The Spacesuit Film: A History, 1918-1969 by Gary Westfahl


185886a14736797-261x361.jpg Author Gary Westfahl
Isbn 9780786442676
File size 5MB
Year 2012
Pages 371
Language English
File format PDF
Category history


 

THE SPACESUIT FILM ALSO BY GARY WESTFAHL MCFARLAND AND FROM Science Fiction and the Prediction of the Future: Essays on Foresight and Fallacy (coeditor, with Yuen and Chen, 2011) Science Fiction and the Two Cultures: Essays on Bridging the Gap Between the Sciences and the Humanities (coeditor, with Slusser, 2009) Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction (2007) THE SPACESUIT FILM A History, 1918 –1969 Gary Westfahl Foreword by Michael Cassutt McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Jefferson, North Carolina, and London LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGUING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA Westfahl, Gary. The spacesuit film : a history, 1918–1969 / Gary Westfahl ; foreword by Michael Cassutt. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Includes filmography. ISBN 978-0-7864-4267-6 softcover : acid free paper 1. Science fiction films — History and criticism. 2. Space flights in motion pictures. 3. Outer space in motion pictures. 4. Astronauts in motion pictures. I. Title. PN1995.9.S26W47 2012 791.43' 656 — dc23 2012007550 BRITISH LIBRARY CATALOGUING DATA ARE AVAILABLE © 2012 Gary Westfahl. All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Front cover design by David K. Landis (Shake It Loose Graphics) Manufactured in the United States of America McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640 www.mcfarlandpub.com To my son, Jeremy Westfahl, who has actually seen a few films discussed in this book, and is the only member of my family who just might watch the others. This page intentionally left blank Table of Contents Foreword: Don’t Leave Earth Without It (by Michael Cassutt) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Introduction: Pre-Flight Briefing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1. FIRST FLIGHTS : THE EARLY FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Himmelskibet (A Trip to Mars) (1918) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon) (1929) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Kosmicheskiy Reys (The Space Voyage) (1935) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 2. THE TRUE FRONTIER : THE CLASSIC FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Destination Moon (1950) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Spaceways (1953) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Project Moon Base (1953) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Riders to the Stars (1954) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Gog (1954) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Conquest of Space (1955) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Disneyland: “Man and the Moon” (1955) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Satellite in the Sky (1956) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Destination Space (1959) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Men into Space (1959–1960) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 3. WILD ADVENTURES : THE MELODRAMATIC FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Television Programs of the Early 1950s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere (1951) and Radar Men from the Moon (1952 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Rocketship X-M (1950) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Flight to Mars (1951) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Forbidden Planet (1956) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 World Without End (1956) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Missile to the Moon (1958), Queen of Outer Space (1958), and Nude on the Moon (1961) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 vii viii TABLE OF CONTENTS From the Earth to the Moon (1958) and First Men in the Moon (1964) . . . . . 102 The Twilight Zone (1959–1964) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108 12 to the Moon (1960) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 The Phantom Planet (1961) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 Lost in Space (1965–1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 The Time Tunnel: “One Way to the Moon” (1966) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 In Like Flint (1967) and You Only Live Twice (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 The Terrornauts (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 Star Trek: “The Tholian Web” (1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 Barbarella (1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 Moon Zero Two (1969) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 Döppelganger (Journey to the Far Side of the Sun) (1969) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 4. SHIPS OF FOOLS : THE HUMOROUS FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 Situation Comedies of the 1950s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144 Space Ship Sappy (1957), Outer Space Jitters (1957), and Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 Man in the Moon (1960) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 Moon Pilot (1962) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151 The Road to Hong Kong (1962) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153 The Mouse on the Moon (1963) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155 Situation Comedies of the 1960s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158 Sergeant Dead Head (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 Way ...Way Out (1966) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164 Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon (Those Fantastic Flying Fools) (1967) . . . . . . 