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Rocketship X-M

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201 - Rocketship X-M
0201
Air Date September 22, 1990
MST3K Director Jim Mallon
AKA Expedition Moon
Movie Director Kurt Neumann
Year 1950
Cast Lloyd Bridges, Noah Beery Jr., Osa Massen
Preceded by 113 - The Black Scorpion
Followed by 202 - The Side Hackers

The Movie

Synopsis

It's 1950. At the White Sands, New Mexico, USAF Proving Grounds, a rocket prepares to take off for, and land on, the moon, the first step in establishing an "unassailable base... from which to control world peace" USA-style world peace.

It's the fruition of years of effort by avuncular Walt Disney-ish Dr. John Emery and his business partner Robert. Five middle-aged scientists and military men have been selected as the crew, led by Emery, (who designed the rocket), and pilot Colonel Graham (Lloyd Bridges).

After a press conference replete with baloney ("Gyros...will keep us right side up throughout the flight", explains Emery, and "We will keep in contact via shortwave radio" - ha ha!), the crew boards via a fifteen-foot ladder. (The Saturn V that powered the first Apollo moon landing was 363 feet high). This particular vehicle looks rather like a German V2, except that (we have been informed) it is a stage rocket. Bizzaro-world instrumentation includes artificial horizon and airspeed indicators.

On leaving orbit, the ship is nearly rear-ended by its own jettisoned first stage (they decoupled it while its thrusters were still operating! How smart was that?). Next, an asteroid swarm (they call them "meteors") , the very same one confronted by the Lunar Eagle 1 from "12 to the Moon" and the Pegasus 4 from "The Phantom Planet". It illuminates the inside of the ship as though an elevated train were passing and generates the required whooshing noises in the vacuum of space (the studio suits probably insisted on it). Instead of course corrections they make 90-degree "turns" like a '57 Buick rounding a corner at 60 mph.

In this film universe, gravity "falls off gradually to nothing as they get farther out into interplanetary space" (actually its effect would disappear once attaining orbit - I looked it up!) and then it only affects harmonicas and bomber jackets. (In fact, because they are under constant acceleration until the engines shut down, they would never experience any microgravity such as depicted in the film). Considerable film stock is devoted to gazing out a mammoth port window while Graham rambles on about nothing (his lungs, curiously, seem to have plenty of air here) to Danish lady-type scientist Dr. Lisa "Ice Queen" Van Horn (Osa Massen). Provincial jet-jockey and feed-lot comedy relief Major Corrigan (Noah Beery, Jr.) can't shut up about how his native Texas is paradise on Earth. (It's not his fault. They banned the teaching of higher-order thinking skills in his state. Or will, shortly. And compared to the comedy relief in Destination Moon, he's Roger Penrose.)

They burn the engines for fourteen hours until they shut down unexpectedly (no need to do this because of Newton's first law of motion and the absence of friction in outer space). The scientists blame the fuel mix and alter the composition to an untried formula (risking everyone's life in the process). On ignition, everyone swoons from acceleration, and (days later?), they awaken just 50,000 miles from Mars. How? Divine intervention of course, explains Emery, who has learned he has to say things like this to get grants.

They elect to land, even though the ship was engineered for the Moon. As they descend akin to how one would back a truck up to a loading dock, we note that Mars has a thick cloud cover, thunderstorms and heavy rainfall, all of which was known to be inaccurate at the time.

On the surface, they all don "breathing equipment" - World War II gas masks that probably would not have been a wise choice for the vacuum of the Moon - and begin a recon. They discover the radioactive ruins of a once-advanced Martian civilization and are able to deliver, for perhaps the first time in cinematic history, what went on to become a genre staple - a warning about the likely consequences of nuclear Armageddon.

