First Man Into Space (1959)

Did I really leave off watching this box set at the end of November? Oh dear… Anyway, this film unfortunately doesn’t have Boris Karloff to ease it along (though it does have Roger Delgado in a tiny role as a semi-comic relief Mexican official), but equally it doesn’t have Corridors of Blood‘s aura of trying to be a respectable film while never actually rising above exploitation level. Conversely, this film has few pretensions to be anything more than a semi-knockoff of The Quatermass Xperiment. Hampstead in England doubles (with doubtful success) for New Mexico, home to a US military facility testing rockets and space planes. Two brothers work there, one a staid commander, the other a rather more impulsive pilot. On one mission, the latter decides to extend the remit of his task and take his plane out beyond the atmosphere and into space; needless to say this doesn’t quite go as expected, and, well, let’s just say the first man into space is no longer quite a man by the time his vehicle returns to Earth, and the audience will have connected the mysterious end of the mission with reports of something monstrous terrorising the area long before the film’s characters do. All very B-grade, obviously, though it was filmed just after the first Sputnik went up so it was actually kind of cutting edge in a way. A bigger star like Karloff in one of the roles might’ve made a better drawcard, but the cast isn’t too bad for this sort of thing, and I did quite like the climax: rather than a big spectacle of the monster being destroyed in a fire, we get a rather gentler rediscovery of the humanity that still lies under that somewhat crusty surface. And, at 77, minutes, it doesn’t exactly overstay its welcome…

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