Saturday, July 16, 2022

ROCKETSHIP X-M, EXPEDITION MOON (1950): Anatomy of a Cult Science Fiction Classic

I was three-years old, when the originally titled, "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", premiered in New York City, on May 26, 1950. I would be around ten-years old, when I first saw the movie on Los Angeles television station, KHJ's, the "Million Dollar Movie", for five nights in a row, as "Rocketship X-M". It was also known as just, "Expedition Moon".

In this articles title I've used the word, "Anatomy", because I will be looking at many aspects of this cult classic.

"Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", was one-part of America's "First Space Race". Fought between Producer Kurt Neumann's feature film and George Pal's "Destination Moon". This was a race to the box office to become the first motion picture to the tell story of a manned space flight to the moon, or so, "The Trade's", would claim

The race was created by both "The Hollywood Reporter", and "Variety", and picked up by newspapers across the United States. The premise wasn't new, but the target was catchy. An unknown, low-budget, basically independent motion picture, was being made for the sole purpose of beating into movie theaters, the big budgeted, "Paramount Pictures" and George Pal production on the same topic. While, the smaller production was banking upon the public being confused that it was really the picture they kept reading about in the news and hearing about on television. 

In this particular case, both motion pictures would benefit at that box office from the publicity of this "Space Race", not just the winner.

While, in several, secondary markets, the released dates of the two Science Fiction films would actually be reversed, based upon bookings.

Of course, both French film maker George Melies', 1902, short, "A Trip to the Moon", and German film maker Fritz Lang's, 1929, "Woman in the Moon", which created the rocket count-down, were from much earlier, but this was Hollywood, and at the time, most American's had never heard of either film.

"Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon" was "distributed" through "Lippert Pictures", and this gives the impression that Robert L. Lippert was completely behind the feature. That is partly true, but you will not find his name on the "Official Cast and Crew Listing" in any capacity, including "Producer"

Lippert was the "Presenter", giving him credit and name recognition for the distribution of the motion picture.

On the "Official Cast and Crew Listing", under the heading of "Producer", is the name Murray Lerner, with the misleading job title of "Executive Producer". Actually, Lerner was Robert L. Lippert's representative to the production, and his two primary functions were protecting any investment made by "Lippert Pictures", and making sure the film was completed on time. In conjunction with his second responsibility, Murray Lerner was to have the entire cast and crew on the set, daily, to start that day's filming on time, and back, on time, from lunch breaks. However, it was also the "Executive Producer's" direct responsibility for the marketing and initial bookings of "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", to beat "Paramount Picture's", "Destination Moon", into theaters. 

Producer, Director, and Writer, Kurt Neumann

Robert L. Lippert, "Lippert Pictures", and Murray Lerner, aside, the real person behind "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", was Kurt Neumann. 

Neumann was born in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany, on April 5, 1908. He left Germany with the rise of Adolph Hitler and came to the United States and went to work at "Universal Pictures". 

His first picture, as a director, was the, 1931, Spanish language, "El Tenorio del harem (The Tenor of the Harem)". Eight-years later he directed actress Anna May Wong and J. Carrol Naish in the, 1939 mystery, "Island of Lost Men". Starting in 1945, Neumann directed Johnny Weissmuller and Brenda Joyce in three "Tarzan" adventures, in 1950, he directed Audie Murphy portraying "Billy the Kid", in "The Kid from Texas". 

Although this feature film was released in 1950, it wasn't until 1957, that Kurt Neumann, truly, became associated with Horror and Science Fiction motion pictures. He began as the director of, 1957's, "She Devil", starring Mari Blanchard, and the same years, "KRONOS", starring Jeff Morrow. In 1958, Neumann directed the Science Fiction Horror classic, "The Fly".

Kurt Neumann was also a screenplay writer, and among his screenplays and treatments is his uncredited role on "Universal Picture's", 1936's, "Dracula's Daughter", starring Gloria Holden. In 1943, Neuman's story idea, became "Columbia Pictures", "The Return of the Vampire", starring Bela Lugosi. While in 1957, Kurt Neumann had written the screenplay for the "She Devil".

Neumann wore three hats and was also a producer. He produced four "Tarzan" films, "KRONOS", the "She Devil", and "The Fly"

Which brings me to Kurt Neumann wearing all three hats for this motion picture, but before I go into Neumann's story and screenplay. I turn to his role as the director and the casting of the main characters for the film, the musical score and the designing of the spacecraft itself.