The not-so-savvy group spend the night camping out in the open - with no food, water, tents, bedrolls, blankets, fire or iPhones. On awakening, they espy primitively-dressed humans/Martians (some are wearing "Members Only" jackets) observing from afar. Tactlessly, they race up the mountain en masse to confront them and are promptly and deservedly attacked. The Earth dinks flee, and in the process Major Corrigan and Dr. Eckstrom are slain and the navigator injured.

The survivors immediately take off for Earth. Although their arrival at Mars was garnered only by the most improbable of coincidences and/or the hand of God, somehow they return to the vicinity of Earth just as easily. (Maybe they used "The Secret").

Alas, they discover - at the 11th hour - the fuel is exhausted and no landing is possible. The screenwriters heroically blame the woman ("It's all my fault!", wails Dr. van Horne) The ship augurs into the ground, killing everyone, although they actually would have burned on re-entry. Before meeting their doom, however, Colonel Graham and Dr. Van Horn bond romantically and share an imaginary lifetime together, creatively reminiscing about all the retroactive good times they never had. Maybe they even joined the Mile High Club, who knows? Eckstrom's business partner, Robert, appears emotionally crushed by the loss, but is able to put a positive spin on the whole thing.

Hugh O’Brian rounds out the cast.

Information

While producer George Pal was diligently working on his production of “Destination Moon,” spending well over half a million dollars, working with scientists and space travel experts and generating tons of advance promotion, Robert L. Lippert figured he could quickly produce a similar film, taking advantage of Pal's expensive publicity. Ironically, "Rocketship X-M” is widely considered to be a much better movie than “Destination Moon”, perhaps in part due to the heavy-handed and absolutely insufferable comedy relief inserted by the studio suits into that film.

The Episode

Host Segments

Prologue: The SOL's newly designed bridge is revealed as Joel is working on his robot buddies – Crow has a toothache and Tom's voice is undergoing renovation.

Invention Exchange (Segment One): Tom Servo's new voice is revealed (with tribute/riffs to Lost in Space and 2001)! In Deep 13, Dr. F's new assistant TV's Frank is introduced (because Dr.Erhardt is missing). Joel's invention is the BGC-19, a mobile drum kit. In Deep 13, Frank is responsible for the Mads' invention which is also the BGC-19. Dr. F proceeds to punish Frank. The BGC-19 bears a striking resemblance to Ellen Ripley's cargo loader in Aliens

Segment Two: Joel and the Bots salute the unsung heroes: the Reporters of Rocketship X-M, and yes, each reporter is furnished with a silly name.

Segment Three: Joel is lecturing the ‘Bots on the topic of Selective Gravity and quizzes them on which objects are funny or not funny under the influence of Selective Gravity.

Segment Four: Joel and the Bots are feeling a little lost in thought, quoting many songs and famous authors, when they are visited by Valeria from the season one episode Robot Holocaust (played by Michael J. Nelson) on the Hexfield Viewscreen.

Segment Five: Joel and the Bots scold the Mads on the inappropriateness of the movies subject. Dr. F shows Frank how to “Push the Button”.

Obscure References

"Rocket Number Nine" is the title of a song by experimental jazz musician Sun Ra from his 1972 album Space Is the Place.

  • "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down, that's not my department."

From a 1965 comedy record by Tom Lehrer, "Wernher von Braun", That Was the Year That Was.

  • "Hello Cleveland!"

A line from a scene in the movie, Spinal Tap.

  • Joel and the Bots remark that two scientists in the film are Siegfried & Roy.
  • "Oh look, it looks like an Al Jaffee Mad Magazine fold in."

Joel commenting on a part of the spaceship.

  • "Call me Cobra."

A series by Dan Harmon and Jeff Davis, featuring Drew Carey.

  • Joel and the Bots say goodnight to all of the astronauts, reminiscent of the American children's book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
  • "Why don't you just show us Marooned?"

Marooned is an Oscar-winning (for visual effects) 1969 film about a disastrous space expedition. Forrester replied to Joel with "We couldn't get it!"; Marooned turned up on MST3K two years after this episode, with the Film Ventures International treatment under the title Space Travelers.


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