167 The Reluctant Astronaut (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 5. SPACE FRIGHTS : THE HORRIFIC FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 The Quatermass Experiment (1953) and The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179 Quatermass II (1955) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 King Dinosaur (1955) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 First Man into Space (1959) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189 The Angry Red Planet (1959) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193 Journey to the Seventh Planet (1961) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195 The Crawling Hand (1963) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197 The Outer Limits (1963–1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198 Table of Contents ix The Wizard of Mars (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205 Mutiny in Outer Space (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207 Space Monster (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209 Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211 Mission Mars (1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214 The Green Slime (1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216 6. PARALLEL FLIGHT PATHS : THE FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220 • The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221 Doroga k Zvezdam (Road to the Stars) (1957) and Luna (The Moon) (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221 Nebo Zovyot (The Sky Calls) (1959) and Battle Beyond the Sun (1962) . . . . . 224 Die Schweigende Stern (First Spaceship on Venus) (1960) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230 Baron Prá§il (The Fabulous Baron Munchausen) (1961) and Automat na Prání (The Wishing Machine) (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232 Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms) (1962), Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965), and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1967) . . . . . . . . . . 236 Ikarie XB-1 (1963) and Voyage to the End of the Universe (1964) . . . . . . . . . 240 Mechte Navstrechu (A Dream Come True) (1963) and Queen of Blood (1966) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 Tumannost Andromedy (The Andromeda Nebula) (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245 • Italy and Western Europe • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246 Totò nella Luna (Totò in the Moon) (1957) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246 La Morte Viene dallo Spazio (The Day the Sky Exploded) (1958). . . . . . . . . . 249 Space Men (1960) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251 Il Pianeta degli Uomini Spenti (Battle of the Worlds) (1961) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254 Terrore nello Spazio (Planet of the Vampires) (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255 Dos Cosmonautas a la Fuerza (002 Operazione Luna) (1965) . . . . . . . . . . . . 257 I Criminali della Galassia (The Wild, Wild Planet) (1965) and I Diafanoidi Portano la Morte (War of the Planets) (1966) . . . . . . . . . . . . 258 Il Pianeta Errante (War Between the Planets) (1966) and La Morte Viene dal Pianeta Aytin (The Snow Devils) (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262 Raumpatrouille: Die Phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion (Space Patrol ) (1966) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265 2 + 5: Missione Hydra (Star Pilot) (1966) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266 ...4...3...2...1...Morte (Mission Stardust) (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268 • Egypt and Mexico • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 270 Rehla ilal Kamar (Journey to the Moon) (1959) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 270 Conquistador de la Luna (The Astronauts) (1960) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 272 Gigantes Planetarios (Planetary Giants) (1965) and El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras (Planet of the Female Invaders) (1966) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 274 x TABLE OF CONTENTS • Japan and Western Asia • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277 Chikyu Boeigun (The Mysterians) (1957) and Uchû Daisensô (Battle in Outer Space) (1959) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278 Kyojin to Gangu (Giants and Toys) (1958) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281 Yosei Gorasu (Gorath) (1962) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 282 Kaijû Daisensô (Godzilla vs. Monster Zero) (1965) and Kaijû Sôshingeki (Destroy All Monsters) (1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 284 Taekoesu Yonggary (Yongary, Monster from the Deep) (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286 Uchû Daikaijû Girara (The X from Outer Space) (1967) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287 7. FROM REEL TO REAL : THE REBIRTH AND DEATH OF THE FILMS . . . . . . . . . . 290 Countdown (1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291 Marooned (1969) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 294 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299 Television Coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (1969) . . . . . . . . . . . . 