The Crew of Rocketship X-M

Lloyd Bridges portrayed the "Pilot, Colonel Floyd Graham".

Above, Lloyd Bridges is being interviewed by "Reporter #3", played by the uncredited Judd Holdren, eights roles, before Holdren became, 1951's, "Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere".

Bridges started on-screen acting in 1940, for "Columbia Pictures", in uncredited roles, but during the Second World War, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard. It is during that period, between 1942 and 1945, that is confusing, as some biographies state Bridges didn't work on-screen until after his discharge. Yet, according to IMDb and others, he never stopped working in motion pictures. His first starring role was in a 1945 Cliff Hanger, released prior to the war's ending, "Secret Agent X-9". Bridges became a member of the "Coast Guard Reserve" after the war ,and it is possible, he served in a similar capacity during it, enabling his motion picture work.

Lloyd Bridges was "Black Listed" by the "House Committee on Un-American Activities", because he admitted to once being a member of the "Actors' Laboratory Theatre", a group with links to the Communist Party. However, the "Black Listing" had to be very short, because, again it appears he never stopped his motion picture work. Later, Lloyd Bridges became televisions "Mike Nelson", for 155 episodes of "Sea Hunt", 1958-1961.

Osa Massen portrayed "Dr. Lisa Van Horn, with a Ph. D in Chemistry". 

Ase Madsen Iversen was a Danish actress known as Osa Massen. She began her career as a newspaper photographer in Denmark, and started on-screen acting with the Danish film, 1935's, "Kidnapped"", no relation to the Robert Louis Stevenson story. Massen made one more Danish motion picture in 1935, and came to the United States in 1937. By the time, thirty-six years old, Osa Massen, made "Rocketship X-M", Expedition Moon", she had made twenty American motion pictures. These included 1943's, "Jack London", co-starring with Michael O'Shea and Susan Hayward, and an overlooked werewolf movie, 1944's, "Cry of the Werewolf", co-starring with Nina Foch as the werewolf, and Stephen Crane. Osa Massen ended her acting career, with her third appearance on televisions "Perry Mason", in "The Case of the Tarnished Trademark", January 20, 1962.

John Emery portrayed "Dr. Karl Eckstrom, Physicist and RX-M designer". 

John Emery was a solid supporting actor in roles small, medium, and large. Among his work is portraying the Japanese Premier, "Gilchi Tanaka", in James Cagney's, 1945, "Blood on the Sun", a French pirate, in 1945's, "Spanish Main", starring Paul Henreid and Maureen O'Hara", the psychiatrist in director Alfred Hitchcock's, 1945, "Spellbound", starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, and the role of the magician, "The Great Rinaldi", in the 3-D, 1954, "The Mad Magician", starring Vincent Price and Eva Gabor. For producer, writer, and director, Kurt Neumann, John Emery was "Dr. Hubbell Eliot", in 1957's, "KRONOS".

Noah Beery Jr. portrayed "Flight Engineer Major William 'Bill' Corrigan".

Junior started acting, at age seven, with his father in two 1920's silent motion pictures, "The Mutiny of the Elsinore", and the Douglas Fairbanks, "The Mark of Zorro". Noah Beery, Jr., nephew of Wallace Beery, became associated with "B" Westerns and adventure films, but in 1948, he portrayed "Buster McGee", in director Howard Hawks'. "Red River", starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Television addicts know Noah Beery, Jr. for the 49 episodes of "Circus Boy", as "Joey the Clown", and 118 episodes of "The Rockford Files", as "Joseph 'Rocky' Rockford".

Hugh O'Brian portrayed "Astronomer and Navigator Harry Chamberlain". 

After the Second World War ended, in 1947, Hugh Charles Krampe, was accepted to the "Yale Law School", but before the start of the fall term. He was in Hollywood watching his girlfriend rehearse a stage production of playwright, William Somerset Maugham's, "Home and Beauty". The lead actor didn't show up and the director, actress Ida Lupino, asked Hugh to read the lines for her in rehearsal. He was asked to take the role, the play received major reviews, and his law career ended before it started, with a contract from a agent. 

