Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 12. September 20, 1951
The Film: — Destination Moon
For the first 20 minutes, this film is played in a key strongly reminiscent of Texas Doug Macarthur and his ol' Western Democracy band, though the tune is certainly arranged by the US Associated Chambers of Commerce. In fact it consists of a pot-pourri of "God Bless America," "Don't Fence Me In," and "There's a Gold Mine in the Sky"—but of course in the 20th century it is a uranium mine.
Seriously the first part of "Destination Moon" is almost enough to make one despair of humanity. The perpetrators of this nonsense could see nothing incongruous in projecting their petty little political squabbles into the vastnesses of space. They could, with straight faces, add to those ranks already filled by Bao Dai and Chiang Kai Shek, Franco, the Japanese democrats, another obedient ally—the man in the moon. Has our race become so insane that when the trip to the moon happens (as it must before many years) it will not be as a culmination of the strivings of humanity, but as a smart, fear-impelled move to defend the (doubtful) blessings of the American Way of Life against the Red Peril?
"Destination Moon" can seriously preach that "we must get to the moon first in case any nation other than ourselves can thus dominate the world" and in case this alarming lesson in inter-global strategics is not clear enough, we are offered the lure of uranium (then presumbably we can blow our satellite into fractured atoms when we have finished with ourselves) as a knockdown argument. Admittedly the explorers on landing claim the moon "for the benefit of all mankind"—in a strong American accent.
If one could forgive this ultimate in terrified chauvinism, then the rest of the film would be good. Technically, it is surprising how much is accurate: especially the colour and the drawings generally. The problems involved in space travel, in acceleration, for instance, are shown with care. Would that the crew had appeared half so probable—it consists of an aged general, a quite moronic Bronx radio man, one hustling self-made American, and a self-made American, and a scientist who is qualified to visit the moon because he is an engineer and rocket designer. Ye Gods! But of course they had to stampede out into space one atomic jump ahead of the interfering inefficient government, to prove that American enterprise is way ahead of the whole universe.
The trouble with "Destination Moon" is that it is so unsure of its own destination. It will insist on mixing accurate and quite admirable studying of space travel problems with its own peculiarly banal brand of flag-waving Moral for Modern Morons. Looking back, we gasp to see by how little we missed seeing the Stars and Stripes raised on the surface of the moon to the accompaniment of an exalted eulogy on the virtues of free enterprise. It is two kinds of film: of the good kind (scientific conjecture) it is very good. Of the bad kind it stands out, even among the thousands already cluttering that category, as an all time low in inanity.
In fact we were immensely relieved when we gathered from the sound track that fuel chambers of the rocket were filled with water (heavy?), because after the even heavier handed hokum of the first 20 minutes, we feared that they contained enough pure moonshine to blast the thing clear out beyond Betelgeues.
Certainly see this film—if you can get a friend to tell you when the worst has finished. No-one told us.
Captain Hornblower: In Captain Hornblower Virginia Mayo—as an actress is a perfect bust.
Father's Little Dividend: Film Blurb: "Same Company, Same Actors, Same Humour"—yes and same story.
Queen of Spades: Even if it is at the Opera House—Trumps.
Kim: Not for the anti-imperialists but good for those who like that sort of thing.
But you ought to see Private Angelo (who is no Angelo) and Love on the Dole, particularly if you have had a sheltered life.