Destination Moon (1950)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/17/13
Producer: George Pal
Written By: Robert Heinlein

"What's so great about the Moon? There's no babes, beer, or baseball."

An honest and sincere attempt to realistically portray the first manned rocket to the Moon, supported by the astounding visual effects work of George Pal. Equal parts science and propaganda, a military general convinces American industry to take up the challenge of sending a rocket to the Moon as a matter of national security. He even prepares a Woody Woodpecker training film to educate and sway the stake holders, which is easily the most bizarre and surreal part of the film. As public unrest increases, a team of scientists decide to take off prematurely in order to avoid sabotage and additional red tape, and thus the historic flight to the Moon commences.

The science is solid and straight forward, and remarkably visionary for the time. The visual effects are very impressive, although an overabundance of matte paintings reduces the thrill factor. Possibly the most shocking scene is the opening titles sequence, which was clearly the inspiration for George Lucas's "Star Wars" (1977). The pacing is mind numbingly sluggish, but the film is overflowing with imagination and never fails to captivate. The acting is serviceable, but an annoying radio operator kills the otherwise serious tone, and the overly drawn out melodramatic climax leaves a bad taste. It's interesting to see a film where all of the protagonists are men of science, which makes for a great character study and a refreshingly testosterone-free atmosphere.