Hugh Krampe changed his name, when the play's printed program showed him as "Huge Krape". According to his obituary in the "Los Angeles Times", the actor was quoted as saying:
decided right then I didn't want to go through life being known as Huge Krape, so I decided to take my mother's family name, O'Brien, but they misspelled it as 'O'Brian' and I just decided to stay with that

"Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon" was O'Brian's fifth on-screen appearance since portraying an uncredited sailor in the Roddy McDowall and Dan O'Herlihy, 1948, version of Robert Louis Stevenson's, "Kidnapped". Among his films is 1951's, "Little Big Horn", starring Lloyd Bridges, John Ireland, and Marie Windsor, 1952's, "Son of Ali Baba", starring Tony Curtis, Piper Laurie, and Susan Cabot, and the 1954 musical, "There's No Business Like Show Business", starring Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Marilyn Monroe, Dan Dailey, Johnnie Ray, and Mitzi Gaynor. O'Brian was seventh billed as "Charles Gibbs". Basically, Hugh O'Brian was appearing on different television dramas until 1955. When he starred in "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" for 226 episodes through 1961.

The Project Director

Morris Ankrum
portrayed "Dr Ralph Fleming". 


Morris Nussbaum signed with "Paramount Pictures" in 1930, at first he called himself Stephen Morris, but in 1939, the actor again changed his name to Morris Ankrum. My article, "MORRIS ANKRUM THE FACE OF 1950'S SCIENCE FICTION /HORROR MOVIES", will be found at:

Among Ankrum's other Science Fiction films is 1951's, "Flight to Mars"1953's, "Invaders from Mars", Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen's, 1956, "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", and 
Kurt Neumann's, 1957, "KRONOS", to name just a few.

At the end of Morris Ankrum's career in 1964, he had portrayed 331 different roles, not counting the 22 times he played a "Judge" on televisions "Perry Mason".

The Musical Score

Ferde Grofe (Which is pronounced, FUR-dee GROH-fay) composed the score.

Ferdinand Rudolph Grofe was born to German immigrant parents in New York City, on March 27, 1892. He studied piano and the viola, along with music composition in Leipzig, Germany. In 1920, Grofe was the pianist for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, but also Whiteman's music arranger. In that second capacity, it was Ferde Grofe that arranged Paul Whiteman's trademark piece of music, George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". 

Between 1929 and 1931, Grofe composed "Five Pictures of the Grand Canyon", using music to describe each of the areas, but over time the composition became known as "The Grand Canyon Suite".

Shortly, after 1944, Ferde Grofe became a faculty member and the conductor of the orchestra for the "Julliard School of Music".

For "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", Ferde Grofe, became the first composer to use in a Science Fiction film, the Aetherphone/Etherphone, known simply as the "Theremin", to create eerie sounds. After which, the instrument would be heard in both 1951's, "The Thing from Another World", and "The Day the Earth Stood Still", and in 1953's, "Cat-Women of the Moon".

Below are pictures of the original "Theremin", in 1920, with its inventor, Russian physicist Lev Sergevitch Termen aka: Leon Theremin. No, it is not an "Interocitor" from 1955's, "This Island Earth", but, yes, it provided some of the sound effects for that Science Fiction film.

For those unfamiliar with the "Intereocitor", below is a still from "This Island Earth" with Jeff Morrow.

The first release of Ferde Grofe's soundtrack score was on a LP Album in 1977, the record contained fifteen tracks and a sixteenth bonus track, showing off the sounds that the "Theremin" could produce. The CD released in 2012, has only twelve tracks, but included bonus material about the composer. 

1: Main Title (1:21)

2: Good Luck (1:53)

3: Stand by to Turn (:50)

4: The Motors Conk Out (2:55)

5: Palomar Observatory (1:11)

6: Floyd Whispers (1:57)

7: Floyd and Lisa at Window (2:56)

8: We See Mars (2:06)

9: The Landing on Mars (3:17)

10: The Ruins (3:10)

11: I Saw the Martians (1:02)

12: The Atomic Age to Stone Age/The Chase (4:59)

13: The Tanks Are Empty (3:37)

14: The Crash (3:22)

15: End Title (:59)

Bonus Track:

16: Noodling on the Theremin (1:35)

Designing a Space Ship

Because of the budget restraints on the production, Theobold Holsopple, was both the Production Designer, overseeing the entire "Art Department", and Art Director, the head of the "Art Department", on "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon". 

