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In the futuristic world of 1970 the United States Space Force, having established an orbiting space station, readies a reconnaissance mission to survey the Moon for a future base. The assigned mission commander, Major Moore, is annoyed to find that his co-pilot has been replaced with the more famous Colonel Briteis. Unfortunately the two of them have more serious problems to worry about, as the sinister enemies of Freedom have replaced their photographic specialist with a saboteur who is tasked with destroying the space station. When the imposter is uncovered, his desperate struggle with Moore sends the rocket off course, forcing them to land on the moon, thereby establishing America's first lunar base.
Based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein (who shares screenwriting credit with Richard Talmadge) this attempt to portray a bold, exciting future of Interplanetary Voyages, female presidents and orbiting H-bombs is let down by a mediocre plot and what can only be described as a cringe-inducing portrayal of America's first woman in space; Colonel Briteis (not "bright eyes!") a spoilt, bratty symbol of 50's misogyny.
For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.
The movie has the following tropes:
- Artificial Gravity: People walk along the corridors of the space station upside down past people going the other way due to its variable gravity. They avoid floating off the floor because they were wearing "magnetic shoes". Signs request that you PLEASE DO NOT WALK ON THE WALLS.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: It's no surprise that Major Moore and Colonel Briteis are married by the end of the movie, as they snark at each other constantly throughout it.
- Compilation Movie: The film is assembled from several episodes of the never-released TV series Ring Around the Moon.
- Dirty Communists: Well, actually the unnamed "enemies of Freedom", but we all know who they're meant to be.
- Dutch Angle: Used in the space station docking sequence to show that not every object in space approaches on the same plane.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Dr. Bellows is General Greene.
- Hollywood Science: Averted. Though it does fall victim to Technology Marches On, there's a serious attempt to depict the future of space exploration as seen from the 1950's. A streamlined spaceship only takes them up to the space station, where another craft looking similar to the Apollo Lunar Module (though much larger) takes them the rest of the way. There's also Expospeak explanations of space flight and free fall.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Moore is virtually ordered to propose to Briteis, because the public won't accept the implied hanky-panky of two young unmarried people of the opposite sex working in a close environment together for months. Fortunately neither of them are adverse to the idea.
- Punny Name: Miss Prattles, the female journalist. And
- Quickly-Demoted Woman: Briteis only became the first person in space (thereby being granted the rank of Colonel) because she weighed less than the hero. But Briteis makes up for this at the end of the movie by requesting that Major Moore be promoted to Brigadier General after they're married, so that he will outrank her. What a gal!
- Redemption Equals Death: Dr. Wernher dies helping them re-establish contact with Earth.
- Room Disservice: Evil kidnapping communist bellhops.
- Samus Is a Girl: Colonel Briteis is mentioned several times before her entrance without revealing her gender. Likewise the President of the United States.
- Screaming Woman: Briteis, when the spy is revealed. She does however manage to save the ship by pushing a single button, so she's not completely useless.
- Technology Marches On: The idea that women would have to be used for the space program because of weight restrictions led to the testing of several female pilots as potential astronauts. Advances in rocketry and political opposition soon killed this idea.
- Space Clothes: Those skullcaps do look silly, even if they do stop your hair floating about in free fall. Briteis' top is also rather tight-fitting, which does make up for it however.
- Space Station: This one looks like a saucer instead of the usual wheel-like structure.
- Spank the Cutie: Colonel Briteis is threatened with this by her commanding officer (one wonders what they'd have thought of the whole "red light, green light" business). Apparently this was Author Appeal for Robert Heinlein.
- Spot the Imposter: The fake Dr. Wernher gives himself away because he doesn't follow the World Series. I guess they didn't have nerds in those days.
- The Spymaster: Mr Roundtree
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The movie is set in 1970, which meant they were only a year out regarding the moon landing.
- What Could Have Been: Many of the Heinlein "juveniles" would have made stirring space adventures; certainly much better than Attack Of The B-Movie From Outer Space plots ripped off from Pulp Magazines. Unfortunately, apart from his contributions to Destination Moon (1950), this was the closest Hollywood ever got to adapting Heinlein's work for the screen.
- Zeerust: Finned single-stage-to-orbit Shiny-Looking Spaceships, saucer-like space stations with artificial gravity, and cordless phones -- which are your standard 1950's black Bakelite phones with a curly aerial.