307 8. RETURN TO EARTH : FILMS AFTER 1969 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 313 A Filmography of Spacesuit Films . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323 Chapter Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 341 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 345 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 351 Foreword: Don’t Leave Earth Without It by Michael Cassutt The time is the winter of 1965-1966, the place, a basement in a small town in Wisconsin. The weather outside is, as the song says, frightful. Gray skies, wind, temperatures below zero, snow as high as the windows ... or so memory tells me. It could be the surface of Europa. But in this basement, boxes, blankets and chairs have been arranged to replicate the cockpit of a spacecraft — not a capsule, but a four-seat arrangement later to be replicated on the Space Shuttle’s flight deck. And the crew — two eleven-year-old boys, one nine-year-old lad and one five-year-old girl — are not pretending to launch or even to shoot at space pirates. They are arguing about spacesuits. Why do we need them? Even if we have helmets, which are sort of cool, why do we need gloves? The imperious commander sneers at his crew of conscripts, telling them they’ll die if they dare to venture into space unprotected. His arguments are unconvincing. The space crew goes into full mutiny, abandoning the craft in search of chocolate milk and a Sons of Hercules movie on television. Not that this will be a surprise, but that commander was me. Nineteen sixty-five was the year that spacesuits began. Yes, prior to that time I watched Men into Space and Destination Moon. I had seen pictures and footage of Mercury astronauts and Vostok cosmonauts. (Loved the silvery Mercury suits with the sleek lines and smaller helmets; thought the Soviet guys looked funny with their fishbowls.) But it was the twin spacewalks —first by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in March 1965, then NASA’s Ed White in June — that turned me into a spacesuit person. During that year I also read Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Space Suit—Will Travel, the best (and possibly only) novel dealing with the design of such a garment. But it was Ed White’s EVA, complete with its soon-to-be-iconic photo of the astronaut in his brilliant suit, reflective gold visor and blue Earth background that permanently imprinted one idea on me: You can’t go into space without a spacesuit. From that point on, whenever the grim Midwestern weather drove me, my brother and other playmates indoors to be astronauts rather than soldiers, I insisted that we had to have spacesuits, complete with helmets and gloves. For some players, this meant using plastic U.S. Army–style helmets. My brother Mark had a Steve Canyon Air Force helmet. 1 2 FOREWORD BY MICHAEL CASSUTT I, however, had been given an honest-to-God Colonel McCauley Men into Space helmet. So I felt equipped. The others ... not so much. None of them appreciated the cold reality of space travel, the bitter fact that you could not open the hatch and go outside without being sealed into a suit that provided you with your own atmosphere and protected you against extreme temperatures. They thought suits made them look stupid. Years later, having become a writer and producer in Hollywood, I wound up fighting the same battle. Hollywood hates spacesuits, too. This hatred isn’t rooted in political or technical antipathies, but aesthetic ones not far removed from those of my playmates in 1965: Spacesuits wrap you up and hide you. For a business based on the large-screen display of actresses and actors of uncommon physical beauty, this is a problem. What good is having Scarlett Johansson in your space movie if she’s stuffed into a rigid fabric balloon whose silhouette makes her indistinguishable from, say, Shia LaBeouf? And the helmets are even worse! Even a transparent fishbowl causes reflections and degradation of image. The standard faceplate helmets are a complete disaster for a cinematographer, enveloping a star’s head (goodbye to those raven tresses, perky ears, lovely neck) in plastic and putting that star’s handsome or beautiful face in permanent shadow. It’s enough to make filmmakers pine for the days of Edgar Rice Burroughs and a planet Mars that had a breathable atmosphere, and temperatures warm enough to justify bikinis. (One genius director’s solution? He added internal helmet lights that allowed star visages to shine at close to their ideal wattage.) Knowing this, having lived this, I read Gary Westfahl’s The Spacesuit Film with astonishment and great pleasure. As a sci-fi and space boomer geek, I knew most of these films and TV series — or thought I did. But Gary has gone far beyond memory: He’s produced a thorough and highly readable history of the spacesuit on the big and small screen, following it from unpromising and unlikely beginnings to the age of Cameron. Which means that The Spacesuit Film is also a story about the ultimate victory of science and rationality over ignorance and laziness ... and that’s a rare gift. Michael Cassutt Los Angeles Michael Cassutt is a novelist, short story writer and television writer as well as the author of several books and articles about human spaceflight. