Rocketship X-M

Begun as a project meant to capitalize on the large budget, highly successful George Pal space film Destination Moon, Rocketship X-M (short for “Rocketship Expedition Moon”) was actually released two months before the film it was supposed to follow.  Unlike its counterpart, the scientific knowledge in this film is drastically flawed. These deviations make for a creative storyline that is enhanced by some fine acting and outstanding photography. Despite its weak points, Rocketship XM is undoubtedly one of the trendsetters that, along with Destination Moon, set the stage for scores of movies that copied its style up to the release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The film tells the story of four astronauts (three men, one woman) led by Colonel Graham (Lloyd Bridges) whose journey to the moon is interrupted when a solar wind blows them off course. After surviving its brush with the obligatory meteor shower, Rocketship X-M is forced to land on Mars. There, the crew discovers a desolate landscape inhabited by primitive humans.

Through its discovery, the crew learns that the natives are descendants of a great race destroyed by a nuclear war that occurred in ages past. Now, left with only ruins, the savages attack the space travelers, forcing them to abandon Mars before they can fully investigate the history of the sophisticate civilization left on the Red Planet’s desert surface. In this manner, we are warned of the dangers posed by our own nuclear weapons.

As a political commentary, Rocketship X-M is juvenile. As an adventure story, it is well worth watching. When the movie was made, the Cold War was in its infancy, as was nuclear weapons doctrine. In hindsight, this adds to the mystique. This film’s barbaric Martians kicked down the door for the more grim and sinister space monsters that followed.

In 1978, producer Wade Williams gained the rights to this film and added special effects footage to replace some of the weaker shots in the film, including a wide use of V-2 stock footage.  Tom Sherman built a duplicate miniature replica of the original X-M model for these new effects shots.  This is the version on the current DVD release. The original theater cut is not available to the home consumer.

– written by the Two-Brained Cylon