First Man Into Space (1959)
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While testing a new rocket plane, the pilot kicks in all his reserve power and takes his ship right out of the atmosphere. Please note that this not a far-fetched idea in view of the fact that the X-15 had special attitude rockets along the fuselage to allow it to maneuver in the near vacuum of the upper atmosphere!
In space the pilot encounters a strange cloud of meteoric particles that smashes through his canopy and envelopes both his ship and his spacesuit-clad body in a flexible, asbestos-like coating. The material alters his physiology, changing him into creature that can survive in the low pressure of the upper atmosphere but NOT in the killing pressure at sea level.
He returns to Earth as a hideous monster (good makeup), gasping as his lungs struggled with the pressure that he's now unsuited for. In his dazed and desperate mental condition, the monster commits acts of violence, using the razor-sharp edges of his rough coating to slash his victims flesh.
While trying to track down the monster, Thomas and a scientist discuss the possibility of using the strange substance on the wreckage of the rocket plane as a heat shield for future space craft. Nice thinking, there.
All in all, a film with more to think about than to laugh at, unlike so many other low budget 1950s films.
On Dan's second flight, he hits over the 300 miles up comfort zone and his craft passes through a meteor dust storm. Returning to earth, Dan becomes a monster that resembles 200 pounds of bad asphalt. He also has a demanding craving for blood, whether it be from farm animals or fellow human beings.
Short runtime of an hour and seventeen minutes; black & white with near stoic acting...typical of low budget sci-fi.
Rounding out the cast is Marla Landi, Robert Ayers and Carl Jaffe. Noteworthy trivia: about two months after this film was released; the Russians put the real first man in space.
Much to my surprise I did enjoy the movie. Why my high rating? Considering the low budget, the result was an entertaining, generally well-acted movie. The story was good, certainly well above average for the period when so much dross was being screened. The script could have been better but the actors managed to rise above it for the most part. The photography and direction were first rate.
In one line, I'd suggest this movie was value for money.
The DVD, in Australia anyway, is a good transfer. A cheap release but with no extras.
This English production was directed by Robert Day & feels like an attempt to cash in on the success of Hammer studios The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) in which an astronaut is sent into space comes back turned into some sort of alien monster, personally I think First Man Into Space is a little slow going & not as good as Hammer's effort. The script by John Croydon & Charles F. Vetter for some reason is set in America even though the film was financed & made in England, disappointingly even at a scant 75 minutes in length First Man Into Space felt really padded & slow moving. The first 30 odd minutes are totally forgettable with the initial exploration into space which goes alright & it's the second time Dan goes into space that he gets turned into a monster where I feel it should have been the first, I mean the makers could have hit the ground running with the monster turning up within the first 10 minutes but for some reason they padded the story out. I wouldn't call it a bad film, there's a few minutes of decent monster action & it's competent throughout but I will probably have completely forgotten about it by the end of the week.
Don't be fooled by the DVD box artwork, the monster feels like a secondary sub plot for the majority of the film before it turns up at the end. The monster itself is quite good with it's deformed space mud encrusted face. There's a bit of blood but nothing too graphic. The special effects aren't too bad either, even though the spaceship looks like an ordinary US Navy jet plane the model work is alright as are the scenes set in outer space.
Technically the film is OK, filmed in black and white the cinematography is satisfactory & help make the very English locations look American. There's plenty of stock footage as well just to pad things out even more. The cast are alright, look out for an appearance by Roger Delgado who would later go on to star in several Doctor Who stories from the 70's as the Master.
First Man Into Space is a passable way to spend 75 minutes even though it still seems slow & padded. The monster is decent as are the effects but when all said & done it's nothing special. Although not credited as such AIP remade this in the 70's as the rather good The Incredible Melting Man (1977) which is much, much better & a lot gorier.
The real problem however is that there's a serious lack of internal logic . By this I mean you'll be entirely puzzled as to the monster's motive for killing people . For example a couple of highway cops see a car driving erratically , so they stop the car and find a dead female driver and a man mutated into a monster who then kills the cops . Ask yourself this: How would a crazed bloodthirsty monster be able to drive a car ? Perhaps more importantly why would a driver stop to pick up a crazed blood thirsty monster in the first place ? It also becomes more puzzling that this monster is able to articulate its motives when the script demands it at the end of the film . None of this makes much sense
Of course this is a problem with a great number of horror films where in order to follow horror convention so that someone gets killed every 15 minutes people do things that are totally unrealistic and you could argue that if someone is pointing out these faults then they're taking this film far too seriously . Maybe . But there are also some horror films that compelling and thought provoking and FIRST MAN INTO SPACE isn't one of them
Filmed in England yet set in White Sands New Mexico this is a slow but decent little scifi thriller about an experiment that goes horribly wrong. Its the sort of thing you put on late at night to fall asleep to or laugh at or drift off in the ways that black and white movies of the period are prone to make you do.