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Introduction: Pre-Flight Briefing From one perspective, it is only the clothing people need to travel in space — spacesuits, thick and airtight enough to protect against an icy vacuum — and hence never seemed important to science fiction film scholars. Yet the spacesuit functions as an icon that generates, and identifies, a significant film subgenre which has never been fully recognized or appreciated. To explain why this subgenre emerged, one notes that, throughout the history of western literature, the discovery and habitation of new environments tended to create new literary genres. The American frontier spawned the western; the development of ships which could circumnavigate the globe inspired a general tradition of sea stories and a particular subgenre about pirates; nineteenth-century European ventures into African jungles generated a genre of jungle stories; and other stories set in recently explored places, like deserts, deep caverns, and polar regions, regularly appeared while never solidifying into recognized genres. Thus, it is unsurprising that, as humans first dreamed of someday traveling into space, then began working to achieve space travel, a genre appeared, eventually labeled science fiction, dominated by space stories. True, the genre included other sorts of fantastic narratives, but space travel was its most common trope, and for many, its defining trait. When authors crafted adventures set in exotic terrestrial environments, they brought varying degrees of knowledge to the task. Some actually lived in those realms, or conducted research, so stories could be persuasively authentic; others relied upon second-hand information, common sense, and previous stories to write exciting tales that might be deemed implausible by those more familiar with their settings. Yet variations in the content and tone of the stories could not justify an attempt to establish narratives based upon facts, and narratives based upon fancy, as separate categories. Thus, H. Rider Haggard spent years in Africa, while Edgar Rice Burroughs never visited there, yet Haggard’s Allan Quatermain stories and Burroughs’s Tarzan stories remain similar enough to both be considered jungle stories. Considering stories and films about space travel, scholars might in parallel fashion observe that some authors and filmmakers are knowledgeable about space, while others are not well informed, but discern no reason to anticipate significant differences in their stories. Yet the nature of space, I contend, widens the gap between the informed and ignorant. Authors may have lacked first-hand knowledge or data about the American frontier or jungles, but they still wrote about a familiar environment, the surface of Earth, providing their stories with a basis in certain universal truths. Space, however, is entirely unlike any place humans ever inhabited. It lacks three attributes of all terrestrial locales: normal gravity, 3 4 INTRODUCTION breathable air, and protection from dangerous cosmic radiation. Further, while less hospitable regions on Earth may be gradually lethal to unprotected people, none cause instant death, as occurs when people without spacesuits are exposed to the vacuum of space or surface of an airless world. And though other images suggest the strangeness of space — arrays of stars in a pitchblack sky, spaceships or space stations against that background, objects floating in spaceships without gravity to restrain them — spacesuits most comprehensively and powerfully indicate that humans are within a novel realm. As icons, spacesuits communicate that space is a dangerous environment, requiring unprecedented sorts of protection, and simultaneously demonstrate that humans are frail, weak creatures, unprepared for life beyond the cradle of Earth. As forms of disguise, they make people look odd and frightening, suggesting that people venturing into space may in some fashion be abandoning their humanity. Yet spacesuits also symbolize human strength and durability, proving that people have mastered technology so they can survive in adverse conditions and, in effect, make themselves larger and stronger with the protective garments they so ingeniously devise. Thus, spacesuits intimate that humans will be profoundly challenged and fundamentally altered by space, but also convey that they have the capacity to conquer this daunting new territory. Authors and filmmakers who recognize the true nature of space, and understand the full implications of wearing spacesuits, will necessarily tell different kinds of stories about space travel than someone who is unaware of, or is indifferent to, the realities of this environment and the adjustments it demands. Thus, one discerns two distinct categories of space stories. First, some narratives ignorantly assume that conditions in space are largely identical to conditions on Earth and may include scientific absurdities, like people surviving in space wearing only helmets or humans inhabiting a Moon or Mars depicted as Earthlike; these may simply be called space films, and the subcategory of such films which minimally feature spacesuits, reflecting a desire to appear authentic with no intent to be authentic, can be described as pseudo-spacesuit films. Second, other films reflect a thorough knowledge of the characteristics of space and other worlds and rigorously adhere to scientific facts in all aspects of their adventures, so they must foreground characters in spacesuits; I call these the true spacesuit films. To careful observers, the visual and kinetic differences between these types of space stories are particularly sharp, since a dedication to scientific accuracy both alters the nature of filmed narratives in significant ways and provides resulting portrayals of space and other worlds with special power. One point