...There's a remake of Cat-Women of the Moon?!...It's by all-accounts worse AND cheaper than the original?! How is that even possible? I don't know, but I'll find out!...
Eccentric scientist Dirk has been working with colleague Steve for months now on sending a rocket to the moon. He gets bad news when the government are forcibly demanding to take charge of the operation, and be given all their scientific findings. Intent on seeing through his plan alone for reasons unknown, Dirk takes advantage of the coincidental presence of two escaped convicts, Gary and Lon, and convinces them to be his co-pilots. Meanwhile, Steve notices something is wrong when in the space station's control room with his girlfriend June, and together they investigate, becoming inadvertent stowaways as the ship launches.
The rocket makes it to its destination, but only after a deadly meteor storm that kills Dirk, whose last action is to give Steve a strange medallion. Once the group sets foot on the moon, they quickly come across many obstacles, such as rock creatures, 'the night monsters', and an advanced civilisation made up exclusively of women...
After many months of waiting, I have finally seen Missile to the Moon, and I have to wonder how it earned its reputation as 'Cat Women of the Moon, but worse', because it's not that bad, and is surprisingly good in places! As far as remakes go, it handles the material well, telling a similar story, but changing the characters and motivations enough as to not feel like a pointless carbon copy. This different spin on the story works well. There's somewhat interesting character dynamics at the beginning, albeit stunted by the almost immediate death of secret moon man Dirk before the rocket reaches the moon.
The characters are all a mixture of stupid to some extent. Dirk arranged for every eventuality, except the biggest one, Steve seems uncaring about the moon women's plight and is only too happy to make out with his 'betrothed', while Judy blows everyone's cover just because she was jealous. Gary's unlikeable, but at least he's meant to be! Lon meanwhile is the most tolerable of the bunch.
The aliens aren't developed much, and while the added setup is appreciated, it also drags the film out long enough that we don't meet them until the 40 minute mark, and with only half an hour to go, there's not much time to get to know them. The greatest developed are Lido, who comes across like she's full of shit (Sure, lady, you knew all the time Steve was an imposter. I believe you), Alpha is a catty and hotheaded bitch, while Lambda is a more gentle and sympathetic character, romantically entangled with whichever male character happens to be in the room at the time...or at least, that's how it seemed until I realised I was actually seeing two separate characters, who both happen to look and act exactly the same. Said second woman Zima really comes into her own at the end, saving the day singlehandedly, feeling much more fulfilled than her counterpart from the original.
Overall, the characters in Missile to the Moon all get shortchanged in some way or another, to the point where Gary hasn't even done anything wrong enough to warrant his sticky end, unlike his counterpart in Cat Women, and you wish Dirk had lived longer so we might further understand his character.
The dialogue is pretty amusing in places, both intentionally and unintentionally.
Gary: "And I used to think those scientists who wanted to reach the moon were kooky. Man, this is it, this is fantastic!"-June: "I can't believe it. It seems like a dream!"-Gary: "Well honey, if there wasn't better material around I'd volunteer to pinch you."
June: "Deliver me from those who don't mean any harm. They're the ones who cause all the trouble."
Gary: "Don't think, honey. Just be beautiful.".
The science isn't the greatest, as can be expected from a 1950s sci-fi picture. There's a dangerous daytime on the moon, rock monsters, giant spiders, and more. At one point the movie surprisingly tries to explain some of the more ludicrous elements of Cat Women of the Moon, such as 'Why did this astronaut crew bring guns?!'. It doesn't explain it well, mind you, but at least it does try. There's still the bit if idiocy though where upon finding out this one cave has oxygen, the crew promptly decide to take their entire space suits off as they go exploring.
The effects are a surprising high point in Missile to the Moon's favour! We've got good backdrops early on that convince, a decent rocket set, visuals on monitors that don't look really fake, and a good looking meteor field that almost looks stop motion. Then there's the impressive alien life. It looks like a fake rock monster, but it's legitimately a giant and well-made fake rock monster, and its entrance scene is really well handled!
That's not to say all the effects are exemplary though. For a start, the giant spider (an oft-used prop in many other films, including this one's predecessor) is more funny than scary, and has a very unconvincing airy walk. There's one particularly hilarious moment when the rocket lands on the moon, and it's clearly reversed footage of a rocket launching, and we can still see the launching pad and adjacent buildings superimposed on the lunar landscape! There's another scene in a room where there's a pretty looking landscape mural...that turns out to be a window when one of the characters comments on the 'view' outside. What looks good as an intentional illustration looks...less than stellar when intended as a real landscape!
It's staggering to know that what constituted a pittance of a budget for a cheesy b-movie is still more money than most people will have at any one given point in their lives!
The acting is fairly decent from the main leads (most of the time, anyway), but not so much from the alien women, who are all made up of beauty contest winners rather than actresses, save for the main four. K.T. Stevens and Nina Bara don't impress much as Lido and Alpha thanks to their awkward and stilted deliveries, while Laurie Mitchell and Marjorie Hellen are interchangeable, but good all the same.
Missile to the Moon is an interesting film in that it shows what to do right in a remake, but it's also not that great. Despite its positives, it's only really worth a watch if you want a good laugh, and even then there are more fun 50s sci-fi pictures out there...
5, 30:15, 44:22, 45 mural, 56:52,