I could not locate a photo of Holsopple, but this was his first feature film as a Production Designer and his fourth motion picture as the Art Director. Later, he would be Kurt Neumann's Production Designer on both 1957's, "She Devil", and "KRONOS", and Art Director on his 1958, "The Fly". By the end of his career in 1968, Theobold Holsopple would have ten motion pictures as Production Designer to his credit, and eighty-one as an Art Director. 

For this picture, Theobold Holsopple assembled a main team of four men:

The Property Manager was Lou Asher, who started out in 1929, took a break in this job in 1939, and returned in 1950 for this motion picture. What happened during the break I could not locate, Asher would have been too old for the Military Draft in 1941, and there is no other information on line.

The original Special Effects on the picture was created by one man, Don Stewart, and this seems to be his only motion picture credit.

The Special Photographic Effects Creator was Canadian born, Jack Rabin. This was Rabin's fourth film in this category and his next was 1951's, "The Man from Planet X". While, Jack Rabin had also been working on regular Special Effects since 1947, but he didn't work in that area for this production. Rabin would be the Production Designer on 1951's, "Unknown World", Co-Producer for Kurt Neumann's 1957's, "KRONOS", and Co-Producer with Roger Corman, on 1958's, "War of the Satellites". 

Matte Painter Irving Block, also would work on the Special and Visual Effects for this film. For 1956's, "Forbidden Planet", Block came up with the story and was the uncredited Production Designer. He was another Co-Producer, for Neumann's 1957, "KRONOS", and Designed the Special Effects. Irving Block's work in Visual Effects includes 1953's, "Invaders from Mars", Roger Corman's great titled, 1957, The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent", and Kurt Neumann's, 1959, "Atomic Submarine".

The idea for the design of "Rocketship X-M", came from a pictorial article in the January 17, 1949 issue of "Life Magazine", by Noel Sickles, one of the magazine's illustrators. 


Noel Sickles article was entitled, "Rocket to the Moon"!

When German director Fritz Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou made 1929's "Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon)", they used the best-known German science on space travel. Their spacecraft had two stages and looked like:

While, George Pal's, "Destination Moon", used a single stage space craft. That idea was already being seen by American viewers of both television's "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet", that was inspired by another Robert A. Heinlein novel, 1948's, "Space Cadet", and another early television Science Fiction program, the popular, "Space Patrol".

While, below, the space craft in "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", was a two-stage design. That appeared to be a hybrid of the "Life Magazine" article, and Fritz Lang's "Woman in the Moon".

Above, 1929's, "Woman in the Moon", below a similar scene from 1950's, "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon".

Prologue to Kurt Neumann's Screenplay

The screenplay for George Pal's, "Destination Moon", was based upon "Rocket Ship Galileo", a 1947, teenage aimed novel by author Robert A. Heinlein. Pal's screenplay was highly influenced by Heinlein's belief, at the time, that such a space craft could only be built by the American Industrial Complex, because such a project was beyond the government's vision and capability.

After co-writing the screenplay, Robert A. Heinlein wrote a novella based upon it, added a description of making the motion picture, and published, "Destination Moon and Shooting Destination Moon". 

Everyone already knew, from earlier press releases, that George Pal's "Destination Moon" was going to be a family film based upon scientifically accurate information. It would even incorporate an explanation of space travel by Co-Producer Walter Lantz's, "Woody Woodpecker".

However, Kurt Neumann wanted something to catch his audience and make "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon" standout from George Pal's "Destination Moon". That would come from an uncredited third screenplay writer in a very unusual situation

Already assisting Neuman was, Orville H. Hampton, who would provide some "Additional Dialogue". Hampton was a "B" screenplay writer and would work on Neumann's 1959, "Atomic Submarine". He also worked on two other 1959 screenplays, "The Alligator People", and "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake. After "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", Orville Hampton was the "dialogue director" on both 1951's, "The Lost Continent", and the "Mesa of Lost Women". 

The uncredited third writer was DALTON TRUMBO, and his story is very interesting.

 Among Trumbo's screenplays prior to this film is 1940's, "Bill of Divorcement", starring Maureen O'Hara and Adolphe Menjou, Ginger Rodgers's first dramatic role, 1940's, "Kitty Foyle", 1943's, "A Guy Named Joe", starring Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne, and the Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, 1944, "Thirty-Seconds Over Tokyo".