relates to C.S. Lewis’s observation about why characters in science fiction often seem flat and one-dimensional: “[T]he more unusual the scenes and events of [a writer’s] story are, the slighter, the more ordinary, the more typical his persons should be.... To tell how odd things struck odd people is to have an oddity too much: he who is to see strange sights must not himself be strange” (“On Science Fiction” 64–65). Since space and other planets, correctly rendered, are “strange sights” indeed, this explains why spacesuit films often feature stoic, uncommunicative heroes, characters lacking the depth and complexity to inspire audiences to care about their fates. Since compelling protagonists are usually considered essential in conventionally entertaining films, this engenders frequent complaints about the absence of satisfactory characters in two noteworthy spacesuit films, Destination Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and suggestions that this purported flaw makes them inferior to other space films. One may also argue that, in film, the true viewpoint character is not the protagonist but the camera, so filmmakers may feel impelled to plant cameras in the position of stationary Introduction 5 observers and display the wonders of space in long, unadventurous shots — like images of the space station in 2001— that disappoint critics who prefer more creative filming techniques, like tracking shots and unusual camera angles. And, as if working in tandem with the bland characters and camera positions, space, if accurately portrayed, is disappointingly monochromatic, dominated by black sky, pinpoints of white light, the grayness of metallic spaceships and spacesuit fabrics, and barren terrains on lifeless worlds. Touches of color must be brought to space by humans, one reason why films like Destination Moon and 2001 feel obliged to offer brightly colored spacesuits. Another seemingly minor but noticeable change in spacesuit films is that realistic stories about space travel follow their own unusual rhythm, with long passages of very slow movement interrupted by bursts of rapid action. When wearing bulky spacesuits, people must move slowly and clumsily, and in the vacuum and weightlessness of space, where even the slightest wrong movement can have disastrous consequences, astronauts also must be especially careful and deliberate in their movements. Paradoxically, though, if something goes wrong, it goes wrong in an instant. Thus, in 2001, Dave Bowman spends several minutes meticulously setting up his desperate effort to enter the airlock of his spaceship by briefly exposing himself to the vacuum of space without a helmet; but his expulsion from the pod and perilous journey into the airlock take only a few frantic, confusing seconds. On the surface of alien worlds, lower gravity similarly imposes different styles of travel: astronauts can make great leaps, but must also be exceedingly cautious to avoid precipitous landings which might cause fatal leaks in their spacesuit. As one result, spacesuit films may seem slow-moving and undramatic; in Project Moon Base, for example, an astronaut struggles to subdue a saboteur, but due to sudden acceleration, the fight proceeds in eerie slow motion, disappointing audiences accustomed to more frenetic fight scenes. Third, while most narratives — particularly those for mass audiences — involve conflicts between people, the overwhelming dangers of space necessarily engender stories about the conflict between humans and their environment, also contributing to what is perceived as inadequate characterization. Some spacesuit films, like Destination Moon and Countdown, may begin with personal dramas prior to liftoff, but later focus exclusively on protagonists overcoming the perils of space. Other films may carry ordinary sorts of conflicts into space but are driven to downplay them: In Project Moon Base, the saboteur is fought and overcome, but once the ship makes an emergency landing on the Moon, the former combatants must become teammates to set up an antenna to contact Earth and obtain desperately needed supplies. Space travelers in Spaceways venture into space solely to clear the name of an accused murderer, but once in space that motive is forgotten as they confront a potentially fatal crisis caused by a faulty rocket. And in Conquest of Space, crew members who reach Mars are first divided regarding the death of their maddened captain, but common struggles against a harsh Martian environment drive them into a harmonious working relationship. Fourth, typical adventure stories celebrate the exploits of individual heroes who overcome adversaries and solve problems by relying solely upon their own abilities and acumen. However, the strange environment of space poses so many complex challenges that astronauts must rely upon information and advice constantly relayed to them from people on Earth monitoring their mission. As observed most clearly in Riders to the Stars, stories about space travel can be awkwardly divided narratives shifting back and forth between two sets of protagonists: actual space explorers, and technicians on the ground telling them how to deal with various crises. As proof that one can be a hero in both roles, Colonel McCauley of the series Men into Space is usually the astronaut in space confronting problems, but sometimes 6 INTRODUCTION is an advisor on the ground, helping other astronauts. Such collaborative heroism defies age-old conventions of storytelling and again makes space adventures unsettling. Finally, because space is so unrelentingly deadly and different from normal