THE ROCKET MAN (1954)
Article #589 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-25-2003
Posting Date: 3-20-2003
An orphan comes by a magical space gun that helps him in a fight to save the local orphanage.
Look at the title. Be aware that the cast features John Agar, Anne Francis and Beverly Garland in it. Know that the script was co-written by Lenny Bruce. Read that plot description again. Know that the movie is one of those small-town, feel-good, light comedies about nice decent folk being manipulated by a corrupt politician who not only engages in fraud, but also drives drunk and almost runs over a child. Then you can do as I did as I watching this one; scratch your head a lot.
Not that the movie itself is all that strange; once you’ve got its number, it’s fairly easy to figure out. It’s just that (after considering the cast and the writer) I went into it expecting—well, I’m not sure what, but it wasn’t this. Not that it’s awful; there are a couple of good laughs in it, but I just wasn’t adaquately prepared.
What I found most interesting about this one is that more than any movie I’ve seen, this one confounds the boundaries between science fiction and fantasy. The ray gun used by the kid and the appearances of a ghostly spaceman are the only fantastic elements in the movie, but despite the science fiction trappings, these things work in a purely fantasy way; the gun is used only four times in the movie; the first two lead you to believe that it stops time for a short period, but the last two indicate that it has powers of a much more varied variety. At one point, the spectral spaceman describes it as a kind of Aladdin’s Lamp, and that’s probably a key clue to classifying this one. Despite the SF trappings, this movie is pure fantasy. If you know that, you’ll be better prepared for handling this movie when it comes your way than I was.
Actually, it’s movies like this that keep this project interesting.