Conquest of Space

Tobor the Great

A boy befriends a giant robot in this independent film from 1954. Despite the clunky red scare spy subplot attached, this is pure cotton candy kiddie fare, remembered today only for its impressive robot design. 4/10

Gog

Strange deaths occur at an underground US research facility controlled by a computer. Suspicion falls on two helper robots, Gog and Magog. This 1954 Ivan Tors thriller in colour has a great setup, but feels more like a science lesson than an SF film. 5/10

Riders to the Stars

Curt Siodmak, Ivan Tors and Richard Carlson foreshadow The Right Stuff in this 1953 space race film. Despite its bonkers central premise and a somewhat unsatisfactory latter part, the film charms with its mature and calm, scientific approach. 5/10

Project Moonbase

It’s a battle of the sexes when an incompetent female pilot is chosen for political reasons to lead the first mission around the moon. The sexist script by Robert Heinlein for this 1953 film is not bettered by a limp cold war espionage angle. 1/10

Cat-Women of the Moon

The first “Amazon Women in Space” film, this 1953 low-budget clunker is one of the dumbest films ever made. However, despite its borrowed sets, atrocious acting and ludicrous script, it is thoroughly fun in its naivety. 3/10

The Quatermass Experiment

Hugely influential, BBC’s 1953 mini-series about an alien virus mutating their hosts was a massive British TV event. Aired live, its sets were clunky and the acting stiff, but the great script and innovative direction overcome the flaws even today. 6/10

Spaceways

Britain’s first post-war space movie is decidedly Earth-bound, as it follows the personal intrigues of scientists preparing the first orbital space flight. Hammer director Terence Fisher is far from inept, but is thwarted by a meandering script. 3/10

Red Planet Mars

A scientist receives messages from Mars, and the sender appears to be Jesus Christ himself. However, it is all a commu-nazi trick to destroy Western capitalism. Or is it? Would this 1952 red scare film not have taken itself so utterly seriously, it might have been fun. 1/10

Flight to Mars

The first team of explorers to Mars are welcomed and double-crossed by a Martian civilisation attempting to hijack their rocket and invade Earth. A 1951 low-budget effort by Monogram, the movie’s striking for its visuals, but badly scripted and routinely directed. 5/10.

When Worlds Collide

When a rogue planet threatens to collide with Earth, a small team of pioneers start building a space ark in order to begin life anew on a new world. George Pal produces and Rudolph Maté directs this classic from 1951 in nostalgic Technicolor. The script’s weak love triangle and biblical pathos suck some of the juice out of Philip Wylie’s crisp novel, but the visuals and effects are stunning, and the action exciting despite some slow spots. 6/10

Tales of Tomorrow

The first SF anthology TV show aired live in the US from 1951 to 1953. With material by some of the greatest SF authors of all time, its adult-oriented, intelligent scripts are often unsettling to watch even today. The cast boasts Leslie Nielsen, Rod Steiger, Paul Newman, Eva Gabor, James Dean, Joanne Woodward and many more. 6/10

Destination Moon

In 1950 Hollywood finally produced its first first serious, big-budget space film. With the help of luminaries like Robert Heinlein, Hermann Oberth and Chesley Bonestell, future SF icon George Pal produced a visually stunning but dramatically stale epic, heavily influenced by the red scare. 6/10

Rocketship X-M

Poverty Row studio Lippert Pictures rushed Rockethip X-M into theatres in 1950, ahead of the much-hyped big-budget production Destination Moon, claiming the title of the first American space exploration movie. Despite its cash-grab nature, in some ways it actually surpasses its heavy-going “original”. 6/10

Captain Video and His Video Rangers

The first science fiction TV show aired as a live broadcast in the US every weekday for almost six years beginning in 1949, totalling in over 1,500 episodes. Aimed at a kiddie audience, the show was cheap and shoddy, even compared to its film serial inspirations, but involved writing talent such as Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clarke and James Blish.  3/10

Boom in the Moon

My very first zero-star review goes to a 1946 Mexican ”sci-fi comedy” starring a down and out Buster Keaton doing his best not to fall asleep on set. The script has three idiots landing a rocket in the middle of a Mexican city, thinking they are on the moon. That is the full plot. The best moments have Buster Keaton lifelessly repeating old gags from his silent era. The rest is a mess. Scifist rating: 0/10.