human experience, a story in that setting suggests that humans live in a hostile, alien universe where all their comforting assumptions may turn out to be illusions, where beings and phenomena may be utterly inexplicable to humans. Truly conquering this environment, then, may require fundamental changes in the very nature of humanity. Pondering such possibilities strikes at the heart of humanity’s narrative traditions, all grounded in human experiences and expectations, and has the potential to make spacesuit films uniquely profound and disturbing. It is rare for science fiction stories, and even rarer for science fiction films, to venture into such sobering speculations; arguably, while Men into Space pioneered in offering intriguing indications of genuine alien presences in space, as opposed to the implausibly human villains and colorful monsters of lesser films, only 2001 really explores this issue to a significant extent. But when the captain in Conquest of Space develops the insane belief that God opposes human space travel, he suggests the disquieting thoughts that may occur to people when personally confronting the mysterious void of space. More than the simple issue of scientific plausibility, which critics might deem unimportant, these sorts of differences justify the distinction in this argument. Films that are simply space films, and the subcategory of pseudo-spacesuit films, are identifiable because they avoid placing heroes in spacesuits whenever possible, freely ignore the peculiarities of space, move at a conventional pace, and follow familiar patterns — conflicts between appealing heroes and despicable villains or hideous monsters — allowing heroes to triumph solely through their individual efforts, and steering clear of disquieting ideas about unique mysteries in the universe. In contrast, genuine spacesuit films regularly place heroes in spacesuits, acknowledge the unusual and perilous nature of space, and necessarily neglect in-depth characterization, follow their own stilted rhythm, emphasize conflicts between humans and their environment, validate assistants on Earth, and fitfully ponder the awesome implications of an inhospitable cosmos. This distinction between the forms is occasionally recognized by commentators, at least when discussing science fiction films of the 1950s, but only in a limited manner that marginalizes spacesuit films. Specifically, spacesuit films of the 1950s are described as “documentary-style” space films — and everyone knows that documentaries are boring, which is how these films are dismissed in critical surveys of science fiction films that devote more time to other, more conventional films. This may be the first time the fascinating history of spacesuit films is receiving the extended consideration it has long merited. Briefly, this is its story: First, amidst other films that made minimal efforts, at best, to be realistic, three pioneering silent films establish models for later creators of spacesuit films: Holger-Madsen’s Himmelskibet (A Trip to Mars), Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon), and Vasili Zhuravlev’s Kosmicheskiy Reys (The Space Voyage), the latter two made with the assistance of renowned space scientists. However, the genre of spacesuit films truly emerges in the early 1950s, due to improved scientific knowledge about space, the influence of a literary genre of science fiction mandating scientific accuracy, and the beginnings of actual space programs in the United States and the Soviet Union. In response, a small number of American and British filmmakers, like Lang and Zhuravlev, sought expert advice from scientists and science fiction writers, carefully considered the realities of space, and endeavored to develop, however clumsily, a new sort of film to acknowledge and deal with those realities while also providing entertainment; later, a few films along these lines appeared Introduction 7 in the Soviet Union. Still, despite the box-office success of the first film of this nature, Destination Moon, the films and television programs that followed were regarded as financial and artistic failures, even as they ventured into genuinely novel territory to develop and present significant messages: that space travel was possible; that there were compelling reasons for nations to venture into space, including military advantage, vast resources, and scientific knowledge; that space would prove a strange, forbidding environment; and that despite this, or perhaps because of this, space travel would drive participants back to familiar values and lifestyles. However, exploring such themes did not allow filmmakers to include fistfights, explosions, romances, or rubber-suited aliens, all representing the preferred form of entertainment for audiences at the time (and learned critics today). So it was that, almost from the beginning, profit-hungry filmmakers chose to produce films that paid lip service to the traditions of spacesuit films, with introductory scientific explanations and occasional spacesuits, but otherwise ignored the unsettling implications of the genre to focus instead of conventional adventures. The pioneer in this parallel genre of pseudo-spacesuit films was Rocketship X-M, but many others would soon follow, along with two serials and several television series. Despite a veneer of novelty, these filmmakers essentially fell back upon three tried-and-true narrative patterns: the melodrama of virtuous heroes battling despicable villains, the comedy of slapstick and banter, and the horror of monsters or disfigured humans. In these tired and unthreatening