Moon Pilot (1962)

Article #997 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-7-2003
Posting Date: 5-5-2004
Directed by James Neilson
Featuring Tom Tryon, Brian Keith, Edmond O’Brien

A man slated to be the first astronaut to orbit the moon finds himself being followed by a strange woman who knows everything about him.

The surprising thing about this movie is not that it occasionally falls into slapstick comedy; the surprising thing is that it does it as rarely as it does. This is, after all, a shopping cart film (my term for a Disney comedy of this time period), and slapstick humor is part of the package. It’s the satirical edge of the movie that makes it unique for its breed; it takes potshots at the military, national security, and the government (I want a copy of the book, “Simple Science for Senators”). In fact, the movie is probably the most sophisticated of Disney’s many comedies, and generally only stoops to slapstick when a convenient opportunity arises (such as the appearance of monkey or a scene where people try to bust down a door). Brian Keith and Edmond O’Brien are great when they’re not yelling (which they do a lot, which has less to do with bad judgment on their part than it does with the fact that yelling people are a mainstay of shopping cart movies). Dany Saval is also quite good as the mysterious lady, Lyrae, though the descriptions people give of her are highly questionable; they say you can’t tell what kind of accent she has (she sounds French to me) and that she looks like a beatnik (she looks a lot more like Audrey Hepburn than a beatnik). The latter description does lead to the strangest scene of the movie, where witnesses are expected to identify the woman from a line-up of female beatniks picked up for questioning, all of whom are either playing bongos, dancing, or reciting poetry in the line-up.

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