Missile to the Moon (1958) poster

Missile to the Moon (1958)


USA. 1958.


Director – Richard Cunha, Screenplay – H.E. Barrie & Vincent Fotre, Producer – Marc Frederic, Photography (b&w) – Meredith Nicholson, Music – Nicholas Carras, Visual Effects – Harold Banks, Special Effects – Ira Anderson, Makeup – Harry Thomas, Art Direction – Sham Unlimited. Production Company – Astor Pictures/Layton Film Productions, Inc..


Richard Travis (Steve Dayton), Tommy Cook (Gary Fennell), Gary Clarke (Lon), Michael Whalen (Dirk Green), Cathy Downs (June Saxton), Nina Bara (Alpha), K.T. Stevens (The Lido), Laurie Mitchell (Lambda), Marjorie Heller [Leslie Parrish] (Zema), Lee Roberts (Sheriff Cramer), Henry Hunter (Colonel Wickers)


Sheriff Cramer heads to the desert laboratory where scientist Dirk Green is determined to build a rocketship to go to The Moon. The sheriff is in search of two escaped convicts, Gary Fennell and Lon. Dirk discovers the two convicts are hiding inside the rocket but tells the sheriff there is nobody there. At gunpoint, Dirk then forces Lou and Gary to become his crew as he launches the rocket. Also caught up aboard in the launch is Dirk’s business partner Steve Dayton and his fiancée June Saxton. They head to The Moon but Dirk is killed when a shelf collapses on top of him during a meteor shower. The others land on the Moon. Fleeing rock monsters, they take refuge in a cave where they find a civilisation ruled by women. However, the moon women’s civilisation is dying because they are running out of oxygen and they now see the Earth people as their saviours.

This was one of the key films from director Richard E. Cunha (1922-2005). Cunha was one of the less remembered no-budget directors in 1950s cinema. He had started out making newsreels while in service during World War II. Back in civilian life, he branched out to make commercials and industrial films, before directing various shows in the early days of television. His first film as director was the Nazi mad scientist movie She Demons (1958), followed by Giant from the Unknown (1958), the Z-budget classic Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958) and Missile to the Moon. Aside from these, he only other film Cunha ever directed was the crime drama The Girl in Room 13 (1960).

Missile to the Moon is a remake of the earlier Z movie Cat-Women of the Moon (1953), which was also produced by Astor Pictures. That said, Missile to the Moon is not precisely a remake of Cat-Women. It retains the same general plot of a rocket expedition to the Moon and the astronauts encountering a race of women living there, who are all named after Greek letters. Similarly, there is complication in that the atmosphere on the Moon is running out and complications as the women seek to appropriate the Earth rocket. This film even reuses the giant attacking spider prop that appeared in Cat-Women.

On the other hand, this version gets the addition of a long preamble where scientist Michael Whalen co-opts two escaped convicts to become his crew, whereas Cat-Women opens just after the rocket’s launch. In Cat-Women, the cat women are controlling the mind of the female crew member but could not control the men, so were influencing her to guide the ship to their location. By contrast here, the moon women control the men and they are guided there by scientist Michael Whalen who had previously visited The Moon (although this is not given much explanation in that he is contradictorily also said that he is only just building his rocketship for the first time at the start of the film).

A moon woman under threat by the giant spider in Missile to the Moon (1958)
A moon woman under threat by the giant spider

Both Cat-Women of the Moon and Missile to the Moon fall into a spate of outer space sex fantasies that were made during the early years of the Space Age, along with the likes of Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Fire Maidens of Outer Space (1956) and Queen of Outer Space (1958). These featured male astronauts venturing to other worlds and encountering all-women societies where the astronauts would proceed to introduce the women to some good lovin’. The credits here make a point of noting that the moon women are played by “international beauty contest winners.”

The film suffers from some extremely cheap effects. The rocket launch scenes are represented by stock NASA footage. When it comes to the landing on the Moon, the rocket footage is simply printed in reverse – so much so that you can still see the launchpad in the background semi-disguised by optically imposed mountains. The Moon itself is represented by shooting in the desert (California’s Red Rock Canyon). Aside from the giant spider, we also get some rock men – an idea that seems a good one in conception but in actuality looks like a bunch of extras wearing giant pieces of foam rubber costuming that make them look like a live-action version of Gumby. To be fair though, it is marginally a better film in terms of production than Cat-Women was.

All of this would merely make Missile to the Moon a cheap 1950s SF film, even passable at times. However, the introduction of the Moon women turns everything into something cheesily ridiculous. There is silliness involving mind control and the women’s desire to be shown love and conquer the rest of the universe. At least, Argentinean actress Nina Bara plays with a grand campiness in the scenes where she gets to usurp control of the Moon throne.

Trailer here

Full film available here

Actors: , , , , , ,
Themes: , , , , , , , , ,