stories, spacesuits were minor props at best. Still, traditional spacesuit films survived fitfully until the 1960s, when competition from active space programs appeared to make realistic spacesuit films unnecessary; thus, films like Robinson Crusoe on Mars and Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster began like authentic tales of space travel but eventually collapsed into predictable stories about alien menaces. Still, as the 1967 deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts and Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov reminded the world that space travel could indeed be hazardous, and as Americans prepared to land two men on the Moon, the form staged a comeback with the films Countdown and Marooned, which are particularly interesting because, in describing events in the near future that might have occurred at the time of filming, they apparently move spacesuit films away from science fiction and toward realistic drama, though they were still considered science fiction. Most spectacularly, 2001 stunningly revealed the true potential of spacesuit films with an epic adventure that both summarizes the genre’s history and sketches out bold new directions. Yet a full renaissance of spacesuit films did not occur, largely due to two major events that occurred in 1969. First, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon in July, 1969, their landing module came with a camera; thus, when they stepped onto the lunar surface, countless millions of viewers watched on television what was effectively the most popular spacesuit film of all time. Yes, I am sure it really happened, rejecting conspiracy theories alleging it was all staged on a Hollywood set. However, the astronauts’ sojourn on the Moon was carefully scripted by NASA officials, including Armstrong’s first words and a telephone call from President Nixon, and there is evidence that the people who planned this production were aware of previous films in its tradition. Television coverage of the Apollo 11 landing, then, was merely a spacesuit film that happened to be filmed on the Moon featuring actual astronauts. Five other films of its kind would follow, featuring crewmen from Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 and all shown on worldwide television. Immediately after the Apollo 11 landing, the second important event occurred when the television series Star Trek ended its network run. This series had masterfully deployed a strategy previously observed in films like Forbidden Planet, which was to eliminate spacesuits 8 INTRODUCTION from space films by employing faster-than-light travel, combined with miraculous teleportation or shuttlecrafts, to transport heroes from impregnable spaceships to Earthlike planets throughout the galaxy so they would never need cumbersome spacesuits. Under these conditions, there were no barriers to comfortingly familiar narrative patterns transplanted from the dark alleys and western prairies of Earth to spaceship corridors and alien worlds. And even as Americans turned away from monotonous footage of actual astronauts on the Moon, they enthusiastically embraced the fraudulent space travel of Star Trek, as the series finally reached a wide audience by means of daily appearances in syndication at times that attracted young viewers. The American space program would carry on, with the space shuttle and other cautious, budget-conscious initiatives, and genuine spacesuit films would occasionally appear, but filmgoers had essentially rejected the harsh realities of space; instead, in their fascination with Star Trek, Star Wars, and similar dramas, they embraced comforting illusions about space. In telling this story for the first time, I adopt certain policies to thoroughly explore the history of spacesuit films while keeping the manuscript to a reasonable length. In literalminded fashion, I consider as “spacesuit films” every film and television program I am aware of in which spacesuits appear or are mentioned, however fleetingly. Granted, there may seem no significant difference between a film like Queen of Outer Space, wherein one astronaut is ready to “break out the pressure suits” before being reassured that conditions on an alien world are Earthlike, and Fire Maidens from Outer Space, wherein astronauts disembark upon an Earthlike planet without referring to spacesuits; but the first film, however minimally, acknowledges that space travel might involve inhospitable conditions, while the second film does not. This commitment to thoroughness forced a decision to emphasize films and television programs up until 1969, with only a brief survey of more recent productions. With similar literal-mindedness, I define “spacesuits” to refer only to garments that provide protection and oxygen for humans in a vacuum; thus, the silvery bodysuits worn by space travelers in television series like My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space are sometimes called “spacesuits,” but while they look futuristic, these flimsy outfits would not help people survive in space (though characters in Lost in Space occasionally don genuine spacesuits over their shiny pajamas). In this study, I freely mingle films and television programs, believing that as we move toward an era when all filmed entertainment will be viewed primarily via computers, the circumstances of a work’s original production will be increasingly irrelevant. The film Conquest of Space and television series Men into Space are both significant examples of genuine spacesuit films, just as the film The Green Slime and an episode of The Outer Limits, “Specimen: Unknown,” are equivalent examples of horrific spacesuit films; separating them for purposes of analysis seems pointless. However, to focus on fictional films most likely to convey insights about space, I exclude certain types of productions — animated films and documentaries — except when documentaries incorporate extended fictional sequences, like the Disneyland episode “Man and the Moon” and the Russian documentary Doroga k Zvezdam (Road to the Stars). The book concludes with a comprehensive bibliography of spacesuit films from 1918 to 1969, accompanied by a less comprehensive bibliography of more recent spacesuit films. In sum, I am breaking significant ground, while also leaving much territory to be explored more thoroughly by other scholars. So, having completed this pre-flight briefing, I invite readers to fasten their seat belts and prepare for an interesting and illuminating journey through space; and I hope you enjoy the trip as much as I have. —1— First Flights: The Early Films There are two reasons why realistic space films, or spacesuit films, did not become a significant tradition until after 1950: a lack of knowledge, and a lack of motivation. First, during the first fifty years of film, scientists gradually accepted that, despite previous theories, no substance called “ether” filled the space between worlds that might render that environment habitable. This invalidated earlier, playful accounts of humans flying through space without protection and demonstrated that space travelers would need airtight spaceships and spacesuits. Knowing this, rocket scientist Hermann Oberth accurately advised Fritz Lang, director of Frau im Mond, to have a sturdy spaceship travel to the Moon through a space properly depicted as black and airless. Still, one might regard the nature of space as an unsettled question, which might explain why most films about space travel avoided outer space and had voyagers swiftly travel from Earth to other planets. Further, throughout this period, one could still posit that the worlds usually targeted by imagined space travelers, the Moon and Mars, might possess breathable atmospheres and hospitable climates, allowing for stories of humans who visit those worlds in street clothes; thus, Holger-Madsen’s Himmelskibet was one of many films envisioning an Earthlike Mars, while Oberth allowed Lang to assume that, on the far side of the Moon, there could exist deep valleys with breathable air. But by 1950, research showed beyond reasonable doubt that the Moon had no atmosphere, Mars had only a very thin atmosphere, and both worlds were extremely cold —firmly invalidating such comforting scenarios. As for other possible destinations in the solar system, all were visibly barren except the cloud-covered Venus, and there was growing evidence — confirmed by 1962 — that Earth’s “sister planet” was much too hot for human survival. Once these facts were accepted, it was obvious that space travelers would need spacesuits to protect them during voyages through space and on the surfaces of other worlds. In addition to improving scientific knowledge, the 1940s also brought significant developments in technology. For much of the twentieth century, many learned scientists sincerely thought that space travel was impossible and said as much; for this reason, an overriding concern of early spacesuit films was simply to argue that human space flight could be accomplished, making this the first theme foregrounded in the genre. However, while the theoretical work of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in Russia, and the experiments of Robert Goddard in America, provided some support for efforts to conquer space, the pioneering work of the German Rocket Society during the 1920s and 1930s, culminating in the V-2 rockets that rained on Britain during the final months of World War II, most powerfully proved how practical, and important, advanced rockets could be. After the war, impressed by these 9

Author Gary Westfahl Isbn 9780786442676 File size 5MB Year 2012 Pages 371 Language English File format PDF Category History Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Filmmakers employ various images to suggest the strangeness of outer space, but protective spacesuits most powerfully communicate the dangers of space and the frailty and weakness of humans beyond the cradle of Earth. Many films set in space, however, forgo spacesuits altogether, reluctant to hide famous faces behind bulky helmets and ill-fitting jumpsuits. This critical history comprehensively examines science fiction films that portray space travel realistically by having characters wear spacesuits. Beginning with the pioneering Himmelskibet (1918) and Woman on the Moon (1929), it discusses other classics in this tradition, including Destination Moon (1950), Riders to the Stars (1954), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); innumerable films which gesture toward realism but betray that goal with melodramatic villains, low comedy, or improbable monsters; the distinctive spacesuit films of Western Europe, Russia and Japan; and America’s spectacular real-life spacesuit film, the televised Apollo 11 moon landing (1969).     Download (5MB) Moonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo: A Rare Photographic History Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon Rockets and Revolution: A Cultural History of Early Spaceflight Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History – Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles (NASA SP) Load more posts

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