Not one of my favorites I recently picked it up as part of a Criterion box set called Madmen and Monsters of four lesser films from the late 1950's packaged together with a host of typical extras. Why Criterion would choose these films was a bit beyond me until I realized that all of the films were made by the same producers and were the follow ups to Fiend Without a Face (the crawling brain film) which Criterion put out several years ago. The transfer and such is sterling and the commentary is very informative dealing with the film and the producers life as exploitation filmmakers and to be honest listening to it boosted my appreciation of the film.
Its a good way to see the film- though to be honest I'm still not convinced the film needed a Criterion edition-especially since its pricey set (which I got greatly reduced) will limit peoples exposure to the film.
Bill Edwards as the cocky but unlucky astronaut - obsessed with achieving the titular feat - is positively boring at first, but he eventually manages to garner audience sympathy when his physical features are deformed and the character develops a taste for blood! Marshall Thompson as his commanding officer and elder brother is O.K. as a leaner Glenn Ford type; he had previously starred in FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958), another (and more successful) Richard Gordon-produced sci-fi which, incidentally, is also available on DVD through Criterion. Italian starlet Marla Landi, struggling with the English language, makes for an inadequate female lead; even her input in the featurette proves to be of little lasting value!
The Audio Commentary is yet another enjoyable Tom Weaver/Richard Gordon track where, among many things, the fact that FIRST MAN INTO SPACE was intended as a double-feature with CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958) is brought up - but it was eventually put out as a standalone release, so as to exploit the topical news value of the current space race; it's also mentioned that the monster dialogue was actually dubbed by Bonar Colleano (who, tragically, died in a traffic accident prior to the film's release!). Weaver even recalls a couple of anecdotes from the time when he was involved in the production of the DVD featurette shot by, of all people, ex-cult-ish film-maker Norman J. Warren: Landi, who by then had become a lady of title, was still ready to help out in carrying the equipment necessary to film the interview down several flights of stairs!; Edwards was supposed to have contributed to the featurette but, once in London, he proved reluctant to co-operate with Weaver - eventually, the latter learned that the actor had been recently diagnosed with cancer and, in fact, he died in 2002!
The first third of the film has to do with the experimental rocket plane program of the 1950s. Instead of calling them 'X planes' (like they actually referred to them at the time), they were called 'Y planes' and were concerned with seeing if a rocket plane fired from a bomber (in this case, an old B-50) could pass through the Earth's atmosphere. Problems seemed certain when a hot-shot pilot (the brother of the Commander in charge of this specific program) showed a lack of restraint and caution--taking unnecessary risks to go farther and higher than anyone before this time. Eventually, on the second flight, he actually does leave orbit and then something terrible occurs. The plane crashes, but the pilot is nowhere to be seen. Unknown to everyone is that the guy was alive...of sorts, and is now an enemy of mankind (what else?).
Overall, despite being released by MGM, it has all the marks of a reasonably well-done B-movie from a secondary film studio. All of the actors are unknowns or nearly unknowns and some times they tend to talk over each other's lines. As far as the special effects go, mostly they were excellent for the era...but the guy with the slime layer over him is a bit silly (you'll just need to see it to understand).
This mysterious meteoric material coats our spaceman with an impervious crust that leaves him looking like a petrified victim from the last days of Pompeii. Not to mention the fact that he also has an insatiable craving for blood (human, animal; any blood will do).
Space happy Chuck manages to shamble from his crash site all the way back to the aerospace lab, commandeering the odd truck & car along the way, taking a few breaks for some throat slashing & blood drinking. You see, he told his brother he would bring back all the "dope" from his test mission, so he's duty bound to get back to the base & make his report.
Having filled in the brass on what happened, Chuck keels over, dead. End of movie. Final tally: 6 or 8 people and 15 or so cows dead, authorities and service types scratching their heads in bewilderment.
The cast is pretty stiff, giving the entire film a pseudo-documentary feel. Italian love interest Marla Landi gets to talk "some Macaroni" (that's Italian, you know)and wring her hands in distress. Everyone else just looks like their in some other kind of distress.
All in all, pretty quaint, but still better than most direct-to-video sci-fi junk produced these days. Worth a look!
After being turned down by AIP, Gordon successfully pitched the film idea to MGM. Gordon and Vetter then signed on as producers for the project because of the financial success of their two previous films, "Fiend Without a Face" and "The Haunted Strangler". Because of MGM's financial involvement, the budget set for "First Man into Space" was slightly higher than for the producers' two previous films.
While the film is not terribly well-known today, it is a great movie about space exploration before such things became standard. Indeed, who knew what might happen in space, or if the radiation would be a problem? The makeup and costume effects are excellent, and more than make up for any shortcomings from the actors.
I like the fact that this movie combined sci-fi with a horror element. The makeup of the tormented Lt. Dan as the creature is truly creepy. The special effects of course are hilarious to watch as they are so dated, but of course this film was made in the late 1950's so this has to be taken into consideration.
Marla Landi portrays Lt. Dan's girlfriend and Robert Ayres rounds out the cast as the gung-ho police captain who is on the hunt for the monster.