I mention those Trumbo films, because in October, 1947, screenplay writer Dalton Trumbo, and nine others, were brought before the "House Committee on Un-American Activities", and became known as "The Hollywood Ten". The "Ten" refused to speak to their "Alleged" involvement in planting Communist views in motion picture screenplays, and refused to give the committee the names of other Communist sympathizers each knew. 

"The Hollywood Ten" were found to be in contempt of Congress and the American motion picture industry "Black Listed" all ten men. They appealed their convictions, under their "First Amendment Rights", to the United States Supreme Court, lost the appeal, and sentenced to prison.

(Trumbo's last screenplay with credit, was 1945's, "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes", co-starring Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O'Brien. His name became "Unconfirmed", without credit, although he was the only screenplay writer on the movie, for, 1947's, "The Gangster", starring Barry Sullivan, released one month after Dalton Trumbo appeared at the committee hearings)

Somehow, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo, who was serving an eleven-month sentence in the federal penitentiary in Ashland, Kentucky, and wasn't to work on American movies, came together. 

It was Trumbo who made the rewrites to Kurt Neumann's Martian scenes and turned that portion of the screenplay into something designed to catch an audience. Trumbo turned the planet Mars into a wasteland after a "Nuclear War".   

No motion picture, or television show had even mentioned "Nuclear War"!

Dalton Trumbo's change fed off of the Daily Air Raid Siren tests, the drop and cover drills in schools, the government television and newspaper bulletins that your next-door neighbor might be a Soviet agent, and the growing fear, but never mentioned aloud, that the Soviet Union might drop an atomic bomb on America.

After his release, Trumbo moved his family to Mexico City, and continued to write thirty screenplays under assumed names. He won two Academy Awards, for 1953's, "Roman Holiday", starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, and for the touching family film about a boy and his bull, 1956's, "The Brave One", but could not return to the United States to claim them.

In 1960, producer and star Kirk Douglas, had Dalton Trumbo write the screenplay for "Spartacus". Douglas, then, put his name in large letters on the motion picture screen. Immediately after, producer Otto Preminger followed with Trumbo getting full writing credit for 1960's "Exodus". "The Hollywood Ten's" "Black Listing" had ended and the writer could return to the United States.

To put the Neumann-Trumbo theme in proper prospective:

The only movie about the atomic bomb, to that  date, was "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's", 1947, "The Beginning, or the End". That film starred Brian Donlevy as "Major General Leslie R. Groves", the head of "The Manhattan Project", and Hume Cronyn as "J. Robert Oppenheimer". This was the Hollywood flag waving version of creating the first atomic bomb, the dropping of the two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thereby forcing the Japanese surrender ending the Second World War. 

Note the tag line on the above poster:

The Long-Awaited Dramatic Story of the Atomic Bomb

As far as Science Fiction motion pictures went in 1950, besides "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", and "Destination Moon". There were only three other releases, two "Republic Pictures" cliff-hangers, "Flying Disc Man from Mars", and "The Invisible Monster". Along with a low-budget spy drama, "The Flying Saucer", not alien, but implied it came from the unnamed, Soviet Union. 

The next motion picture to address nuclear war anywhere in the world, came from a screenplay by radio's "Lights-Out" writer and creator, Arch Obler. "FIVE" was released in October, 1951, and told the story of the five people left on Earth after a nuclear disaster.

It would be another year, before another atomic war motion picture, 1952's, "Invasion U.S.A.", was released and actually envisioned the Soviet Union dropping atomic bombs on the United States.

Kurt Neumann's Screenplay

The motion picture opens with a press conference called by project director "Dr. Ralph Fleming", (In hindsight, the location is a clue to what will happen later), at the "Government Proving Grounds, White Sands, New Mexico.

"Fleming" informs the assembled press that shortly they will be witnessing the launch of the first manned rocket ship, with its mission, the first manned landing on the moon.

Project Director "Fleming" next, introduces the crew of the "RX-M (Rocketship Expedition Moon)", and turns the briefing over to the rocket ship's designer, "Dr. Karl Eckstrom". "Eckstrom" proceeds to explain his design and that the space craft should reach the moon within the next 48-hours.

