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Film / Project Moonbase

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A 1953 Science Fiction film directed by Richard Talmadge, starring Ross Ford, Donna Martell, and Hayden Rorke.

In the futuristic world of 1970, the United States Space Force — having established an orbiting space station — readies a reconnaissance mission to survey the Moon for a future base. The assigned mission commander, Major Moore (Ford), is annoyed to find that his co-pilot has been replaced with the more famous Colonel Briteis (Martell). Unfortunately, the two of them have more serious problems to worry about, as the sinister enemies of Freedom have replaced their photographic specialist with a saboteur who is tasked with destroying the space station. When the imposter is uncovered, his desperate struggle with Moore sends the rocket off course, forcing them to land on the moon, thereby establishing America's first lunar base.

Based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein (who shares screenwriting credit with producer Jack Seaman) and shot in ten days (sharing sets and costumes with Cat Women of the Moon, released one day earlier), this low-budget attempt to portray a bold, exciting future of Interplanetary Voyages, female presidents, and orbiting H-bombs is let down by a mediocre plot and what can only be described as a cringe-inducing portrayal of America's first woman in space; Colonel Briteis (not "bright eyes!") a spoilt, bratty symbol of '50s misogyny.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

The movie has the following tropes:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The movie is set in 1970, which meant they were only a year out regarding the moon landing.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: It's no surprise that Major Moore and Colonel Briteis are married by the end of the movie, as they snark at each other constantly throughout it.
  • Compilation Movie: The film is assembled from several episodes of the never-released TV series Ring Around the Moon.
  • Dutch Angle: Used in the space station docking sequence to show that not every object in space approaches on the same plane.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Col. Briteis is introduced talking smack to the General, showing that her promotion has given her an inflated ego.
    • When they get to the space station, Maj. Moore pauses to listen to a baseball broadcast. Doubles as a Chekhov's Gun, as he later uses his fandom to suss out the infiltrator.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Averted; the mysterious Mr. Roundtree is the blandest Diabolical Mastermind imaginable. Then again he is a spy — maybe it's part of his cover.
  • Fanservice: Briteis wears tight shorts and has a great ass. Which, as others point out, badly needs to be spanked.
  • Gravity Screw: People walk along the corridors of the space station upside down past people going the other way due to its variable gravity. They avoid floating off the floor because they were wearing "magnetic shoes". Signs request that you PLEASE DO NOT WALK ON THE WALLS.
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: It's pretty obvious who they're supposed to be, being a Fifties film and all, but the Greater-Scope Villain faction is called just the "Enemies of Freedom".
  • Hollywood Science: Averted. Though it does fall victim to Technology Marches On, there's a serious attempt to depict the future of space exploration as seen from the 1950s. A streamlined spaceship only takes them up to the space station, where another craft looking similar to the Apollo Lunar Module (though much larger) takes them the rest of the way. There's also Expo Speak explanations of space flight and free fall.
  • Karma Houdini: The man behind the plan to sabotage the space station is never caught after his plan with the fake Dr Wernher fails.
  • Kinky Spanking: Briteis is threatened with this by her commanding officer. Apparently this was Author Appeal for Robert Heinlein.
  • Last-Name Basis: Col. Briteis. Her first name is never even mentioned, let alone used.
  • The Load: Downplayed. Briteis is an Overranked Soldier who is vastly underqualified for her position but who proudly refuses to heed advice or suggestions from her more experienced subordinate Maj. Moore. However, she clearly has some skill as a pilot, she (eventually) admits her mistakes, and it's actually her idea to establish a radio relay on the crater edge once they get stranded.
  • Lord Country: Orbital shuttles named "Canada" and "Mexico" are also docked at the space station.
  • Overranked Soldier: Briteis does not show any sign of the skills or leadership ability one would expect of an O-6. Justified because she was an O-3 Captain who got her eagles for political reasons after completing a high-profile mission that she was assigned because her lighter weight made her more suitable for it than the other possible choices. Moore makes the jump from O-4 Major to O-7 Brigadier after marrying Briteis so they can justify putting him in command.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Moore is virtually ordered to propose to Briteis, because the public won't accept the implied hanky-panky of two young unmarried people of the opposite sex working together unchaperoned in a close environment for months. Fortunately, neither of them are averse to the idea.
  • Punny Name: Miss Prattles, the female journalist. And Bright Eyes Briteis.
  • Quickly-Demoted Woman: Briteis only became the first person in space (thereby being granted the rank of Colonel) because she weighed less than the hero. But Briteis makes up for this at the end of the movie by requesting that Major Moore be promoted to Brigadier General after they're married, so that he will outrank her. What a gal! Even though the President (thus commander-in-chief) is also a woman.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Dr. Wernher dies helping them re-establish contact with Earth.
  • The Resenter: Maj. Moore resents Col. Briteis because he was pulled off of a very important mission so she could take his place (for practical reasons) and that she got a promotion out of it (for political reasons), and because it appears that she's in the process of doing it all over again. For her part, Briteis resents Moore because he resents her — as far as she's concerned, she's earned her place.
  • Room Disservice: Evil kidnapping Communist bellhops.
  • Running Gag: The mispronouncing of "Briteis" as "Bright Eyes", which annoys the poor woman to no end.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Colonel Briteis is mentioned several times before her entrance without revealing her gender. Likewise, the President of the United States.
  • Screaming Woman: Briteis, when the spy is revealed. She does however manage to save the ship by pushing a single button, so she's not completely useless.
  • Space Clothes: Those skullcaps do look silly, even if they do stop your hair floating about in free fall. Briteis' top is also rather tight-fitting, which does make up for it, however.
  • Space Station: This one looks like a saucer instead of the usual wheel-like structure.
  • Spot the Imposter: The fake Dr. Wernher gives himself away because he doesn't follow the World Series. They apparently didn't have nerds in those days.
  • The Spymaster: Mr. Roundtree leads the spies of the "Enemies of Freedom". He is pretty well-prepared, with extensive files and a Criminal Doppelgänger infiltrator ready for almost every important person of the other faction, which he can slip in at a moment's notice. Aside from that, well, he's probably the blandest Red Scare master spy you're ever going to see.
  • Zeerust: Finned single-stage-to-orbit Shiny-Looking Spaceships, saucer-like space stations with artificial gravity, and cordless phones — which are your standard 1950s black Bakelite phones with a curly aerial.