Assignment Outer Space (1960)

(a.k.a. SPACE MEN)
Article #1083 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2004
Posting Date: 7-30-2004
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Rik Van Nutter, Gabriella Farinon, Archie Savage

When a space station threatens to destroy the earth with its photonic generators , it’s up to a crew of astronauts and a reporter to save the day.

I’m going to coin another term here. You know how in some movies, the musical soundtrack is in sync with the action on the screen, enhancing and heightening the mood at all times? If so, then I’m sure you’ve noticed how in some movies, the musical soundtrack does no such thing; it just plows on without a care for the action on the screen, sounding the same during the thrilling, tense sequences as it does during the thoughtful sequences or the exposition? It’s obvious in such cases that the soundtrack is only there to fill in empty silence, much like elevator music is only there to give you something to listen to in an elevator. This type of soundtrack which heightens nothing, enhances nothing and reduces everything it touches to dreary sameness of mood I hereby dub the “Elevator Soundtrack”.

This movie starts out with a certain initial charm, with a savvy space pilot subtly taunting a know-it-all reporter on his first trip into deep space. The bargain basement special effects also had a certain charm to them; when I first saw them, I found myself hearkening back to my childhood when I used to watch “Space Angel” on a local cartoon show, a space opera which displayed just how limited limited animation could be. In fact, I’m a little surprised at how cheap the special effects seem to be; frankly, I think the Rocky Jones movies have better effects, and at least one effect (in which a burning and clearly earthbound car is used to substitute for an explosion in outer space) may win the award for the most desperately bad special effect I’ve seen. The charm does wear off, though, and between the dubbing (it’s in sync but poorly acted) and that Elevator Soundtrack, the movie ends up being like a long trek through the mud. It’s a bit of a shame, though; the story itself isn’t too bad, and at least one scene (in which one character navigates a space taxi through a narrow and invisible tunnel by tossing extraneous items about him to figure out the safe route) really caught my attention. Probably the most memorable thing about the movie is Archie Savage, whose striking physical appearance (a black man with snow-white hair) causes him to steal every scene he’s in without trying.



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