After the briefing, the crew gives informal interviews for the press, and then leaves for the rocket ship. 

The count-down begins, the engine’s rockets are fired, and the “RX-M” lifts off. (This is not an image from the original motion picture production and I will explain that later.)

In space, the crew looks back at the Earth as they speed toward the moon.

The first stage is jettisoned and "Dr. Van Horn" has a momentary panic attack.

Fourteen-hours into the flight, the "RX-M" loses power, and "Karl Eckstrom" insists on altering the ratio of the fuel mixture over the objects of "Lisa Van Horn". This opposite views creates some concern with the other three crew members, but in the end the mixture will be altered by "Dr. Eckstrom".

Later, "Karl", "Bill Corrigan", and "Harry Chamberlain" have gone to sleep, but "Lisa Van Horn", and "Floyd Graham" are still up. 

Just as "Floyd" starts to make a pass at "Lisa", the "RX-M" is surrounded by a meteor shower. 

"Floyd" makes some adjustments to the flight path and is able to get out of the meteor shower without damage to the "RX-M". "Floyd" and "Harry" now make other adjustments to bring the "RX-M" back on its original course to the moon and require the use of "Dr. Eckstrom's new fuel mixture ratio.

The moment the new fuel mixture enters the space craft's engine system, the "RX-M" accelerates at a rate of speed far beyond "Eckstrom's" calculations, sending the space craft off course, and into deep space. When the "RX-M" finely slows down, the crew discovers that they had passed out from a lower oxygen level in the cabin created by the acceleration, have traveled 50-million miles, and are approaching the planet Mars. 

After regaining control of their senses, "Dr. Karl Eckstrom", determines they are approximately, 50,000-miles from an orbit around the planet. 

(Critics beware, on average the distance between the Earth and Mars is 139-million miles, but the closest recorded distance is 34-milliom miles, see the attached link.)

("RX-M's" Fuel situation: At this point in the story, it is made clear that the "RX-M" is carrying twice the amount of fuel necessary for a journey to the moon and back. Add-in, the change in the fuel's ratio by "Dr. Eckstrom", and the audience now knows the space craft should have been able to reach Mars and return to Earth.

By comparison, in "Destination Moon", the "Expedition Leader Jim Barnes", portrayed by John Archer, miscalculates, and uses too much fuel on the space craft's descent onto the moon. That one miscalculation, creates the need to strip the entire space ship of all non-essential equipment to reduce its weight, to be able to lift off the moon and return safely to Earth. Demonstrating the opposite fuel situation from "Rocketship X-M: Expedition Moon", of not having, apparently, any reserve fuel at al1!)

Returning to the screenplay:

The "RX-M" safely passes through the Martian atmosphere, lands, and the crew goes out to explore.

(The scenes on Mars are tinted using an old technique going back to the silent film era. The area of Mars the crew first exit is actually California's, Zabriskie Point, in Death Valley.)

Above, "Dr. Karl Eckstrom", "Colonel Floyd Graham", and "Major William Corrigan", on the Martian surface. 

(A lot has been made of the lack of space suits on the crew, as seen in the above still. Some reviewers have suggested that they're wearing gas masks with military tactical gear of the period. It has been pointed out, that if the crew wore gas masks, there also would be eye coverings. Other reviewers claim the crew are wearing "Oxygen Breathing Apparatuses", like used by military firefighters of the period. 

Whichever is the correct answer, or perhaps neither. The look in "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", is in stark contrast to the bulky, and colorful space suits in "Destination Moon", that restricted the actors movement. Those suits, with some others, would be reused by the Martians in 1951's, "Flight to Mars".

Above, 1950's, "Destination Moon", below, 1951's, "Flight to Mars".  Note in the second still, the Earth explorers don't even have breathing apparatus, to walk in the Martian atmosphere, as seen in "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon".)

Below, the crew comes upon part of a buried ancient statue and speculation about its origin takes place. 

From examining the ancient statue's head, the crew believes a civilization equal to the one now on Earth once lived on Mars, and the question is raised, what became of them? 

