Sunday, May 09, 2010

Destination Moon

Destination Moon, a movie from 1950, was an earnest, if melodramatic, way to present a vision of what a moon landing would be like. It's clich├ęd and simplistic, but for its time it was probably the best information about a future voyage to the moon.

George Pal was the producer. He was a moviemaker who started his career making short films, puppet animations. I saw some of these on television in the 1950s and was impressed, but I can't say that I was ever as impressed by his full-length movies. The only one I really liked was War Of the Worlds, and that movie holds up today, almost 60 years after it was made.

Pal's gift was self-promotion and hype. In the grand Hollywood tradition, he could sell a film. This spread in Life from April 25, 1950, is a testament to that. Life was popular and very influential. Pal could not have bought advertising that would have done as much to get patrons into the theaters.

The special effects of Destination Moon are crude, but then, everything before the era of computer generated images seems crude by comparison. This just seems cruder than the usual crude, because the scenery, especially of the moon, is so obviously painted. It was painted by astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell, but it looks painted, and that's death for realism. (The grainy black and white images from Apollo 11 on the moon, while real, don't look very dramatic. But then, they weren't from Hollywood.)

Audiences in 1950 ate up Destination Moon, and it was the basis for many imitations to follow.

Pal died in 1980, age 72. At least he lived long enough to see all the actual lunar voyages.

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