Like many of these oldies I chose this purely based on the absolutely epic title. After that I then followed up with a touch of research into the plot and looked at some images on Google. I quickly came to the conclusion that yes, this is a movie I must watch.
Plot you say? Well allow me to enlighten you. It’s the futuristic year of 1980 and mankind (and by that I mean the US) is now firmly set up on the moon. Alas there seems to be a problem, a few US astronauts and their ships have gone missing. So the stiff short back and sides Colonel orders a two-man search party. The surprisingly blonde Capt. Chapman (Dean Fredericks) and Lt. Makonnen (Richard Weber). It’s not long before this young all-American duo suffers damage to their ship from a meteor shower which forces them both outside to try and fix it.
During this spacewalk Chapman is knocked-out after a meteor-like particle pierces his oxygen hose. Something that you’d think would kill him pretty quickly but nonetheless. Makonnen manages to get him back inside the ship before he is also struck by a meteor-like particle which sends him floating off into the cold depths of space. Sometime later Chapman comes to and finds the ship being drawn down to a large asteroid, forcing him to land. Upon landing and still suffering the effects of his incident Chapman exits the ship and collapses. He briefly awakens to notice tiny six-inch tall aliens approaching him, before passing out again.
No this isn’t a space set Gulliver’s Travels, but it is very much a blend of The Twilight Zone and the original Star Trek series. Basically these little aliens (Rhetonians) are trying to keep their existence (on the asteroid Rheton) secret from other lifeforms mainly down to their superior technology (gravitational control). So naturally Chapman isn’t allowed to leave. But naturally Chapman wants to escape despite being welcomed into the alien race with his choice of attractive female companions. Yes it’s at this point I must mention that the aliens do in fact look exactly like humans, because of course they do.
It’s also at this point that I should point out that when Chapman lifted the visor on his space helmet, the alien asteroid ‘air’ or ‘atmosphere’ was breathable and instantly shrank him down to the alien’s size. So obviously I needn’t point out the complete lunacy of this. Firstly, asteroids do not have an atmosphere to breathe, and secondly, even if it did why would it instantly shrink a lifeform to the exact size of the aliens? In fact, why are the alien that big anyway??
As you might expect Chapman does start to settle in with his new alien hosts but all the while he is scheming to escape. And again as you might expect there is romantic jiggery-pokery afoot as one attractive alien female wants to get in Chapman’s pants but this makes one of the male aliens jealous (cos he wants to get inside her knickers). Naturally this leads to some stern but polite language between the pair and eventually the alien custom of battling to the death in the movies main Star Trek moment. Think Kirk vs Spock but way way more crappy and without that classic tune.
Anyway after all this cliched nonsense (Chapman wins the battle but doesn’t kill the alien cos basically he’s a decent chap) we eventually get to yet another plot detour. Turns out this little human-like alien race has enemies. Enter the incredibly cliched rubbery monster-esque alien race called the Solarites or ‘fire people’. Because the technologically advanced goodie race of aliens look like humans, whereas the baddie war-obsessed alien race look like large bug-eyed bipedal lizard monsters. Oh and the ships they fly seem to be…rocks? That are actually engulfed in flames? I guess that’s why they’re called fire people…monsters. Fun fact, the Solarite we see in the movie is Richard Kiel in his first film role.
Long story short, with Chapman’s help the Rheton’s beat the fire people and all is well with the universe. Chapman is now allowed to go back to Earth when the very conveniently timed US spaceship arrives in orbit. Chapman crawls back inside in spacesuit and automatically grows back to his regular human size because…he breaths in atmospheric gases from Earth?? Huh?? Firstly, why would Earth ‘gases’ undo the shrinking process? And secondly, how was there any Earth ‘gases’ left inside his suit when his visor was left open this whole time!
There are lots of solid goofs and cringeworthy moments to be found. The fact that the astronauts move quite normally when doing their spacewalk. Also, neither of them are actually tethered to the ship, they are ‘walking’ freely. In fact there doesn’t seem to be any attempt at the effects of zero gravity at all which is most amusing. Why didn’t Chapman’s spacesuit shrink with him? It’s things like this, the goofs, the errors, are exactly why we (the fans) watch this stuff. Glorious.
Overall this is definitely an entertaining bit of sci-fi hokem which definitely gets more and more ridiculous as the plot goes on. The introduction of the Solarites was but the icing on the cake frankly as I didn’t expect that. The movie does have some nice effects here and there and the costumes, mainly the spacesuits, are well done. Set wise it’s as you might expect with everything looking rather flat and obvious but it does the job. It’s mainly the space sequences that showcase the thoroughly enjoyable clunky effects at their best. It was also surprising to see a blonde male lead as often you get a tall dark handsome hero. Fredericks hair definitely gave him some much-needed edge. So yeah, this space mystery adventure pretty much provides you with everything you could want in a cheesy old black and white early 60’s peek into what life would be like in 1980.