(It has been mentioned that this statue appears to be one of three types of related art, depending on whose review you read:

The first is "Art Deco", a style of art that first appeared in France during the First World War. In the 1930's  "Art Deco" was the form of architecture used for New York City's "Empire State Building", the "Chrysler Building", and "30 Rockefeller Plaza". It was also used extensively in Merian C. Cooper's 1935, "SHE", below:

The second is "Tiki Culture", which is an American-orientated form of art, music, and entertainment, inspired by Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian cultures. Which themselves are inspired by Oceanian Art, such as the "Easter Island Heads".

The third is "Moderne architecture", that was popular from 1925 through the 1940's. "Moderne Architecture" incorporated "Art Deco", into another form of architecture seen in the 1937, "Club Moderne", built in Anaconda, Montana.

Unfortunately, the one person who could answer the question of the statue's design, Property Master Lou Asher, passed away on March 24, 1958).

The question of what became of the inhabitants of Mars, is somewhat answered by what appears to be an old Martian tank, near the statue. The idea of a massive nuclear war is been brought up by "Karl", and this is confirmed by the lingering amounts of radioactivity being picked up on the Geiger counter.

(The fact that the crew's clothing would not protect them from the radiation is a valid point for my reader to make. However, this was 1950, and most American's hadn't the faintest idea what the affects of fallout and lingering radiation could do. The only place on the planet, that year, that knew something of the answer, was Japan. 

In 1956, producer Howard Hughes, sent director and actor, Dick Powell, stars John Wayne, and Susan Hayward, and other's to make the motion picture "The Conqueror". The location was downwind of the "Government  Proving Grounds" at White Sands, New Mexico, and overtime the effects of nuclear fallout took its toll. My article, "Tomoyuki Tanaka's GOJIRA (1954) Howard Hughes' THE CONQUEROR (1956) Nuclear Fallout and Two Motion Pictures!", at: 
tells two terrifying true stories)


Further, exploring the nuclear wasteland, the crew finds a rocky area with a cave and make a camp for the night.

As the others sleep and he stands guard, "Harry" sees human figures emerge from behind the distant rocks beyond the cave entrance. They start to move toward the cave, "Harry" wakes the others, and they observe the Martian race's cavemen like survivors, leading to "Dr. Karl Eckstrom" commenting:
From Atomic Age to Stone Age!

(A one sentence warning from Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo, of what could happen on Earth. Should the United States and the Soviet Union actually engage in nuclear war, but this is only the lead-up to how the two men viewed the Earth after such an event!)

"Eckstrom" and "Corrigan" exit the cave and go out exploring, leaving the others at the cave. 

(Now the nuclear war aspect of the Trumbo-Neumann screenplay becomes reality through the make-up of Don L. Cash. Cash was the head of the Make-up Department, on Howard Hawk's, 1949, "Red River", and John Ford's, 1948, "3 Godfathers", 1949, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", and 1950's, "Wagon Master". Don L. Cash was to give the American motion picture audience their first idea of what "Nuclear Radiation" could do to them.)

As, "Karl" and "Bill" explore the area around the cave, they see figures on the rocks above, and one, a Martian woman, played by Sherry Moreland, loses her balance and slides down to the two explorers. The woman stops in front of the two, sitting on the ground, and reacts in fear to the voices she hears through the oxygen masks. The most noticeable facial change is to her eyes, she is blind and has large milky white cataracts on her eyes.

"Karl" and "Bill" are now attacked by other Martian's tossing heavy rock slabs at them and using a hatchet-like weapon made from a rock. 

"Bill" is killed and "Karl" is badly injured, but he will make it back to the cave.

(Above, note the realistic looking radiation burns on the backs of the Martian men created by Don L. Cash. By 1950, five-years after the end of the Second World War, the average American hadn't seen the photos from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They didn't even know what the effect of the nuclear bombs had really been on the Japanese citizens of the two cities bombed, but Cash used actual photos, such as the following two, to create his Martian survivors.)

"Dr. Karl Eckstrom" tells the other three members of the "RX-M" crew, what "Major William Corrigan" and he have discovered about the remaining mutated humans of Mars and dies. Then, those remnants of a once advanced Martian society attack the remaining crew.

Above left to right, Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, and Hugh O'Brian. Other than Sherry Moreland, I could not locate who portrayed any of the Martian's. 

"Floyd" and "Lisa" are able to get the critically injured "Harry" back into the "RX-M" and take-off from Mars. However, "Lisa" calculates that there is not enough fuel to make it safely back to Earth.

