When I think of bad science fiction movies from the golden age of bad science fiction movies that gave pulp-era sci-fi a bad name, Rocketship X-M starring Lloyd Bridges is one of the first that comes to my mind.
Apparently, some of the readership of Planet Stories felt the same way, mad that the magazine had given a spotlight in a previous issue to such a lousy movie!
Stanley Nathanson lists out his grievances against this flick in detail. While my main gripe was that it was boring and bad, rather than it was scientifically inaccurate and not hard enough science fiction, Stan gets into some nitty gritty:
“I have been reading P.S. for years, but never took the trouble to write a letter, because you usually print good stuff, or at least readable, BUT, why on Earth, (or anywhere, for that matter), did you give a feature spot to that blurb about ROCKETSHIP X-M?
If an article extolling the virtues of and S-F movie had to be printed, why didn’t you pick a good one, DESTINATION MOON, for instance? In regard to ROCKETSHIP X-M, I am quite positive that ANY Science-Fiction Actifan could have written, not only a better plot, but a much more accurate one.
The main fault of the picture is its extreme inaccuracy. I am including several examples of these technical errors.
- The rocketship is hurtling through space, when they enter a meteor swarm. O.K. Now how the H- can meteors, rushing through space (a vacuum, by the way), make a whooshing noise as they pass the ship? (No sound in a vacuum).
- Landing on Mars, the explorers are greeted by a terrific rainstorm. Sorry, but there isn’t sufficient water vapor in Mars’ atmosphere for a drizzle, let alone a downpour as in the picture.
- Granting an atomic war on Mars thousands of years ago, the byproducts of an atomic blast are of an extremely short half-life. Definitely not fifty thousand years.
- Why are the men horrible monsters, while the women look like something from a pulpzine cover (not the bem, either)? Since when do Martians wear such noticeable lipstick?
- While still in space (outside of a gravitational field), a harmonica floats in the air. Good! Why then do papers and pencils on the desk (in addition to other assorted stuff), stay put? Hmmmmmm?
- The ship was originally supposed to go to the moon (a distance of roughly 240,000 miles). How then did it have enough fuel to return to the earth from Mars, assuming that it could get anywhere near Mars? (Mars is roughly 238,000,000 miles from Earth at its greatest distance, and 35,000,000 miles at its closest approach to Earth. Assuming Mars to be about 100,000,000 miles from Earth at the time of the trip, and even this distance is less than average, Mars would still be 400,000,000 times further from Earth than the moon is, when both are at an average distance from our planet).
These are a few of the many major, and innumerable minor errors in the picture.
A picture like this is what makes people think of Science-Fiction and fairy tales at the same time.” – Stanley Nathanson
I’d like to note that Stan is exaggerating about #4; I actually had to go back and check, because I almost thought maybe Stan had seen a different, less terrible movie; for a couple frames near the end of the movie, there’s a lady Martian or two wearing a burlap sack or something. Lipstick may have been more discernible on the prints back in 1950, but I suspect he’s exaggerating about this, too. As for number 5, I’d guess that, as bad as Rocketship X-M was, they didn’t want to make it worse by having that many noticeable wires in the shots.
“This guy [Ackerman] has been appearing in just about every stf mag there is, with an article (usually with pictures) on either “Rocketship X-M,” or “Destination Moon.” Does he know where the body is buried or something?” – Ken Beale
Next week, I’ll be taking a break from Science Fiction to read a *insert hyperbolic description here* Dan Fowler novel and perhaps even talk about an entire issue of G-Men Detective.