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I was fortunate enough, along with my Air Force, Air Research, Balloon-
Launch teammate's to be at Holloman AFB from 1953 to 1957 and took part
in the actual making of the movie while they were shooting there for
three months, July, August and September, 1955. I was in nine different
scenes, working in the background and one "walk across" scene, handling
the gondola for launch. Of course, we were not paid, however a Sargent
in the outfit did because he had a "speaking line". I was "bigger than
life" walking across that Cenimascope and Stereophonic Sound screen at
the age of 22. My green '55 Chevy was in the crash scene of the gondola
in the desert and I drove it across the sand dunes and mesquite bushes.
The gondola was dropped from a crane in that scene and "catsup" was
spread on Guy Madison's face and mouth to look like blood! I remember
talking baseball and the World Series with Dean Jagger while lying on a
mattress in a Quonset hut near the set. He was a "regular Joe". I
passed football with Martin Milner, Warren Stevens and John Hodiak on
the tarmac near the movie set and launch site...John Hodiak died
suddenly one week before the film was finished. Scenes were also shot
in Florida. Guy Madison would arrive in his black limousine, late,
every morning, with his French wife and poodle. Guy was smoking his
cigarette with a cigarette holder dangling in his mouth. Yes, he was
very "snooty!" Virginia Leith could not remember her lines and we had
to repeat the scenes with her 15 times or so before she would get it
right! It was fun helping to make the movie and seeing the finished
product at the premier showing on the base in 1956. I made a lot of
good friend's including the set electrician while working around the
set. He promised me that if I would come to Hollywood after I was
discharged, that he could get me a job as Studio Projectionist at
Twentieth Century Fox, as I was working part-time at the Frontier
theaters in Alamogordo, New Mexico as a projectionist! My life took a
different route and I never did take him up on the offer. Could have
been a "movie star!" By today's standards it was a humdrum movie and
kind of "corny", but it was a chance of a lifetime for me.
Ron K. Brown, Dayton, Ohio retired, now age 71 March 28, 2005
Guy Madison portrays an Air Force flight surgeon who performs daring
experiments in space medicine. He's somewhat of a cross between real-life
researchers Col. John Paul Stapp (rider of the famous rocket sled) and
Joseph W. Kittinger, who performed a free-fall parachute jump from a
floating at 102,800 feet in 1961...5 years or so after the release of this
The planning and execution of the high-altitude balloon jumps is detailed in this movie.
Admittedly, it's not a film for everyone, and it has its share of cliches, but remember that this was released in 1956. It's an interesting movie, very dated now, but that actually enhances its appeal for those interested in the earliest days of the space program.
I saw this film in 1959 and again in the 1970's and it reminded me how much research and testing went into the space program before John Glenn made his historic entry into space. This film is a must for younger people to see what went on before they were born and how the space program began. Stand back and look at it today and see just how far we have come in just 42 years.
I assume this film won't appeal to everyone. It's a bit cerebral and a
bit slow, but a very important movie historically. The title of the
film refers to the experiments that made even the consideration of
space travel possible. In other words, the film is NOT about early
rockets or the space program, but experiments on the suitability of
humans for the harsh demands this or ultra-high speed planes would put
on their bodies. Two particular scientific programs run by the air
force are featured here--high speed rocket sled trials as well as super
high-altitude balloon flights combined with insanely dangerous
parachute drops from as high at 100,000 feet! For folks like me who are
fascinated by airplanes and space travel, this film is a must-see. And,
instead of the typical science fiction film of the day, this is all
based on scientific fact--feats that even today seem extraordinary.
What I particularly liked, other than the story, is that the film did
NOT rely on grainy stock footage--everything looked very real. And, on
top of that, the acting and direction were excellent.
While teens and kids might not sit still for this sort of film, try to get them to. It's highly educational and makes you really appreciate these men and their brave deeds.
Someone at 20th Century-Fox must have really wanted to make this movie.
It would seem to have only marginal appeal to a general audience,
lacking in romance for women and in action for men, and top-billed Guy
Madison simply didn't have enough box office clout to carry it to
success. It has the straightforward, humorless feel of one of those
this-is-good-for-you training films you sat through in orientation
Perhaps for that reason, however, it does have a certain value as a documentary-like glimpse into the very beginnings of the USA's space program in the mid-1950s, unencumbered by phony heroics and comic relief. It also offers a final look at John Hodiak as well as providing a bit of work for the always-welcome Dean Jagger. Guy Madison seems too much of a lightweight for his part and Virgnia Leith can be no more than pleasant. To be fair, however, neither one has much to work with in the script.
Madison has two bare-chest scenes -- one on a beach and one in the bedroom. (He and wife Virginia Leith have separate beds.) In order to project a clean-cut image, Madison's hairy chest has been shaved into a boyish smoothness.
Having met actor Warren Stevens several years ago, and having corresponded with him as such, I can tell you that he is a truly kind gentleman and a World War II hero, having been a Navy pilot in the Pacific Theatre of Conflict. He is always patient and generous with his time and nothing like the villains that he has portrayed on screen! I and many of his fans believe that he never achieved the recognition he truly deserved in the industry. However, he is still acting, just recently appearing on "E.R." and will hopefully be acting for many years to come! He recently did a voice-over for the 50th Anniversary edition of "Forbidden Planet". Here's to you, "Doc" Ostrow, many voyages into the galaxy...
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