As the "RX-M" approaches Earth, "Dr. Lisa Van Horn" and "Colonel Floyd Graham", are able to make radio contact with "Project Director Ralph Fleming". "Colonel Graham's" report is not heard, because "Fleming" is hearing it over headphones. However, the audience can tell by his expressions that "Graham" is reporting about both the fuel situation and what the explorers discovered, not on the moon, but the Red Planet, Mars. 

The thankfully, unconscious, "Harry Chamberlain", is unaware of what is about to take place. While, looking through a porthole, "Lisa" and "Floyd" embrace, in a showing of their unstated love for each other.

"Rocketship X-M" crashes into the Canadian providence of Nova Scotia, killing the last three members of its crew.

Back at the "Government Proving Grounds", "Project Director Ralph Fleming", addresses the press as to the fate of the "RX-M".

When asked, if the mission was a failure?  "Fleming" responds that manned spaceflight and space exploration have been proven, but in a solemn-tone of voice ads:


Next "Project Director Ralph Fleming" informs the press that:
A new spaceship, the RX-M-2, begins construction tomorrow


The End to the First Space Race

"Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon" was shot in eighteen-days, with a total budget of $94,000 (As of this writing, equal to $1,140,075.98). George Pal's "Destination Moon" was shot in approximately forty-four-days, with a total budget of $592,000 (As of this writing, equal to $7,180,051.12). 

Because of an unexpected delay on Pal's production, Neumann beat Pal, by THIRTY-THREE DAYS, winning American's first space race. 

I base my thirty-three days on a count of the number of days between "The Known", May 26, 1950, New York City premier, of "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", and "The Known", June 27, 1950, New York City premier, of "Destination Moon". 

However, Film historians state Kurt Neumann beat George Pal by ONLY twenty-five daysThat accepted time period is totally incorrect, but I can understand how somebody made that error and everyone else copied them. 

The math used appears to have been to incorrectly take June 2, 1950, the "General Audience" release date of "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", instead of the premier date, May 26, 1950.

Then, use June 27, 1950, the New York City premier date of "Destination Moon", causing a miscount of the actual days between the release of the two Science Fiction pictures, resulting in the twenty-five days figure.

I can also understand why the "Destination Moon" date was chosen, because other than the month of August. There is no specific date within August given for the "General Audience Release", in the United States. The only known date that could be used was the New York City premier. Which is several days earlier than when the motion picture was released to the general public.

However, why the original creator of the twenty-five days didn't use "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon's" premier date in their calculation, remains unknown, or why anyone since hasn't used it?

One last comment, author Thomas Kent Miller, in his 2016 work, "Mars in the Movies: A History", refers to the "Theatrical Release" of the two motion pictures as occurring between twenty-five days of each other. 

Are You Sure You're Seeing the Original Motion Picture?

There is a simple test, any footage of the take-off, or space flight of the "RX-M" would be stock footage of a V-2 rocket, as seen below.

Below, is the cover of the VHS Tape release of "Rocketship X-M", and my reader might be forgiven in believing this is the original Kurt Neumann production. However, the cover says this is a "Special Edition", and that means this is not the untouched 1950 version.

During the 1970's, the copyright had run out, and the rights to the motion picture were acquired by Kansas City, Missouri, motion picture exhibitor, and movie theater owner Wade Williams.

Above left is Wade Williams and to his right is Martin Scorsese. Below his a link to short history of Williams, his film work, and his motion picture collection.

Wade Williams decided to reshoot some sequences in the film to improve on them. These included the "RX-M", taking off, in flight, and landing tail first on Mars. Williams and his team of fourteen created different shots of the explorers leaving and returning to the ship. His crew built a model of the space craft and replaced the stock footage of V-2 rockets with own. 

Below is one of those reworked sequences as part of a group of 1979 Trading Cards about the movie.

I could not locate any pre-Wade Williams available copies of Kurt Neumann's original cut of "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon". That does not mean they don't exist in some backroom, or attic of an old movie house.

So You Want Your Own "Rocketship X-M"?

That's easy, the following are of the model kit still available on line.

My purpose was to take a look at one of the great, in my opinion, Cult Science Fiction motion pictures of my youth, if stirred an interest in the picture for someone unfamiliar with "Rocketship X-M, Expedition Moon", or memories from those who know it, I have succeeded.

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