This definitely isn't the best sci-fi movie of the 1950's, but it is a fun movie to watch.
It's Obscure and Unknown for a Reason. While it did do Good Business and Baby-Boomers Lined Up, it is Not Remembered with Fond Feelings. A Stiff Presentation it Contained Heavy Horror Elements that Stifled some of the Entertainment Value of the then Public's Fascination with all Things Space Travel.
Marshall Thompson is Forever Frowning and Dull as Dirt and the Italian Female Actress Mara Landi is Miscast and a Glaring Misstep. Bill Edwards as Astronaut Dan is an Obnoxious, Strutting Fifties Stereotype until He Returns from Space Humbled to Say the Least.
In the Second Half the Movie Becomes a Blood-Sucking Bore as the "Monster" is Seen Wandering the Countryside like "Frankenstein". It then becomes Extremely Downbeat as the Tragedy Unfolds. If the Reveal was Meant to be a Twist, it Failed Miserably.
Worth a Watch for Sci-Fi Completest with Low Expectations.
*Special Stars- Marshal Thompsom. Bill Edwards, Marla Landi, Roger Delgado.
*Theme- The unknown space is to be feared.
*Trivia/location/goofs- English. Has good stock footage of Chuch Yaeger's flight in the X-1.
*Emotion- A bit dated, but wonderful film of the era that is enjoyable to see. The duplication of the film's plot is in many of the other competing films of this subject matter. One of the better scripts of these test pilot films.
*Based On- 50's space exploration lore and fantasy.
Simple plot runs like this: cocky ace test pilot Dan Prescott (Bill Edwards) is on a mission to fly an experimental plane/rocket (it's kind of both) up, up, and away, higher than anyone's gone before, and then come back down, nice and easy. But our Dan, he's a daredevil! So he goes higher and higher, trying to become the first man to go into space. Not the first IN space, just into it. I know, it's sketchy. Anyway, he does come back down, sasses his superior – his brother Charlie (Marshall Thompson) – and is immediately assigned to pilot the next plane, to go even higher.
Which he does, only instead of making his turn and heading back Earthward, Daring Dan goes higher and higher, and this time his craft, bombarded by meteorites (I know, I know) and the ever-popular cosmic rays, is smashed open. Dan and the ship crashland. And then the killings start, and no one can find ol' Dan's body.
As the picture hints, there may be some kind of ugly monster involved. I don't want to give away the twisty plot, but – oh, who am I kidding, there is no twisty plot. Dan's survived his crash, only he's now covered in some sort of protective layer of cosmic whatever. Seems that when his ship broke apart, this stuff coalesced on Dan's mortal human body in order to protect him from those nasty cosmic rays. (Doesn't explain how he could breathe when there was no air to be breathed, but perhaps they were SUPER COSMIC RAYS, now with added Oxygen!)
Anyway, it's a funny movie.
The result would have been something close to First Man Into Space.
It has a low budget, and some really obvious science fiction tropes. Everyone plays the whole scenario deadly seriously, but not SO seriously that they enter bizarro world, say, in the manner of Criswell in Plan Nine From Outer Space. If you want to be generous, you could say the acting is reserved and tasteful. If you want to be less generous, you could say the performances are stiff and mind-numbingly boring.
There have been many other bad, low budget science fiction movies with similar premises (astronaut goes into space, comes back to Earth as inhuman monster), such as The Crawling Hand, The Incredible Melting Man, and that abomination to end all abominations, Monster-A-Go-Go. I'm sure there were some that pre-date this film as well.
Nobody's shaming themselves here, but still, this is not worth seeking out as some sort of lost classic or anything. There are many science fiction classics of yore you should check out before this one. If you want a bonafide well-done, outstanding film, it isn't this. By the same token, if you want a hilarious, goofy, over-the-top slab of goofball incompetence to mock and deconstruct, this is not that type of movie either. Put this one on the back burner, there's plenty of other flicks to get to before you spend 75 minutes with this puppy.
The cast is nothing to write home about, but the dialogue can be hilarious and frequently is, because it has dated so badly. The man of the title is an excitable chap who speaks like one of the teens from I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF all grown up, talking about "dope" and other silly things. The rest of the cast are all pretty stiff and stilted in their delivery of their clichéd lines, but there's no need to worry about that, it's just typical for a film like this.
The special effects aren't bad. The space travel looks quite poor in these post-STAR WARS days, but at least it has some imagination put into it and has that odd quality of looking fake and unrealistic yet looking interesting, magical even, in a way that CGI animation can't create. I can't explain it very well. The makeup for the monster is surprisingly simple and effective, he just looks like he's been covered in some molten rock or something which has then settled. I like the way you can see one of his eyes too.
While FIRST MAN INTO SPACE may not be original, or scary, it remains a solid piece of entertainment from a much different time. The scenes of the rampaging monster and weird space travel deserve classic status, these types of things WERE cinema in the '50s. Not brilliant, but okay anyway.