, but like in THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK, he dies far too early in the proceedings for my taste.