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Flight to Mars

Entry updated 18 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1951). Monogram. Directed by Lesley Selander. Written by Arthur Strawn. Cast includes Morris Ankrum, Robert Barrat, Marguerite Chapman and Cameron Mitchell. 72 minutes. Colour.

A team of astronauts, including journalist Steve Abbott (Mitchell), embarks upon the first flight to Mars. After an encounter with meteors, they land on Mars and discover a race of humanoid Martians who live underground because the surface of Mars has become uninhabitable to them. However, while the Martians initially seem friendly, the leader of their ruling council, Ikron (Ankrum), knows that his race will soon face extinction, when their supply of the magical element Corium is exhausted; accordingly, he plans to seize the humans' Spaceship, build numerous duplicates of the ship, and employ them to conquer the Earth. But a few virtuous Martians, including the female scientist Alita (Chapman) and the elderly Tillamar (Barrat), assist the humans in avoiding capture and join them on their return flight to Earth, where the Martians plan to negotiate a peaceful solution to their people's plight.

The name of the Martian woman suggests an original intent to remake the Russian silent film Aelita (1924), and both films do involve astronauts who travel to Mars and discover a civilization of humanlike Martians ruled by an evil government. However, there are few other similarities between the films worth mentioning, as Flight to Mars offers no political messages: the Martian rulers here are simply scoundrels, and they are not overthrown by a revolution, but simply evaded by means of tried-and-true melodramatic devices borrowed from film serials – namely, fistfights and chase scenes. Oddly, these trite adventures are preceded by a portentous discussion on board the spaceship about the possibility that "the universe is a living, giant being, and that we, as human beings, made in its image, are miniature universes in ourselves" – a conversation interrupted by the predictable arrival of dangerous meteors. As another incongruous touch, the human space travellers never wear spacesuits, correctly anticipating an Earthlike Mars, but they are greeted by Martians wearing the distinctively colourful spacesuits first observed in Destination Moon (1950). [GW]


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